Agema Hospitality is in the pain relief business

BARRIE, Ont. — If a banquet manager calls Paulo Cardoso of Agema Hospitality, saying three servers had called in sick, Cardoso says, “Give me 15 minutes,” and can often find people with the requisite skills. “We are shift distubers, ” says Michael Agema, founder.

Agema Hospitality mobile app.
Agema Hospitality mobile app.

Agema is an experienced educator and hotelier, who has worked for Georgian College for 29 years. 

For the past three years, he has worked as program co-ordinator for the   International Education and Development team at he college. Internationalization and cultural diversity is one of the pillars for Georgian College. The team delivered good results, with the number of international students rising from 800 in 2015 to 3,600 in 2019. Cultural diversity is an integral part of the program. That’s where Agema and Cardoso met.

At the same time, Agema started Agema Hospitality, which he sometimes views as a special operations team. “Go to this resort. Your contact person is…” he tells his staff. 

The original plan was to take advantage of the gig economy to benefit resorts. “I called my five closest resort contacts, and asked them what they thought of the idea,” Agema told CLN. “All five said, ‘Absolutely! When can we start.’ ”  The first year, the company employed 12 people.

“The motto is ‘Work when you want,’ — we don’t employ full-time people,” said Agema. For example, a person might be working part-time at Starbucks with three or four shifts a week, a total of 24 hours a week, as part-timers are the foundation of the business. Under the Agema Hospitality system, that person could look on the Agema Hospitality app and find out if they could pick up another shift each week to help with finances.

Agema Hospitality also co-ordinates transportation and ride sharing. “Ride sharing is a very environmentally friendly solution,” said Cardoso. “If there are five people in the car, that takes up less parking spaces. The people have company, especially when they are working late, and they share a cultural experience.” 

The system creates opportunities for students, helping them reduce their student debt. It also helps overcome the barrier foreign students have — offering resume-boosting Canadian work experience.

“We like to take the B.S. and turn it into F.U.,” said Agema, adding that B.S. stands for back story and F.U. refers to future undertakings.

Agema Hospitality staff range in age from 16 to 60 years old. “We haven’t yet captured the market for retirees who want to pick up a shift, meet people and get some exercise,” said Agema, adding that a typical shift can involve 7 kilometres of walking.

“We don’t have any preference regarding colour, gender or age,” said Cardoso. “We have one woman who is 54, who works for two months and then goes to Cuba for a month.”

For the clients, it’s a system that offers pain relief when people don’t show up for their shifts, but Agema says there are still times when they are not able to fulfill all their clients’ requests. “Things peak around now,” he said, noting July 7 last year was wedding central, and September 15 was also “a pain day for us.”

Business clients include The J.W. Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort, Casino Rama, Fern Resort, Blue Mountain and Deerhurst Resort.

Future plans including broadening the client base along the Highway 400-Highway 11 Corridor and within an hour’s commute of Barrie. Agema Hospitality will also continue to enhance the mobile app, and eventually plan to offer an online training option for staff.