For our third interview for the fourth set of interviews with coliving owners in Spain, we have prepared a special sneak peek into CoImpact Coliving – an international home for the city-loving nomads in the modernist heart of Barcelona.
Imagine a city full of cultural wonders, international stories, rich history, and eclectic vibrations, and then having the opportunity to explore it from the famous L’ Eixample, surrounded by creatives, entrepreneurs, and people hungry for new experiences and connections.
Meet one of the founders, Gian Franco, who will tell you the story about his love for Barcelona, hosting, and their journey to creating the CoImpact Coliving space and community.
How it all started
“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”
1. Could you tell us a bit more about you and your partner (the founders of CoImpact Coliving) and the journey that led you to Barcelona?
– We are both from abroad; I am from Perú and Gonzalo from Argentina. We met in Barcelona in Business School; we both had come here to study business.
I personally discovered my passion for hosting through Couchsurfing. Some friends and I used to host travelers from around the world in our homes in Barcelona.
We really enjoyed meeting and sharing with people from different parts of the world. It was an amazing experience.
From this experience, I realized I had the skills to be a host and do it properly. So, while still learning business skills, I decided to open a small bed and breakfast with a friend.
Later I was approached by Gonzalo, who was interested in what I was doing at my bed and breakfast and from there, we decided to get together and start Sweet Accommodations.
2. Can you tell us a bit more about the history of your place/concept? How has it changed through the years?
– We started with Sweet Accommodations, managing bed & breakfasts, private apartments, and hostels. We expanded through the years, adding units and also expanding to Seville.
During the lockdown of the pandemic, we were forced to close down our Youth Hostel in Barcelona. Instead of leaving it empty, we decided to collaborate with a local association and host homeless people. We hosted 19 people from 10 different countries from March 2020 to September 2020.
It was a great learning and grounding experience. Being able to learn about their stories and understand how any of us can find ourselves in such a situation at any moment in life. It was a tough situation for us as a company, having to stop all of our operations, but we are very glad that we were brave enough to decide to give our place free of use to people in need.
After this collaboration ended, we started thinking of ways to transform our space into something different. Tourism was still not picking up. Since we had to invest in refurnishing and refurbishing the whole space again, because the association left our hostel pretty much in ruins, we decided to convert it into a coliving.
So we can say that our place has had 3 lives: youth hostel, social hostel, and coliving.
3. Have you ever stayed in some other similar accommodation before you decided to open your own? Did you take inspiration from some places?
– I have never stayed in a coliving. I took inspiration by reading and researching colivings around the world. Particularly, I took a lot of inspiration from the Conscious Coliving Movement.
4. Do you remember what was the most difficult and challenging for you when you started as a coliving?
– When we started, in early 2021, we were coming from a very difficult year as a business focused on tourism.
At first, it was challenging to say no to tourists and travelers that wanted to stay with us but did not fit with the community we were trying to build as a coliving. It’s hard to make these types of decisions when you are not very well financially.
Looking back, I am glad we stayed true to what we wanted to build with the coliving and clearly differentiated our touristic spaces from our coliving space.
5. Is there something you wished you knew before you opened CoImpact Coliving?
– We have recently added a community manager for our space. A person in charge of building a sense of community within our guests.
In the beginning, we didn’t put so much emphasis on these tasks. Maybe I wish we would have started earlier but I also think that everything takes a natural course and we are doing very well so I cannot complain.
6. Have you had the opportunity to visit some other coliving places since you opened CoImpact Coliving?
– I have contacted a couple of coliving spaces in Barcelona since I am also trying to build relationships with them to see how we can all be stronger together. I am yet to visit their spaces.
7. If you could choose again, would you still choose Barcelona for your coliving? Why?
– Of course, I would.
First, because we already had our space in Barcelona and we know the city very well. But also because Barcelona is an amazing city for people from abroad.
It’s welcoming, multicultural, and diverse; it has beaches and mountains, and it’s an amazing city for anyone trying to live a remote work or digital nomad experience.
8. What is your relationship with other colivings in Spain?
– I am currently creating a small networking group with fellow coliving operators in Spain. We just started, so we’re a small group.
We are trying to build a collaborative relationship to strengthen the position of the whole ecosystem. Collaboration beats the competition.
“The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.“
9. What type of management do you practice at CoImpact Coliving?
– We have extrapolated many things from our tourism experience into coliving. I would say our approach is very proactive and hands-on. We like to get to know as much about our guests as possible before they come so that we can help them enjoy their experience with us.
As managers, I would say we are very experienced and have learned how to deal with uncertain and volatile situations. The management of a coliving requires a bit less of our time than the management of our touristic accommodations.
We also give a lot of freedom to our team. We gather once a week, to put things together, gather online and offline feedback, talk about upcoming events, and so on. We deposit our trust in them and know they understand exactly the kind of experience we want to create for our guests. So in our day-to-day, we give them space and the tools and power to make decisions to solve any issues that may arise.
10. Do you think managing a coliving differs from managing other types of accommodation (like hotels, hostels, etc.)? In what way?
