Deborah Doyle, managing director of Golden Seeds and member of the board of directors at hOMOctober 18, 2018
How one CEO’s mission-driven meditation business is leveraging underutilized real estate and connecting neighbors:
The spark that ignited Francesca Loftus and her co-founders’ mission to create hOM began when two of their mothers were diagnosed with cancer. Both successful executives, the two women adopted a regular yoga and meditation practice as part of their treatment, increasing their level of happiness and quality of life. After witnessing that mindfulness can improve lives of cancer patients, Loftus and her co-founders Ryan Freed and Corey Loftus, were inspired to bring it to the masses.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Francesca on how hOM grew from its beginnings to what it is today.
FL: hOM, located in New York City and Toronto, started as a brick and mortar meditation space with a goal to make meditation more mainstream. Our co-founder Ryan Freed’s mother was diagnosed with cancer and was told she had two years to live. With the help of yoga, acupuncture and meditation, she lived eight years. Her name was Hope, which is why the company is named hOM.
We first tested our concept in Brooklyn at luxury condo community, The Edge, whose tagline is, “If you can find a building with more amenities, we will give you a free year of rent,” and the class sold out in 20 minutes. After this, we recognized an opportunity to bring our concept into multifamily rental buildings. We decided we would try to bring this to other properties that want to engage their population, but don’t have a full amenity floor.
FL: In addition to bringing yoga and meditation to others, we are helping real estate companies solve their property retention and marketing needs by providing unique and varied events. Oftentimes, owners and property managers test events or recurring fitness programs at one property and then decide they want the events for all of the properties they own. Achieving consistency and scale across all their properties is what they need us for.
From coordinating two to 10 weekly classes in a rental living property to running monthly events in a commercial building, we do just about anything you can imagine to leverage underutilized real estate. For example, we’ve brought an inflatable bounce house to the lobby of a commercial building and have turned residential patios into mini golf courses. We also want to honor the mission that led us to start the business, so for every week of classes we teach, we donate one class to someone on their journey with cancer at Gilda’s Club, a community organization for people with cancer, their families and friends.
FL: Working with yoga and fitness instructors as independent contractors meant that we would sometimes have to compete against their other jobs or work. We didn’t want this to hurt our reliability, as we wanted to provide as consistent a brand experience as possible. We wanted our work to come first. As a result, hOM now offers full-time employment and benefits to our instructors. We also put classes within instructors’ neighborhoods, so they don’t have to travel extensively. As a result, we attract some of New York City and Toronto’s top talent.
Another challenge we encountered was the real estate sales cycle. This process took longer because the majority of real estate in New York City is family owned. It took time to build our reputation and trust to get into some of the portfolios we work with today.
FL: We have a lot of exciting things coming up! We’re developing a community manager role, so we will have someone on staff who will focus mainly on engaging with our clients and developing a feedback loop.
We’re also launching the next version of our web app soon. This will feature updated graphics on sites that are specifically for tenants and teachers.
I am also excited to say that we’re now offering 12 weeks of paid parental leave as a benefit. As a mother, this was very important to me.
FL: Stay true to your initial values of why you started the company. As a company, hOM is sitting in a niche and it can be tempting, especially when raising money, to tell the story you think the investor wants to hear and not the real story of your company.
During our first fundraising round, there was a moment when we were talking to VCs and they suggested we position ourselves as a marketplace because it’s a sexier story in their eyes, But, in sticking true to our vision and what we wanted the company to be, we were able to find investors like Golden Seeds and other angel investors that were aligned with our mission. It’s essential for early-stage founders to say “no” to things that don’t match the mission of their company.
FL: The Golden Seeds network has been extremely helpful for a number of reasons. We were lucky to have the support of the network early on. As we made it through the different rounds of pitching, we got one-on-one coaching, analyzing what worked and what didn’t, as well as what we can expect in the next rounds. Managing directors at Golden Seeds also have connected us with various people in real estate, which has helped us with sales and partnerships. Without Golden Seeds, we would not be where we are today, so we’re very appreciative for everything the network has done for us.
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