Featured Member: Julianne Becker of Coconat
Like many co-living operators, Julianne Becker is a nomad who has wandered far from her roots and made herself a home in a newly adopted country. After growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, she spent several years abroad in countries such as Vietnam before settling down in Berlin with her German-born partner Janosch Dietrich. From there, she discovered the surrounding countryside, where she and Dietrich, with the help of other founders, established Coconat, a destination-based co-living and co-working space that targets remote workers on retreat.
“It’s funny that Janusch and I moved to the countryside,” Becker said. “We never imagined ourselves there, but now that we’re here, it’s great.”
Coconat is located in the German countryside in the state of Brandenburg. For those who are familiar with the region, the co-living space is in Klein Glein, a tiny village close to Bad Belzig, both of which are less than 100 kilometers from Berlin. The space currently has 13 rooms, which can house up to 40 guests or “digital workers.”
“We specialize in small groups, but we do have groups of all sizes. Every once in while, someone books the whole place — it has to be a special group and special team, Becker said. “We like to keep space open for individual people who would like to stay longer.”
The space recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, having had its first guest on May 5, 2017. Since then, Becker and her co-founders have been satisfied with the steady flow of people to their property.
“It’s been a pretty wild ride, we were surprised to be very busy from the beginning,” Becker told the Lab. “We have had constant guests. We only had a few days in August of last year where we were slow, and we closed for Christmas as well. The middle of the German winter is the only time of year that we’re not full.”
From an operator standpoint, there are still some operational protocols that they’re trying to work out. Like any other destination-based co-living space, they’re trying to see what to do about the off-season and make decisions regarding closing certain times of the year.
“We did have people come in the winter, but it wasn’t enough to be sustainable,” Becker said. “Everyone deals with the offseason problem, and everyone has ways to deal with it. We’re figuring that out.”
The power of local in co-living
Becker believes that co-living spaces can make a profound impact on their local communities, and Coconat has been doing exactly that since its inception.
Beyond being the recipient of seed funding from the German government, the recent designation of the area as a “smart village” is also opening up separate funding opportunities for programming for Coconat.
“Interestingly, 50 to 70 percent of our guests are Gerto, and we are now starting to develop programming for the people who live in this area,” Becker said. “Bad Belzig was designated as a smart village for the state of Brandenburg, and they’re promoting technology for rural areas. Needless to say, our space is already heavily involved.”
Becker says that co-living operators should keep their local community in mind when thinking about their operators. The rewards for both operators and local residents if you find ways to work together can be a gamechanger.
“The impact that you have on local people can be quite big, and the local market is something you cannot ignore,” Becker said. “Through local programming, you can have a positive impact on the region, and get quickly recognized by public and private sector partners.”