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We had the pleasure to interview Kalen Hayman, a Media Professional and Coliving Specialist from “Oh Canada” who was kind enough to share his views on the impact community living has had in his life and the approach of storytelling for coliving. In his words, “everyone has a story”. This is a sneak peek into his! Enjoy!

We tend to define ourselves by our jobs a bit too much. So, can you introduce yourself without speaking of work? What do you love? What inspires you?

Without knowing I loved community, I found co-living just over a year ago. As a photographer I have always found a way into almost any industry but this time I just showed up and was accepted for being me without the camera, so the revelation of shared living spaces has changed my life. I’m also the eldest of four kids to a tv producer and theatre playwright. Virgo born year of the rooster. And oh, I love to cook, exercise and create.

Cool! Now we can talk a bit about work: What have you been working on recently?

So after working in marketing for so long as a promotional content creator, I have since repositioned my career as a community brand specialist inside the global coliving industry.

There are plenty coliving definitions, formats and sizes out there. What is the bare minimum definition from your point of view?

In my own words, coliving is shared living. It is the ultimate human experience. A space you get to show up for yourself by supporting others. It’s about being vulnerable, mindful and open. There are many designs of coliving but the intentional spaces are the best ones.

Which part of the coliving idea (extra common spaces or community or professional development) that you are most passionate about?

Community development is at the forefront of what I believe in. Creating opportunities for others while sharing my knowledge and skill set is the most rewarding part of this industry’s potential. I have yet to experience one where the focus was on professional development. I have experienced ones that are more mindful in practice and others that are just affordable and shared.

How important is storytelling in marketing coliving spaces?

Wow, never heard this question before, and it’s what I sell! Telling your story, better. How do we do this? What is most effective? What are our intentions and how do we share them with the world? I don’t think the industry has matured to a place where vulnerable storytelling is at
the forefront… yet.

I’ll share a story about the marketing I produced for an operator. The first two video spots I directed were met with my client’s feedback “we don’t want to come across as being a rehabilitation”. Here is the first piece of content I can share with you: HAVEN presents DeAndre by Kalen. The point is, everyone has a story. And it’s how we choose to share them. Transformative experiences do happen in community and operators are afraid to touch this. You are going to see a lot of shiny, happy people in coliving marketing, if any at all. The industry is still very much focussed on interior design and offering high-speed internet. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just saying there is so much more value than the physical. Living in community is like living in a house of mirrors. You are going to have your life and character reflected back at you, the good and the bad. It’s a whole journey.

How does a media specialist help coliving operators attract and engage like-minded members?

Haha this is great, you did your homework and included it in your questions, thank you! As a media specialist & community brand specialist my goal is to communicate the intentions of an operator through media, strategy and leadership. A lot of what I do starts from the inside. Learning who is who and what values, tools and resources we have to communicate our intentions. Integrating with management and leadership teams to instil better communication processes. Consulting on what technology can help make our output more effective. Then we get into the marketing and content creation where we get to be creative, design and share. Creating programming opportunities for members to share. Mentoring them and supporting them with budgets and promotion to support their contribution to the space like hosting a class, event or meet-up. So I personally hate job titles because I change mine all the time. But to answer your question, that’s what I do.

Having travelled to a lot of coliving spaces all over the world can you share some of your worst experiences, when did you feel like they were missing the point and when did you feel it was spot on?

Another good question. I won’t say names and to their credit they offered me two weeks free to help break in their community. It was an old property in a very rural area outside an old town. I’m talking about hundreds of years old where the buildings looked like they had been done in by the war. Who knows, I was in Spain and it was a trip but it made it difficult coming from North America with all my privileges and grocery stores, new appliances and air conditioning. I was also jet lagged from 40 hours of travel and time zones and forgot I was coupling this with antihistamine medication I forgot was making me drowsy the entire week, I felt so bad! Where they hit the mark was HAVEN in Venice Beach, California. This response needs an interview of it’s own. Lets just say, I was there for more than six months, slept in a pod, seven blocks from the ocean, in a very big, modern compound with eventually 100 housemates. It changed my life.

Can you tell us a bit more about your three month on-boarding program and how to successfully activate communities?

So to successfully activate a community, you need a community manager usually combined with an events director or an active community member. I’m talking about leadership. People who like to show up for themselves and others. Create opportunity for your members through events, meet-ups, bbq, yoga, sports etc. Active things that bring people together. Health and activities should be basic 101 elements to any shared living space. Then comes activating and even mentoring members to host their own meet-ups or activities. I use the rule of Opportunity + Consistency = Culture. So when there is support for members to host things with space or tools or basic expenses, and put
them on a schedule and even support them with promotion, it empowers them to be activated and offer their skill and talent or passion on a regular basis.
My three month on-boarding program offers marketing, programing and operation support to any operator looking to increase their occupancy, engagement and retention. Through media, consultation and support I offer a mix of remote and in-house services depending on my whereabouts, availability and operator’s budget. It includes Property Management Consultation, Mobile Resident App management, community manager recruitment, programming and events support, social media and marketing content, on-boarding, offboarding and alumnae programming; supplier relations and so much more. I am so passionate about this industry I am just looking for the right partnerships. And hey, if it’s a match, I want to be involved with the operator and their communities for years to come.

Now, let’s have a bit of fun. Say you are living in one of the many coliving spaces (hopefully soon) available in Finland:

● What song would you be blasting?

Well I don’t blast music in shared spaces but I’m always listening to drum&bass in my ear pods. That or ambient but generally electronica.

What movie would you watch over and over again in the shared/building’s movie theater?

I also don’t watch a lot of TV or movies in community. I’d rather be creative on my laptop (I know that sounds antisocial but so is watching tv). Honestly, I’d rather watch tv on my own time.

● What food would you teach others to cook?

Okay so I have big ideas for the kitchen and I want to design a program for people to buy, sell or trade their products and services which includes meal prep and other foodie experiences. But I see a lot of people need help in the kitchen and I’m usually one of the better cooks. I’m really great at pulling anything out of the fridge and cupboards and making it gourmet. I char a lot of sliced potatoes and grill a lot of vegetables and create or find a secret sauce that makes you say mmm every time ;p

And then what book would you donate to the building’s library?
I also don’t read much at all (lol!) but one of my all time favs would be the Steve Jobs biography, one of the only ones I’ve actually finished.

Some inspiring final words…? 🙂

Coliving changed my life. I want more people to experience living in community. My goal is to help this industry become the norm in response to affordable housing, the loneliness epidemic and for people to earn a better living.

You can find Kalen on LinkedIn here and follow his journey from his site.