Company connects youths with professionals one cup at a time


Ten Thousand Coffees, a networking company, aims to make access to professionals easier.


What if you were given the chance to have a one-on-one coffee date with the Prime Minister?

Justin Trudeau is just one of many high-profile professionals currently registered on Ten Thousand Coffees, a networking company that connects young job seekers with seasoned professionals.

“Whether it’s mentorship, advice, networking, recruiting, that kind of thing, we just generally want to increase access to people in a professional environment,” said Mackenzie Ewing, the company’s Content and Community Manager.

Other big name members include journalist George Stroumboulopoulos and retired astronaut Chris Hadfield.

It’s not enough for students to simply apply to job postings on the Internet or drop off their resumes anymore.

Kerri Zanatta-Buehler, employment and development specialist at Sheridan College, says networking should be a big part of students’ job searches.

“The more people you connect with, the larger your network becomes and this increases your industry knowledge,” she said.

According to the Government of Canada website, there is a hidden job market out there that can only be found through networking. It’s easier for an employer to hire people who are referred to them by someone they know and trust.

“Eighty per cent of jobs aren’t advertised to the general public,” said Ewing. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for students, for recent grads, and even professionals in general, to find meaningful employment and jobs they enjoy.”

Ten Thousand Coffees hopes to fill this void in the job market by connecting individuals directly to professionals to provide one-on-one coffee dates.

Dave Wilkin, an experienced entrepreneur and creator of the marketing company Redwood Strategic, founded Ten Thousand Coffees in January 2014. After getting invited for coffee by people who wanted to get into marketing, he noticed they didn’t know the right questions to ask or the most convenient way to get in contact with him. He created the site as a way to make access to other professionals easier.


The process behind the networking company is fairly simple.

It sells closed hubs to companies, charities or educational institutions as its source of income. Closed hubs enable these organizations to have their own space on the site. The hubs are visible only to a company and its employees or a university and its students. That helps connect students with alumni, for example.

To use the service, students make a free account and fill out a short profile outlining what they’re looking to get out of Ten Thousand Coffees. For example, it could be to network, to find a mentor, or just to get career advice.

Once an account is set up, users can send coffee invites. Each invite comes with a custom question that helps ensure students get set up with the right professional. For example, a question from journalists could be, “How do you think Twitter has changed the journalism industry in the last five years?”

If an invitation is accepted, a time to meet with the professional is set up.

But what do these professionals gain by talking to 20-somethings?

A voice from the next generation, says Ewing.

“A lot of high-profile business professionals understand the value of seeing different perspectives,” he said.

Staying relevant in the industry is important for professionals, whether it’s a new perspective on their work or a fresh perspective from young minds, he says.

Ten Thousand Coffees can help students find employment, but Ewing stresses that they shouldn’t use it solely for job hunting.

Suzy Jung, a third-year marketing student from York University and former engagement lead at Ten Thousand Coffees, says the company is great for finding mentors.

“It’s not really for job recruitment, but obviously if you’re looking for a job and you get to know them, it might happen, but that’s kind of the long-term thing,” she said.

Jung went on a group coffee date and met Elizabeth Monier-Williams from MaRS Innovation. Since their meeting they kept in touch, and Monier-Williams became a mentor for Jung.

“[Elizabeth’s] been helping me with some networking questions I have with other companies at school, or any other questions I had regarding my blog,” she said.

It takes Jung an average of two to three weeks to hear back from a professional after sending coffee invites.

High-profile members, due to their busy schedules, usually go on a coffee date every month or two months. Some of them, such as Bruce Croxon from Dragon’s Den, set up a group date with around five individuals to meet as many young professionals as possible.

There’s typically an element of intimidation when it comes to meeting with seasoned business professionals, but Ten Thousand Coffees hopes the intimate and casual setting of their coffee dates will ease any nerves.

“That one-on-one or one-to-a-few connection we find really makes it less intimidating, and facilitates better opportunity for everyone,” said Ewing.

When students do get invited for coffee, Jung advises them not to treat the meeting like an interrogation.

“Look up what the person specializes in, what they’re doing right now and ask questions about that. You want to have questions in mind and have a genuine conversation with them and talk back and forth,” she said.

Zanatta-Buehler says students should start networking as soon as possible.

“It’s never too early to begin networking. The more practice you get, the more comfortable you will become with it,” she said.

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