We had the good fortune of connecting with Ross Walker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ross, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I had a solid educational background, some good experience in the related industry and a unique, niche investment idea I thought would be compelling to investors. Plus, in the back of my mind, I always wanted to have the opportunity to run my own business for a number of reasons, including more control over my own destiny and potentially more balanced lifestyle.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I co-founded a vertically integrated real estate investment, development and management firm called Hawkins Way Capital based in Beverly Hills, CA back in 2012. Fast forward to today, as part of our investments, we own and operate a 4,000-bed national portfolio of real estate under the budget lifestyle brand, FOUND, which has sub brands of FOUND Hotels, FOUND Residences and FOUND Study. Our currently 27 properties are located in 14 urban cities across the US and aim to provide low-cost high-value short and long term stays for students, young professionals and explorers. As alluded to above, we implemented a bottoms-up approach focused on acquiring and operating solid real estate deals as our first priority. Branding came second and has been patiently layered across the portfolio. Today, we are the largest owner operator of what we call the “Hospitality Multifamily 2.0” or “co-lifestyle” space, which is basically community-inspired, affordable luxury micro stays. What helps make us unique and gives us a competitive advantage is that we own and operate everything today, providing greater control of the brand, and we have three sub brands that naturally intersect well with each other. For example, we can offer FOUND Study tenants, who are students and schools, discounts and other benefits at our FOUND Hotels when they travel or access to FOUND Residences upon graduation for housing. Or, FOUND Residences tenants have an array of “homes away from” access to FOUND Hotels when they choose to travel. Having the real estate already in major markets takes time to achieve, but when achieved, it allows you to create a meaningful network of value to consumers “today or tomorrow.” Our biggest challenge to date has been Covid-19 for our hotels; however, we have performed better than most due to our low expense margin business and our ability to toggle between uses in select cases, such as converting use to a housing use. Going forward, we hope to continue to grow the FOUND platform as there will still be demand for trusted affordable stays in the markets we target.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Well today, given the limited environment due to Covid, I would recommend spending time at or near the beaches from Manhattan Beach to Malibu. Individual or family bike rides up and down the coast with multiple options to stop for safe, socially distanced food and drinks is as good as it gets these days. Breaking that up with some time by or in the ocean is pretty ideal. Not sure how you beat that today!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents afforded me the foundation of experiences and tools in order to have a chance to find success in life. Without their sacrifices for me while growing up, time spent with me, values they instilled in me, I would not have had the grit, motivation nor confidence to live life to the fullest without much regret.
Courtesy of FOUND Places