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Nelly, digital nomads and Live it up, Las Palmas!
Nelly, digital nomads and Live it up Las Palmas

When creating something new, there must be self confidence, constancy and especially loads of inner motivation. As I run a language school where you can learn Spanish and English, I am very excited about sharing this interview with Nelleke (Nelly). Why? Because I think she has created an awesome community where you can meet new people, connect with different businesses and practise speaking a language! The community is not only for digital nomads, but also for the locals. So, if you are an expat, a digital nomad or a local, this interview is a must read

Nelly will tell us about the community she has created, where to connect with digital nomads, plus, you will receive a bunch of useful and amazing links where you can connect with like-minded people. 

So, it all started when I announced our Language exchange event in the group of digital nomads she is running on the platform Slack. We started chatting and as I’m always curious about other people’s stories, I had to ask her a bit about her life, her passion and her goals. She replied: 

“My name is Nelleke, but most people here know me as Nelly. I’m from the Netherlands and I moved to Gran Canaria in the Summer of 2018, even though I didn’t know that at the time. I initially came as a digital nomad, for two months only, but I kept extending my stay and well, here we are, almost four years later, with a house, a company and a boyfriend. I am here to stay!   

In January 2016 I opened my own online marketing agency and that’s still going strong. I’m working part time by choice and in my free time I like to read, go to the beach, watch psychological thrillers, go on road trips, do jigsaw puzzles, go out for (a fancy) dinner, pet kitties and sing a song or two.

Over the years, I have built the community Live it up, Las Palmas!, which initially started back in November 2018 with a weekly co-working session for digital nomads.”

1   What kind of a community is Live it Up Las Palmas and who can join you?

Live it up, Las Palmas! Is a community for digital nomads, remote workers, expats and local entrepreneurs in Gran Canaria. Most of the community members are located in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, but everyone on the island is welcome to join! The spoken language in the community is English, so at least a basic level of English is required to join.

The community has a website with general information about life on the island, livetup-laspalmas.com, an Instagram account with photos of the island, the community (events) and me, a Facebook page (not very active) and most important, Slack: join via this link

In Slack is where most of the action happens; it’s where events are being shared, questions are being asked and answered and information is being posted.

 2   You started with the Live it Up Las Palmas community group some years ago. Whoever starts a business, a community or a new job, learns loads of new things, develops professionally and improves over time. What was your goal with the community when you started and what is your goal now?

The goal at the time was to connect digital nomads in Las Palmas de GC and make communication more efficient to share the weekly events I was organizing. Over the years, that goal changed into making Live it up, Las Palmas! the main hub or platform for digital nomads, remote workers, expats and local entrepreneurs in Gran Canaria.

I want people to fall in love with the island, like I did. I want them to feel at home from the moment they arrive and to achieve that, it is so important to find the right people. I want to help them to find their people in our growing community. I want people to feel free to ask for anything they need, anything they are looking for, whether it is an apartment, a recommendation for a restaurant, a shared lunch, a doctor, a collaboration, a day at the beach or where to find that one product they need to buy.

co-working session = Fotografía: Flavio de Stefano
Co-working session; Fotografía: Flavio de Stefano

3   Your community has nearly 3.500 members. As I’m a member too, I can say it’s amazing to have a person who is actually always there and cares about all the things that are happening in the community. Having someone who lives and breathes their job makes such a difference. How much time do you spend organizing everything and taking care of people and replying? 

Good question! I estimate I spend about 20-24 hours a week for hosting the (recurring) events, moderating Slack, managing the socials and replying to PM’s.

Though in general a community manager is a paid job, for me it is not. I am doing this next to my job as an advertising specialist, which is why I have set up a donation website if people want to support me. I am lucky to only work part time, otherwise I would not have had the time to do all of this.

4   What is the most enjoyable thing while running a community like yours?

I think it is connecting people, that I enjoy the most. To provide the platform, to help people meet their tribe in a new city. In the end, it’s the people around you that have a huge impact on your life and your experiences, wherever you are. So if I can contribute in any way, speeding up that process of meeting the right people, I’m happy to do so! I love it when someone arrives alone at one of the community meetups and then leaves with friends that same evening, making plans for the weekend.

Nelleke and Flavio
Nelleke and Flavio; Fotografía: Leopoldo H. Santana

5   I recently read a book about “Built to Belong: discovering the power of Community over competition” written by Natalie Franke. There are many benefits of being a part of a community but sometimes people get lost in competing. What do you think are the 3 main benefits of your community?

  • Direct access to hundreds – thousands of other community members who are on the island right now and are looking for connection;
  • Access to lots of awesome (free) events and information;
  • Ask anything attitude! There’s always someone who will have the answer to your question/request and everyone is very proactive and supportive.

6   What 3 tips would you give to someone who wants to create a life-lasting community? 

  • Be sincere, be yourself and show yourself. Be the community you want to be.
  • Make it inclusive but don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
  • Start a community with the best intentions, make it organic and it will grow naturally. You will reap what you sow.

7    What are your plans for the future? I mean, personal and professional plans 🙂 

Lots of plans! On the 1st of May this year, my boyfriend opened a high quality bakery in Guanarteme bakerydestefano.com and instagram.com/bakerydestefano. He’s been very supportive with me with the community the last year and now I will help him with advertising his business and assisting with minor tasks on site. I am so proud that he now has his own bakery in Las Palmas and I am also very happy for him that he is doing again what he loves doing; making delicious pastry. As you can imagine, this is changing our daily lives a lot! Also in a practical way; the bakery will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so to be able to spend those days together, I also moved my weekend to Mondays and Tuesdays.

I recently opened my company here as well and I will administratively move my clients from the Netherlands to Spain. In that sense, not much is changing for me or my clients.

But opening my Sociedad limitada here also means, that I can start collaborating with local companies, for the community. It’s amazing to see how the community has grown, but with that, also the time I spend managing it grew a lot. Unfortunately I can’t afford to continue to volunteer 3 days a week for the community, so I am looking into partnerships and hopefully financial support from the government. This way, I can keep the community sustainable for me and to keep growing it and improving it for everyone involved.

Puerto de Mogán = Fotografía: Flavio de Stefano
Puerto de Mogán; Fotografía: Flavio de Stefano

8  There are so many people who wanted a shift in their lives during or after the pandemic. Do you think there will be more remote workers in Las Palmas in the future? Do you think the community will keep growing? 

Yes, I believe the community will keep on growing, it’s just such a great place to be! It’s a versatile island, with great weather all year round, awesome restaurants, almost a hundred very nice beaches, fast internet, beautiful nature and a limited time zone difference with other EU countries. Plus, the best remote workers community you can imagine. With more companies going remote and Gran Canaria’s perfect conditions, I think we will see a lot more remote workers coming our way.

9   When you don’t know the answers to your questions (either job, life or relationships), who do you ask for advice?

It really depends on the question, but I would say (in random order) my mom, my boyfriend or the community. Well and there’s Google of course!

10   My favorite question: What does success mean to you?

To me, success means to be happy. To be happy with yourself and to lead the life that you want.

Nelleke.

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