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Why isn’t there a Zumba of coliving? On lifestyle brands and intentionality.

By Gui Perdrix

This is not a conventional article. Rather, a stream of thoughts that I hope will trigger certain actions in fellow coliving operators. Please let me know what you think.

I strive to look for life-enhancing coliving spaces, but I barely haven’t come across a coliving brand that is so life-enhancing that it becomes life-embracing.

I’m referring to a lifestyle brand in coliving.

Some brands position themselves as such, and I can think about a few that have the potential to become that one brand that everyone will love, but I didn't identify any die-hard fans movement for the biggest coliving spaces out there yet (apart of one, Venn, which is broader than simply coliving).

What if the coliving experience meant so much for people that they start personally identifying with your brand? How many brand ambassadors, organic business flow and trust would you gain from having die-hard fans?

One of my favourite lifestyle brands is Zumba. Many might not know, but Zumba is a US for-profit company that made it into 8-figures income and above $500mio evaluation through their online training and licensing of their Zumba classes. The Zumba experience is so transformative for many that Zumba attendants would declare Zumba as their favorite hobby, refer to Zumba as the #1 life-transforming event, and go up to get a Zumba tattoo.

Coliving could be such a lifestyle brand. It has the potential to impact lifestyle tremendously: offering people a standard of living they could ever dream of with people that bring each other collectively forward. An endless opportunity to explore the depth of growth and belonging through communal living.

But barely any brand has made it that far yet. There is some deeper loyalty and identification with grassroots spaces and communes (such as the Haight St Commons, in which residents tend to live longer than a year and in which bonds/familiarity reached new heights), but barely in the leading for-profit ones.

Why is that? How is it possible that amongst the 1000+ operators no one has cracked the ceiling yet of user love and admiration (and I know some are trying really hard)?

Generally I can define two factors:

1. Lack of intentionality: this is the first step at which I analyze coliving spaces - whether they are clear on their vision and intention. Spaces that only focus on giving easy access to real estate won’t have enough customer touchpoints and brand relationships compared to those that focus on giving value across several sectors, such as houses oriented around work/life balance or spaces that allow culture to flourish.

Having clear values and aligning intentions is key for every space, even if you have to do the hard work to change an already existing organization.

The number one question you can ask yourself is: what emotions do I want my residents to feel? Those can be "feeling of home", "trust", "security", "familiarity", "care", or "ownership". From there, go backwards and figure out: "how can I engineer an experience that will create those emotions?"

2. Lack of focus on building out intentionality across the space: this is when words have to be put into action, and reality shows: it is hard to focus on building out the greatest user experience while your team, investors, and future customers expect you to grow the business. Most operators enter that trap of building out big before having tested and figured out the right system beforehand.

Taking a step back, the question generally is to coliving spaces: how much to you spend time on building out your space versus building out your community?

I know that the latter is not crucial to the business, but it will be to its longevity and stickiness.

Please share with me what this thought piece triggers.

- Gui

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