Meet a Co-Liv Member: Shruti Merchant
Founder and CEO of HubHaus
Shruti Merchant, like many co-living entrepreneurs, didn’t plan on being at the helm of one of the largest co-living startups in the United States. After arriving the San Francisco area, she had to team up with a group strangers to find a place to rest her head in a notoriously crunched housing market. Together, they made it work and successfully found a house in a town not too far from Apple’s headquarters.
“We ended up creating this seven-bedroom house with strangers in Cupertino Hills, and it ended being a great experience,” Merchant said. “I was so grateful to have met them, and they’re still my friends, but it was a real pain to get the house up and running.”
From there, Merchant got the idea to start her own brand and embarked on the process of opening co-living spaces all around the state of California. Today, Hubhaus, which Merchant founded and currently runs as the CEO, operates 86 houses in several real estate markets, many of which are fire-hot and expensive, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. The average space in the Hubhaus network accommodates six people.
Hubhaus guarantees rent and coordinate repairs, which both benefits property owners and their co-living community. “We believe leasing to us is good way for landlords and property managers to make their lives as easy as possible,” Merchant said.
Today, Merchant is encountering a great deal of success in a world of rapid co-living expansion. Hubhaus’ vacancy rate is 1.5 percent, and their residents typically stay for one year, even though they have a minimum six-month commitment. The co-living spaces, which are teeming with people of all ages, tend to skew younger, as the average age of their residents is 27.
For Merchant building her brand to be a co-living space wasn’t just about economic necessity and efficiency — she wanted to build authentic community. Since Hubhaus began, they’ve attempted to create and foster a thriving environment for interaction between their residents across all of their living spaces, which are mostly shared homes with an average of six residents.
“We see our community as being a very participatory community, and that’s why we have a centralized community that gets up and running for events and niche interest groups,” Merchant said. “But we see our members actually planning their own events, as we believe member-led events are genuine. Our large and growing community means that we can accommodate a wide range of interests and affinities.”
Merchant never imagined herself as co-living entrepreneur. In fact, she wanted to be a doctor and had already been accepted into medical school when she arrived in California. She then decided that she was not going to pursue medicine and would instead become a businesswoman.
“I discovered that through entrepreneurship, you can make an even bigger impact way beyond the one-on-one touch by building systems and creating ways to bring people together,” Merchant said. “Co-living has been perfect for me because I wanted to work on something that was very mission-driven. I wanted to spend my time working on something that makes a difference. It makes your work engaging, makes your company more fun.”
She advises fellow co-living entrepreneurs and people who want to enter the sector to never forget about the primacy of community.
“Build something that people love and want,” Merchant said. “You’re dealing with intimate part of people’s lives: where they live. But if you’re interested in taking the plunge, make it happen. Every step along the way, figure out how to get it done.”
For more information on Hubhaus and their cultural shared housing, visit https://thehubhaus.com/.