– Coliving guests are more conscious and respectful of the space and travel destination than most tourists (most, not all). Therefore for us, managing a coliving brings fewer worries and issues than when we were in a hostel for example.
In terms of reservations, coliving guests reserve much more in advance which is also a good thing when creating budgets and planning for the upcoming months.
My advice for any new coliving owners would be to be very thoughtful of the space design. We want to make sure people feel at home.
They will be staying with us for longer periods and mostly also working from the space. Our space has to be designed in a way that feels warm, welcoming, inspiring, and comfortable.
11. How much are you (and your staff) involved in the community and daily activities at CoImpact Coliving? Do you consider yourself an equal part of the community?
– We have staff that is an equal part of the community. Part of our staff lives at our coliving spaces, receive our guests, and make sure the space feels like home at any time given. They are our guest experience team.
Then on a second layer, we have our community manager. She is full-time taking care of events and collaborations, speaking to our guests, and organizing our guest experience team.
Then on a third layer is the management team. We are looking more into the business and strategy-related tasks.
12. What additional activities are included for people who stay at your place? And what approach do you practice when organizing these events?
– We organize 2 events a week. One focused on professional development and one with a social feel.
We try to collaborate with local entrepreneurs, spaces, and event organizers. Our events are a great opportunity to connect our guests with the local community.
We also try to search for activities that have a positive social or environmental impact, allowing our guests to give back to Barcelona and leave a positive footprint. This makes everyone feel good and positive, and we love it.
13. You have a lot of partners that offer discounts and other benefits to your colivers. Do your colivers often use these opportunities?
– Yes. Not as much as we thought they would. The collaborations are a living system. So we are always talking to guests, seeing what they do in the city, and trying to bring collaborators that bring them value.
“A ship in a harbor is safe, but it is not what ships are built for.“
-John A. Shedd
14. What is the profile of people most likely to stay at CoImpact Coliving? Also, since you have two places/locations, is there any difference in the profile of people who choose Bruc and Mallorca?
– We receive mostly remote workers and digital nomads from Europe or who already reside in Europe. I would say that’s about 80%-85% of our guests at the moment.
The main difference between our 2 coliving spaces is that Bruc is shared dormitories and Mallorca private dormitories.
Also in Mallorca, the stay is a minimum of one month. The people in both spaces are very much alike. Maybe it’s a budget or preference thing that differs the most.
15. What is some common motivation behind people choosing CoImpact Coliving?
– I would say our location and our great reviews are what attract people the most.
We are in the best neighborhood in Barcelona, the Eixample, surrounded by amazing modernist architecture, it is so inspiring.
Most people who come are doing remote working or workation.
16. What is the average age of people visiting your accommodation? Again, is the average age difference between Bruc and Mallorca?
– The average age is between 25-33.
17. How long do people usually stay at CoImpact Coliving and do your visitors tend to return to your place?
– Thankfully, we have many guests returning. For being in business for less than 2 years, it’s amazing how many guests have returned and/or extended their stays with us.
The length of stay varies a lot. We have people who have stayed with us for more than 6 months and people who have stayed with us for 7 days.
18. Is there some trend where people from specific countries come to your place?
– We don’t see a particular trend. They are mostly people living in Europe but we think it’s because of the current macroeconomic and social context.
About the Coliving Movement
”Being engaged in some way for the good of the community, whatever that community, is a factor in a meaningful life.”
19. Do you think that coliving is only dedicated to a specific group of people such as freelancers, digital nomads, and remote workers, or do you think there is a possibility to gain popularity beyond that group of people?
– I believe we will be seeing coliving spaces dedicated to several groups of people: divorced adults; young single people, artists, social entrepreneurs, and retired adults.
Coliving is about living as a community. I believe as a society we will be turning more into community living and community sharing. Globalization is great but we want to feel belonging to a tight-knit community.
20. Do you think coworking is a crucial component of coliving?
– It’s important for sure. I don’t know how crucial. Our working spaces are very comfortable. I even work with them sometimes.
Yet for people that are in the city for less than a month, I see that they want to work in different spaces. They usually try out cafeterias and coworking spaces also to meet other people and communities. That is why we collaborate we 2 coworking spaces as well. People like to try different things.
Of course, you cannot be a coliving if you do not offer a proper working space.
21. One of the main selling points of colivings is the possibility to meet new people, share experiences, and maybe even develop new partnerships. Is that also the situation in CoImpact Coliving?
– Our events and activities are where the meeting and sharing happen. We also have a WhatsApp group where anyone that stays with us can join and look for people to join them in their own activities around the city. This works very well, people always find someone to join them on a new adventure.
I personally do not know of many partnerships that have happened at our coliving. I know some people have collaborated and worked on things together, specific tasks and collaborations. I do not know of any long-term partnerships.
22. Do you have some examples where people who had the opportunity to meet at your place later managed to develop successful partnerships or relationships?
– I know people who have met in our space and then traveled together to another destination.
I also know of people who have collaborated on a project, someone, for example, working on the design for someone else, or a person giving consultancy to another guest.
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