Published in Inspiration

A heartbreaking work of convicts, caffeine, and cats

By Drew Evans


2 min read

In October 2015, Matthew Poh turned himself in to police and was sentenced to one year in prison.

By 2019, he had opened four cat cafes. Yes, you heard that right.

The Caffeine Experience (TCE) is home to more than 30 friendly felines who sidle up to patrons as they satisfy their morning caffeine rush.

As a former inmate, Matthew wanted to create a space where other ex-offenders could find work, comfort, and stability. Matthew and the TCE team recently started using Notion to help manage their online presence, including a digital gallery of on-the-clock cats.

Matthew’s story started two decades earlier—his interior design business was taking off, and his life was coming together. But by 2013, everything started coming apart. With his business facing multiple lawsuits for contractual issues, he was forced to declare bankruptcy and shutter. Not long after, he fell into drug dealing and addiction, and had no choice but to turn himself in to police.

While in prison, he noticed a cycle—though other inmates around him were completing their sentences, many would wind up back inside in just a few weeks or months. That’s when Matthew’s idea started, er, brewing.

“I could start another interior design firm," Matthew says, "but the ex-offenders wouldn’t be able to do the job, given the technicalities. I needed something easy to learn.”

So he went to his supervising officer Hilary Lo with a proposal: a cafe that provides jobs to former inmates in hopes of giving them opportunity and income post-prison.

After hearing Matthew’s story firsthand, Seph, one of Notion’s many Campus Leaders, connected with The Caffeine Experience. He wanted to support the cafe’s mission, and learned that Matthew and team were looking for help with day to day operations.

Seph helped Matthew create a database to manage the café's furry friends, tracking their overall health and behavior, and managing cuddle time spent in cafe for each.

They’ve built all of this into a site, where visitors can see the cats on staff, read blog posts, and learn more about Matthew’s story. Seph is also helping Matthew bring other ways to improve his business, like overall operations and people tracking, into Notion too.

The Caffeine Experience is more than just a cozy place to grab coffee in the Singapore sprawl. It’s a growing business that gives ex-cons a second chance. If you have a pro-bono project that could use some Notion love, check out our program details here. We'd love to hear from you!

Share this post

Try it now

Get going on web or desktop

We also have Mac & Windows apps to match.

We also have iOS & Android apps to match.

Web app

Desktop app