In urban rental apartments, the vision of unlocked front doors and neighbors helping neighbors can feel like just a dream. But when the co-founders of hOM set out to connect neighbors through mindfulness, they started to see a reversal in the trend of urban isolation in the residential communities they served.
Like most good ideas, this one started with inspiration outside of business. In 2005, Chief Revenue Officer of hOM, Ryan Freed, learned of his mother’s Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer diagnosis. Given just two years to live, her team of doctors prescribed meditation and yoga during her treatment.
“We saw her happiness levels increase,” Freed said. “She lived eight years rather than two.”
Cancer had an impact on the two remaining executives at hOM, Francesca Loftus, CEO of hOM, and Corey Loftus, Chief Service Officer at hOM. As the two – who are now married – were planning their wedding, they received a jarring piece of news.
“My mother was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and she kept it from me,” Francesca said. “She was a high-powered executive – she had a lot of stress and didn’t sleep a lot.”
To help manage his soon-to-be mother-in-law’s stress that was heightened by the diagnosis, Corey stepped in to teach Francesca’s mom to practice mindfulness. She now boasts a clean bill of health.
A growing body of scientific evidence supports this higher quality of life for cancer patients who practice mindfulness. According to Cancer Network, mindfulness can have mental health outcomes that include reduced anxiety, depression, stress and distress. According to studies quoted by Cancer Network, mindfulness can also have “small effects for physical health variables such as immune function, blood pressure, and tumor markers.”
With the knowledge that mindfulness could improve the lives of cancer patients, hOM set out to spread the practice to the masses. The company embedded itself first in its residential community in Williamsburg, offering yoga and meditation classes, quickly filling the times offered.
The classes rapidly expanded to new buildings – residential and commercial – and connected new people every day through yoga and meditation. Through all that growth, the business still serves the original inspiration: higher quality of life for those living with a cancer diagnosis. For every one class hOM delivers to its communities, it also gives one away to those living with cancer. hOM partners with Gilda’s Club of New York and Mount Sinai Hospitals to serve those on a journey with cancer as well as working with underserved and at-risk youth through a partnership with STOKED.org.
This mission-driven business continues to expand outside the New York City/New Jersey area and will spend this year launching new markets, including its newest; Toronto. hOM plans to expand to Washington D.C. next and into Chicago by the end of 2017.
The reason for all of this success? Helping neighbors build community and practice mindfulness together is making rental tenants happier.
“We see the phenomenon that people who sweat together, stay together. It’s a biochemical thing,” Corey said. “In a large percentage of our buildings, we find that after we’re there for even a month, people become regulars and they’ll go on coffee dates together and get wine.”
And, it seems, people who sweat together also stay put. The retention rate for residents in buildings that have hOM programming is 15 percent higher than the national average. According to Francesca, the cost of putting a new tenant into a rental apartment unit can run a landlord an average of $4,000, making the financial incentive to keep a tenant happy high.
Another group finding their community with hOM? Fitness instructors. Across the industry, professional fitness instructors are generally independent contractors for the gyms where they teach classes, an employment structure that offers little protection or stability. While this gives many freedom to create a flexible schedule, it can feel precarious for instructors who are relying on teaching classes as their only source of income. What if catastrophe strikes? What if they want to raise a family?
hOM structures its employment contracts with its instructors with that pain-point in mind.
“Instead of making [Instructors] independent contractors, we hire them as full-time employees and they do administrative work for us,” Corey said, after recalling his own time as an Independent yoga teacher. “We’re able to give them healthcare and continuing education.”
Want to find a home with studio fitness that’s just an elevator ride away? Check hOM’s current communities and watch for the company to hit the rental market in Washington D.C. and Chicago.
JANUARY 25, 2017
JEANA ANDERSON COHEN