Last month, Travel & Tapas hosted an interview with Jon Hormaetxe, Sun and Co.’s co-founder and (now ex) general manager. After so many fantastic and insightful interviews with coliving operators around Spain, it was time to hear the perspective of the operator of one of the oldest coliving spaces in the country.
Many coliving operators take inspiration from Sun and Co. but where did Sun and Co. get their inspiration? If you missed the first interview part, where Jon talks about their beginnings, we suggest checking that out first.
If you’ve already been there, it’s time to hear a bit more about their team, their projects, and their plans.
We’re not going to share anything else so you can just jump right in and enjoy!
“Leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work.”
1. What type of management do you practice in the coliving?
Jon: We have Eduardo, who is the CEO, and the owner, and he’s not that involved in the day-to-day.
Then, there is me as the general manager. I am in charge of leading the team and making the whole business run. I’m also focused on business development. When I say business development, I’m referring to a few projects that we have running at the moment.
We also have Fernando on the team who is in charge of the offline experience – operations, logistics, community experience, etc., and we have Iva, who is in charge of the online aspect – marketing, sales, and booking, but she also helps with hosting.
We have three people hosting, and we also usually support ourselves with an intern who is supporting both the offline and the online.
2. Can you tell us a bit more about the Sun and Co.’s Community Pass? Who is this for and how can people benefit from it?
Jon: We recently opened a coworking space in town, so our idea was not only to provide a better working environment for our residents at the coliving space but also to provide the opportunity for those who have already moved from that life stage.
For people who have settled in something more stable, more long term, or maybe something more private, like renting their own apartment in Javea. We wanted them to still have access to the coworking space and the community.
3. Depending on the season, Sun and Co. changes the business model from coliving to hostel and vice versa. Can you share a bit more about how this works, the differences in operating and experience, and give a few tips for people who want to book one or another?
Jon: From the beginning, we knew we were not going to mix two types of clients. When the hostel is open, the coliving is closed, and vice-versa. We still keep up with that rule and that helps us bring the best of both experiences.
4. Lastly, besides the regular Sun and Co. coliving experience, you also organize pop-up experiences. Can you tell us a bit about this idea and the difference between the regular experience and the pop-up?
Jon: This year we’re going back to the Basque Country, my homeland, for one month of pop-up experience in a beautiful villa. The main idea behind the popup was to provide our members with the same Sun and Co. experience but in a new location.
We wanted to replicate our experience the most we could, but because of this new location, we had to implement some changes.
Like, for example, to facilitate buying food because the house is very rural. In Jaeva, there is everything you need: supermarkets, restaurants, and everything in town making it easy for people to be independent. That is not the case in the popup location. So we decided to put up a system through which everybody will buy food together and share expenses.
The system is that we order online and from Monday to Thursday, every night, we switch groups and one group cooks dinner for everybody else.
In this case, the experience is more intense, because it is more remote and we have dinners together every night. You spend more time with people, more often, so it’s more intense when it comes to relationship-building.
Last year, we had two blocks of people, the first that stayed for two weeks, and then the second that stayed for another two weeks. I think checking in and out at the same time also gives a certain experience. You are with the same people from the beginning to the end. That is another thing that makes the experience different from the coliving in Javea.
And finally, the venue is a very luxurious villa with a swimming pool. So, the house quality is higher than one in Javea, so part of the offering to our members is also this higher quality product that differs from the one in Javea.
“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”
5. What would you say people who come to Sun and Co. are searching for; what is the most frequent reason people come?
Jon: Most people don’t come because of Javea or because they need accommodation. They mostly come to experience Sun and Co. and then discover the beauties of Javea through it.
Of course, it’s Spain, and I would lie if I said people don’t feel attracted to being in the sea and in a sunny destination. It’s definitely an important aspect of why people come. I believe it would be different if we were located in a rainy or cold location, but it’s not the main aspect.
I think even back in 2015/16 when coliving wasn’t that popular, it was easier to attract people to a sunny destination with nice weather than a cold or a mountainous area. Nowadays, there is room for colivings in different types of locations and people love going to the mountains as well.
So, people end up coming to Sun and Co. mostly because they heard about it from someone and they liked what they saw through our website.
I think we were also lucky when it comes to the community part. I think it would be harder to build this focus on the community if we were in a more popular destination, such as Barcelona. When a destination is that popular, you are probably receiving more people who are only looking for accommodation and are not really interested in the community part. Then it can happen you have people with different expectations and friction between different communities that can harm the overall community experience.
I think that also helps us with expectation management. Of course, people have expectations about Sun and Co., but they don’t have that many expectations about the destination, so they are often pleasantly surprised. Once they come and discover the place, many people return for the destination.
On the other hand, being in a more popular destination makes the marketing of your space easier. People are already interested in the destination and it’s easier for them to find you.
For us, this was always a bit of a challenge, leaning only on our brand to market our space. We didn’t have any support around with the municipalities or the local authorities or the government trying to make this destination attractive. So, being in Javea was both a challenge and a benefit. The good part is that we managed to attract everybody to come exactly for what we marketed.
Generally, about the coliving movement
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
6. Lastly, how do you see Sun and Co. developing in the next few years? You already have many years of development behind you, but is there a future vision of how Sun & Co. can grow even more in the next years, or some aspirations and goals that you’ve set for it?
Jon: I think one of the goals is to transform our brand into a community brand more than a coliving brand. As I mentioned before, we are already expanding beyond the Sun and Co. walls.
One is the coliving experience, another is the community or the coworking experience, and the third is the pop-up, so we already have more than only a coliving space.
So, ideally, in the future, I would love to see Sun and Co. go beyond the Sun and Co. world, expanding the brand and the concept into something more generic, where we talk about the Sun and Co. community beyond the space. And see how that expansion can absorb the needs of more different types of people and more people in different stages of life like those who are about to start their journey, those who are already settling down or even thinking of having a family, those who might want higher qualities or to discover new places, etc.
The main focus is still on Javea and we’re spreading the concept to see how we can cover the needs of the different workers who have different requirements but keep that purpose and connection we started with. Continuing to be meaningful. If the work is not connected to your values, then it’s impossible to transmit its value to others.
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