Mariangie Rosas is a multidisciplinary entrepreneur with a degree in architecture and a strong sense of community. These elements of her identity come together through co.co.haus, Santurce’s first coworking space, established in the spring of 2017. The space houses a network of entrepreneurs, small businesses, startups and freelancers. According to Rosas, the Puerto Rican diaspora also plays an important role in the growing community at co.co.haus. “We definitely get [members] that are here because they want to integrate into the local ecosystem,” she said. “They are interested in knowing what these companies are doing and possibly investing in them.”
Rosas opened co.co.haus just over three years ago, and her initial intention wasn’t to make a big profit. She started the company with a cofounder in 2017, by renting a small part of the building to use as an office. The space was 2,000 square feet and they charged just enough to cover their rent and make some extra income. “We definitely didn’t do this for the money,” Rosas said. Five months after starting co.co.haus, a natural catastrophe would completely change the company’s trajectory
When Hurricane María landed in Puerto Rico, it took down all of the island’s power lines, along with several communication towers. Most places across Puerto Rico took months to regain electricity, phone service and internet access. Fortunately, co.co.haus didn’t suffer much damage and just two days after the hurricane made landfall, the space reopened. The company had a generator running all day long and Wi-Fi access; luxuries in the aftermath of the deadly category 5 hurricane. Locals began showing up by word of mouth and that’s when co.co.haus became a community center. “I saw people lose their jobs, lose clients,” said Rosas, “yet they had a place to keep working from and to reinvent themselves, to start a new thing, to find a different job.”
Co.co.haus served as a beacon during a challenging time for Puerto Rican businesses. “It was like, you don’t have to grab your bags all of a sudden and leave the island,” Rosas explained, “because you have a space and a community that can help you figure out what that next step is going to be.” It was then that she realized her company could have a major impact by providing support to entrepreneurs and strengthening the island’s business community. In her view, entrepreneurship and community networking are foundational to overcoming the economic crisis in Puerto Rico.
Before the hurricane, co.co.haus provided services to 30 members. Today, that number has increased to 115. The space prides itself on being accessible to everyone; there’s no interview process to join and membership prices start at $50 a month, which includes access to community events. Larger membership packages range up to $1,500 for clients in need of bigger spaces and more amenities. To keep the place running, Rosas employs three young entrepreneurs who conduct programming, social media and graphic design for the company.
To accommodate a growing client base, the company recently opened a content studio called the co.lab with a podcast room, audio booth, video and photography studio with equipment and an infinity wall. Co.co.haus now stretches across 3,000 feet and the teamhas plans to reach a total of over 8,000 squarefeet by the summer of 2021. Rosas also aims to extend their reach to underserved parts of the island and has hereye on a location in her hometown of Mayagüez, a city widely known as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) heart of Puerto Rico.
The entrepreneur plans to approach the expansion in the same manner as the first building and has decided not to seek outside capital, instead , focusing on generating her own. “If you are going to put a lot of investment into the space, you probably also want to own [it],” Rosas said. Rather than focusing on revenue, the team at co.co.haus directs their attention toward expanding the accessibility of membership offerings. They see this as a way to grow their reach and impact, both in and outside the capital. “[San Juan] is full of a lot of incentives, programs and spaces,” said Rosas, “yet there are hardly any cow orking spaces that include programming and events outside of the metro area.”
In the future, Rosas envisions hundreds of coworking spaces across the island. She sees other coworking spaces as collaborators, not competition. “They are multipliers for our ecosystem,” she said, explaining: “ They are goingto help small businesses, students, entrepreneurs,everyone. That’s what’s going to help the economy. That’s what’s going to get us out of the recession.” To learn more about co.co.haus, visit their website here.