How to quickly start a coliving with little to no risk
Build your community and brand with pop-up colivings
On February 25th, I’ll be launching Karisma with a 2-week pop-up coliving in Fuerteventura (Canary Islands) for coliving entrepreneurs. When I started, however, my plan wasn’t to do pop-ups nor to target individuals solely from the coliving industry.
In fact, Karisma’s original plan was to develop a 25-room property from scratch in the Algarve, the South of Portugal. My investor at the time and I decided then that it made more sense to purchase a space before eventually switching to the pop-up model. This model is all just part of a bigger plan, though.
If you’re an existing or about-to-be coliving operator or just thinking about how to enter the coliving world, today is your lucky day! In just a moment, I’ll share with you
how you can kickstart your coliving business faster and with significantly less risk,
the importance of building and listening to your community, and
the differences between operating and promoting a regular coliving vs. a pop-up coliving.
Before we get started, I’d like to clarify some terminology. A pop-up or pop-up coliving is a temporary coliving, in which a property is rented out for a short period of time to host something that looks more like a retreat. A regular coliving is just any coliving that’s open all year round and has a fixed physical space.
Start your coliving business with pop-ups
Looking back, the reason I switched from developing or buying a coliving space to running pop-ups seems rather obvious now. With a regular coliving, the whole project would have taken 2-3 years to execute, the costs kept constantly increasing and I just had never even ran a coliving before. There was too much risk, especially financially.
I was just so in love with the idea of building my dream space and community that I neglected those red flags for the longest time. Even though starting a coliving brand may feel like you’re creating a utopian lifestyle and much more than just a coliving, it’s still a business at the end of the day. The numbers need to add up for it to be sustainable.
The pop-up model was not just less risky, more flexible and faster to implement but also allowed me to start with the community first and test the concept. It allows you to quickly iterate and test out different target groups and locations while also seeing for yourself whether this is something you want to do. Staying at a coliving and running one are two totally different things.
To take the community-building to the next level, I also started growing an online community on Discord at the end of 2021, which now has 140+ members as of early February. The goal of this online space was to scale our community by allowing anyone who would be interested in the project but couldn’t attend to join and participate. Turns out that it’s also a great way to let all your members connect with each other and share direct valuable feedback.
Once you host a few pop-ups and grow your community, you will know so much more about how to run a coliving and what your community really wants and needs. Karisma’s vision is still creating a global ecosystem of shared spaces for our members to connect and create together. By the time we start launching regular colivings, though, we will have a much more solid foundation and a strong community behind us.
Don’t promote a pop-up like a regular coliving
Your concept is ready, you’ve picked the location for your first pop-up and a small community is forming. Now it’s time to fill up the space. In our case, we only had to fill up 10 beds. I thought it was going to be so easy that we literally only sent out 10 invites at first, naively thinking almost everyone would want to sign up. We were so wrong.
At some point it became worrying and I started reaching out to different Facebook and Discord groups, and doing cold outreaches to people I thought would fit in. I also promoted it inside of my own community and even sent out a survey to better understand what people truly wanted.
In the survey and by asking personally different members, there were 2 clear themes that stood out:
The majority of people preferred to come for 2 weeks instead of 4
The value proposition wasn’t strong enough
The first proposal of cutting it down to 2 weeks was implemented after our first ever community vote. Not many people voted but it was obvious what the clear majority wanted. Only I voted for 4 weeks 😂
The second proposal I dwelled on for a long time until it finally clicked when I went to visit David Uriarte, the CEO and founder of Aticco Living, and we had coffee in one of his beautiful coworking spaces. This is another obvious one looking back, but the value proposition of a regular coliving is just totally different from that of a pop-up.
The value of a regular coliving lies mainly in the flexibility of being able to live and work somewhere whenever and wherever you want to, the convenience of having all you need the moment you arrive, the community of like-minded people and, on top of that, the overall experience.
A pop-up coliving, on the other hand, is not so much of an alternative form of living but rather something closer to a retreat, in which people expect to get more juice from the actual experience. It’s not enough to say “you’ll be living and working in paradise” or “you’ll have a great work/life balance and you’re going to experience so much transformation.” While it may be true, everyone can claim the same value proposition, which is just too vague and generic.
Due to the time constraint of a pop-up, you need to create a sense of urgency and guarantee synergies between all attendees. One of the things I got asked the most was: who is coming? To give our residents the most possible value and guarantee alignment between all of them, we decided to niche down even further by making the pop-ups theme-based.
Since those who had already signed up were entrepreneurs involved in the coliving industry, we decided to make the first one for coliving entrepreneurs. Suddenly, it became a no-brainer for people to join. If I was just starting my coliving journey, knowing that I would be bonding, learning and creating alongside top thought-leaders from the industry for 2 weeks, it would be tough for me to say no to such an opportunity.
Gui Perdrix (my partner and co-host) and I are now even considering to move to an Airbnb next door to satisfy the demand. Not only did it get easier to find attendees but also to collaborate with other organizations that can add value to your brand in so many different ways. It was also a no-brainer for Co-Liv, the global non-profit association of coliving professionals, to partner up with us and promote Karisma, brining on even more fascinating thought-leaders from the industry.
Niching down and listening to our community was one of the best things we could have done. That’s why we will let the community vote on the theme (web3, real estate, content creation...) and location of the upcoming pop-ups. From now on, we will try to partner up with other organizations or tap into existing communities where there’s already a lot of existing alignment between members.
The vision and philosophy of Karisma are still the same. We’re still planning to create our global ecosystem of uniquely designed coliving spaces. We’re still looking for people who take ownership over their lives to pursue their authentic paths. This is a journey, after all, and it is your job as the coliving owner or operator to take the steps that make the most sense now to eventually get to your destination.
For example, even though books wasn’t the only thing he intended to sell in the future, Jeff Bezos knew that starting off like that would be the most effective way to create Amazon’s e-commerce and logistical empires. The vision sets the direction but what’s even more important is to get started and do your best to execute what you can control now.
Here are some of the articles I’m working on:
The future of work and how to make a living being yourself
The successful businesses of tomorrow will be built around communities
How to crack coliving’s community vs. scalability dilemma
The importance of community in this ever more digital world
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