Her Expat Life spoke with Katya Dimitrova, co - founder of Burgas Co - Living, recently to find out what its all about as we partner with them to give our members the best discounted rates for Co - Working and Co - Living.
1: Congratulations on co-founding 'Burgas Co Living'! What has been the most impactful work you have done over your career?
Thank you very much! Well, it's very hard for me to say just one impactful work, because everything I've done so far has its time and place in my life. My profession is an urban planner, so during my career I was part of a team that worked on huge projects like planning new cities or dispersing existing ones. After that, I worked for several years at the Municipality of Burgas, where I enjoyed the opportunity to work on making my hometown a better place to live. After that I started working in our family company, where my projects were not so big and impactful, but to manage a project on your own is a real challenge. I'm still doing it, but at some point I realised that I wanted, that I needed to incorporate something more, something different into my daily life. Although if I had to point to just one thing, the most influential thing in my career, yes, it would definitely be the creation and running of Burgas Co- Living. It's something very different to the other things I've done up until then, and the first project I've managed from idea to realisation and running the place.
2: As a female entrepreneur, what have been the biggest challenges you faced opening a Co Work & Co Live space, and how did you overcome them?
Oh my gosh, everything was a huge challenge, especially because I had no experience with these kinds of projects and businesses. First of all, the renovation - the Burgas Co - Living is a very old communist building, used in the past as a sanatorium, which has not been functioning since 1990.
It was almost demolished. We had to replace almost everything - the pipes, the electrical wiring, new internet infrastructure, a new roof, windows, walls, paint, furniture and not only the building, but also the yard, the courtyard, which is almost 8,000 square meters, is not an easy task.
When you're used to creating city plans and all of a sudden you start being an interior designer and making drawings of furniture, yeah, it's a challenge. Not only that, I had to understand all these construction processes and manage them properly.
At that point, I thought, when we're done with the renovation, everything will be easier. I was wrong, very wrong. The problems and challenges have only just begun. Getting people (digital nomads, remote workers, freelancers, etc.) to come to a city, in such an unpopular country, in a place many people have never heard of, is a huge challenge.
Not only that, but the things involved in running a Co- Living, like housekeeping, administration, organising community events, to connect the digital nomad community with the locals, all of that is a challenge, and I had to learn all of those things in the process. But from my life journey so far, I've learned that the most important thing is to keep challenging myself. Only in this way can I develop myself, my skills and be more successful in what I do.
3: What inspired you to open 'Burgas Co Living space?
I love travelling, discovering new worlds and cultures, meeting different people. Unfortunately, for now I can't organize my work processes in such a way that I can lead the life of a digital nomad, and I have to be in Burgas most of the year. So I found a way to bring the world here. Yes, I'm not a digital nomad, not yet, but I live with this kind of people from all over the world and that's a real treasure for me. I've met and continue to meet people from different countries here, people from different backgrounds and lifestyles, different cultures and education, but they are all amazing people. It is so easy to become friends and live with them. And now I think of another challenge - saying goodbye when someone leaves is so hard. I thought it would get easier at some point, but it hasn't yet. Even though I know we will keep our relationship and meet them again sometime and somewhere, it still hurts. But all those connections and friendships that remain independent of places and time, they are all priceless.
4: What is your advice for other aspiring women who want to advance their careers or start a business?
Just do it and don't be afraid. I know it sounds like a cliché and that there are many forces in the real world that make things difficult, but the worst part is being afraid to try. They just need to realize what they really want, what makes them happy, what they can do with passion and get started. Yes, sometimes it takes patience, sometimes it takes very small steps forward, maybe a few backward. But this is the right way of learning and the way we take our life lessons. We need to lead the main role in our lives, but not be mere spectators in it. When you have an insurmountable problem (because when you start your own business, you're going to face new and new problems every day, and that's normal), just breathe, let the light come in, and focus on your bright future. And you will realize that meaning and significance are much bigger than any one problem. The universe always supports good and pure intentions.
5: In your opinion, what do you think digital nomad's need more of? (visa's/ Community/ Support/ Conferences)?
In my impressions so far, all of these things are important, of course, but the most essential is community. Most digital nomads around the world travel alone, so when they decide to go somewhere in another country where they probably don't know anyone, they need to make sure they're going to a place with like-minded people who understand each other, have similar passions and mindsets. Also, when you choose to live a life sharing your home and daily life with other people, the connection between those people, all the things that make a group of people a community, are very very important. Since living with them, I'm convinced of that.
6: What advice do you have for female digital nomads in building new relationships and a support system abroad and in the workplace?
Usually the digital nomads stay in one place for a mid or long term, at least one month, so my advice is to check very well the place where they intend to live and not only the Co -living or the flat, the hotel, etc, but the area, the city, the country as well. It will be better to connect with the hosts in advance to understand more about the place and the people that stay there, more about the amenities, and the house rules, also the conditions to work there, which is very important for the people with a digital nomad lifestyle. If they choose to stay in a Co- living the building new relationships there is very easy. Usually the Co - livers are amazing, very kind, always willing to help, very welcomed and easy-to-communicate people.
7: What are your future hopes and dreams for 'Burgas Co Living space'?
Burgas Co- living is a very new project, it’s just a five months old baby, so I wish that it will grow up happily in a world of peace and economic stability, which unfortunately sounds almost impossible in our new world reality. But after all, I believe that all these bad forces make us better people and show the really important things in life - helpfulness, humanity, compassion, kindness, friendships, happiness and LOVE. I hope that Burgas Co -living will be a bright ray, carrying in its spectrum all these values and making the world a better place.
8: What are the benefits and challenges you've faced as a Co Founder?
Well, being a Co Founder is always a tricky part when you run your business, the misunderstanding between each other very often becomes a daily routine. I am lucky to have a partner in my business who is my partner in life and my best friend as well. During our 17 years of living together we overcame much harder things than managing the Co -living. The benefits are a lot, mostly I always have support from a person that I believe in. But at the same time we are different people, with different points of view and different visions, so sometimes to gather these differences into one common perspective is a challenge but I’m sure after all the result is better.
9: What do you do in your spare time?
This is the most difficult question for me. For more than two years I’ve spent my spare time in the Co- living, first during the reconstruction and second after we’ve opened. Now I spend my free time together with the other Co - livers. Often we organize game nights, movie night, family dinners, different tastings, or go out to have dinner or party in the bars or clubs in the centre of the city, or going to the beach or spa, or small trips around Burgas for hiking, sightseeing. Yes I know this must be a part of my job but I still feel that this is only pleasure. Well of course I’m always trying to keep several minutes per day to sit in our backyard or laying on the hammock without doing anything, without thinking, just me, myself and nature
10: What is unique about 'Burgas Co Living space' and Bulgaria? Why should female digital nomads visit?
Each place in this world is unique, such as the people, each person is different from the others. My partner and I left our hearts and our souls in this place which makes Burgas Co - living unique place. The people that stayed here really enjoyed the cozy atmosphere and the home feeling and of course our huge yard with many things that attract our Co - livers. We have a hammock area, outside dining area, the opportunity to work from outside (amazing outdoor wifi), fire pit, basketball hoop, petanque playground, slack line, etc.
Bulgaria is a beautiful country with amazing nature and very kind people, with great history and a lot of traditions and the opposite of the common opinion, Bulgaria is a quite safe country.
This is an amazing experience. One of our Co - livers told me once “Katya, the Co - living is a place which heals people’s souls and changes their lives”. How right she was! So ladies let this experience into your life and we will be very very happy if you choose 'Burgas Co - living' as your spot during this journey.