MamboMambo’s Members Think Outside the Boss

By Kenzie Love

As young web designers and developers in Quebec City, the founders of MamboMambo were unfulfilled in their professional lives. Guillaume Beaulieu says the working conditions at their employers left them feeling undervalued and unfulfilled.

“When we co-founded the Co-op, we were all working for different agencies,” he says. “And so from day one, we all hated our jobs. We didn’t feel we were listened to, we were the last one on board in each agency. You just do the problem work. You just do anything that nobody else wants to do, basically. And so we never felt that we were a part of these agencies to begin with.”

The worker co-op model thus offered a welcome contrast for MamboMambo’s founders to set up a business that could offer branding and bespoke web design and development. Belonging to something they had created themselves, Beaulieu says, held great appeal. 

“(There was) the sense that we were all of us part of something, like there was no boss per se, in the sense that we’re all equal. So for us, it was something huge, because coming from these agencies where there’s a boss, they get all the profit, we do all the work, but they get everything. And we wanted to have something a bit more human. Where you get paid for the amount of work you do, you share the profit with everyone else, this makes a whole lot of sense. So this is why we co-founded the Co-op.”

Even as the Co-op has grown in the decade since its founding, Beaulieu says a feeling of camaraderie remains among the members. The divisions that might exist in a conventional business are absent due to the collaborative approach the members take and their open-concept office.

“There’s so many advantages when it comes to the fact that we’re a Co-op,” he says. “We don’t have these dubious practices. There’s the sense of belonging toward the work that is actually done. Because everybody works on all of the projects all at once. So this is something that’s important for us. There’s no decision-making behind closed doors. In fact, there are no doors here.” 

Although he appreciates the opportunities MamboMambo has offered to demonstrate creativity, Beaulieu believes that in hindsight, the Co-op could have shown more attention to some of the more practical aspects of running a business. Sound accounting practices, he believes, are particularly important to the functioning of a successful co-op, something MamboMambo’s members have come to realize.

“Accounting isn’t something that is sexy to anyone, I know,” he says. “But at first when we started, this is something that we really didn’t focus on, we really wanted to work on the creative projects and whatnot. And so this felt like it wasn’t important because we’re creative people. But I think right now it’s been a tool for us to guide us in decision-making and where this is going. Are we making the right decisions?”

“My advice would be for anyone who’s starting a business, whether it’s creative or not, you need to have someone you can rely on for accounting,” he adds.

With its own accounting now in hand, however, MamboMambo is free to attend to more exciting matters that it will discuss at its AGM in August, such as whether it wants to expand into animation design, the possibility of investing some of its indivisible reserve, and exploring the idea of owning its office space rather than renting. Beaulieu is excited about what the future has in store for the Co-op.