As a part of the new series where we introduce expats living in Prague with an interesting life story to tell, we had the pleasure to talk to Martin Miguel, an entrepreneur from Argentina and founder of Coffice Prague – a thriving café, coworking and event space connecting expats and locals living in Prague. The beginning of Martin’s business in Prague has been quite challenging, especially because of the pandemic, but he kept on fighting and never lost his love and admiration for the Czech capital.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi and thank you for giving us the space to tell our story. My name is Martin, I am from Argentina and together with Tomáš, we run Coffice Prague, which is a space that works as a Café/Bistro during the day and a Bar/Event space at night. Beyond the physical space, a great value that Coffice has is the beautiful community that gives life to the place.
When and why did you choose Prague as your home away from home?
My journey away from home started a long time ago. First, I moved from Argentina to Brazil in 2009, following the dream of living on the beach. After a few years of living in paradise, I took my backpack and started to travel. First in South America and later, in 2014, I came to Europe with the idea of travelling around for 6 months and coming back to Brazil.
After wandering around the old continent (between Portugal and Russia), in the fifth month I arrived (we can call it coincidence) in Prague with the idea of staying for 5 days. For me, Prague was a totally unknown city as well as the country (in my school they didn’t teach me much about this part of Europe). But as soon as I arrived, everything changed forever. I was lucky to make local friends, especially David Tesinsky, an incredible Czech photographer who became my great friend and daily buddy in bars and adventures.
Obviously, these 5 days were extended, and when it was time to return to Brazil, I decided to stay here. Why? Why not?
How do you find living in Prague as an expat and entrepreneur?
I came with the mentality of a traveller, and although my perception of the city was changing, for me Prague is still that charming city that captivated me from the beginning. As an entrepreneur, I would say that my experience was also positive, and despite having gone through difficulties such as the Covid nightmare (I hope it is part of the past), I think it is a place full of opportunities.
How did the idea of Coffice come to life?
Before Coffice I opened a bar/cafe in Vrsovice – Prague, although that experience only lasted one year. Then, 3 years after arriving here, I met Veronika (who became my wife and life partner) and when we agreed that Prague would be our favourite place, the idea of opening a Café ended up being Coffice – a coworking space for the day and event space during the night.
The outlook was encouraging, we opened in January 2020 and two months later, BOOM, Covid arrived. And so 2 years passed and we were organizing events when there were no quarantines, and closing when there were. Beyond all the bad, a beautiful community began to grow, celebrating life through music and gatherings.
Despite this, it was not enough to continue and at the end of 2021, we were forced to close Coffice. Everything seemed to be falling apart until Tomáš appeared to save Coffice, with the intention of joining forces, keeping the community alive and opening again in a new place. Personally, I was emotionally discouraged, but his energy and courage were so great that at the end of January he told me: Martin, I have reserved a place and we can reopen Coffice. By the end of February (7 weeks after closing), we reopened in a new house in Letna – Prague 7.
The rebirth of Coffice was wonderful, almost the entire community that we had created, despite being on the other side of the city, was loyal and followed us to the new house together with new people who came through Tomáš and the new neighbourhood. The union of forces with Tomáš implied a new direction for the Coffice concept, less focused on coworking and with all the energy put into events, coffee and food. Our events are now more cultural, with lots of music and more local culture thanks to Tomáš’s network.
Who is the project intended for?
This answer is very simple and honest: the Coffice community is intended for all those who want to be part of a group of simple and happy people whose main interest is to strengthen their social relationships and mingle with the local culture. It is definitely not our intention to be a place only for expats, but a space for Czechs to interact with expats, and vice versa.
On the other hand, Coffice is a place for artists or beginners who want to show their qualities, something that happens every Friday in our Open Mic Music Jam or at the exhibitions of various kinds that we hold.
What can people expect when they come to Coffice?
Everyone here has a good time, many people arrive alone and soon they are making friends with the rest. We are not interested in showing off what you wear or what kind of job you have. Here, we are interested in people who are willing to socialize and be themselves (of course, always respecting others).
Was it easy to start your own business in Prague? What obstacles did you face?
It was not due to personal circumstances but in general, I consider the Czech Republic to be a place that offers many opportunities for those who do not give up. When comparing having a business here and in South America, without a doubt I can confirm that in the Czech Republic the rules of the game are much less bureaucratic and without so many obstacles. In the case of Coffice, it was also very difficult to open a business two months before the arrival of Covid, but given this unexpected event, I believe that no country in the world has been different.
What are Coffice’s biggest accomplishments so far?
Our community. Although I repeat this a lot, we are proud of the beautiful group that has been formed. Hundreds of beautiful souls who come here every day, forget everything bad that is happening in the world (at least for a few hours) and come together to celebrate life.
What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?
We are currently focused on creating new events and further increasing the presence of the Czechs in our community. Regarding the events for the rest of the year, we want to create more meetings during the morning for those who do not have to go to the office every day. We will create meetings in which people can get together for breakfast and lunch, and create workshops and an exchange network where everyone can help each other professionally and personally.
Regarding Coworking, although we now work as a Café/Bistro, we have good news. We have joined forces with Locus Workspace in Vinohrady and thanks to that we can offer a 30% discount on the first month of Locus membership. Also, those who are members of Locus will be able to work in both locations (there in Vinohrady and here in Letna). If any of you are interested or want a free day at Locus, you can contact us.
Regarding plans for the future, there is always the possibility of opening in a new location, but at the moment, we are taking it step-by-step and focusing on the current growth of Coffice. Beyond the business, both I and Tomaš love what we do and want to continue doing it without falling into a wild race of living just for work.
What would you say to other expats who are thinking about moving to Prague?
If for some reason Prague is within your interests, I think that everything you have seen online about this city is true. The city is extremely beautiful, with a great social life, great demand for work and opportunities for everyone.
Regarding the bad thing you have read about the city or the country: It is true that the language is difficult but with effort, study, patience and perseverance it will not be impossible to communicate. In addition, already a large part of Czechs, at least in Prague, speaks English. If your plan is to open a business or deal with authorities, you will surely need someone local to help you. Regarding Czechs being cold people – I don’t think so, you get what you give. I personally have made many friends here who are now like my family, who have helped me whenever I needed it and vice versa.
On the other hand, if you still have doubts, I recommend contacting the Expat Centre. They have helped me a lot and the work they do is incredible. I take this opportunity again to thank and congratulate you for your arduous task of making the life of Expats a little easier.
I do not want to say goodbye without first inviting all of you who are reading this article, to visit us and meet us in person. If you want more information about our events, you can find more about us here:
- Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/cofficeprague
- Instagram page: http://www.instagram.com/cofficeprague
- Website: http://www.cofficeprague.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dailymeetupsprague/
- Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/daily-meetups-prague/
- WhatsApp Group: https://chat.whatsapp.com/FgtN696zevSLI7ae6BHdJL