An Interview with Stephanie Smolders, Online Business Coach,Marketing Mentor & Belgian Digital Nomad
We recently caught up with Stephanie Smolders, a serial entrepreneur and experienced digital nomad dedicated to aligning businesses for greater impact and living a nomadic lifestyle.
1: Tell us about your journey…you now live in Spain.. Where are you from originally? What
inspired you to live the expat life?
My nomadic journey started in 2016 when I decided to leave everything I built in Belgium and
travel with just 2 suitcases. This had been a lifelong dream of mine but coming from a small
town in Belgium I never believed it was possible for me. The first seeds for this adventure got planted because my mom used to work and live in Spain when she was a young adult. She worked as a travel hostess for one of the largest travel brands in Belgium. While growing up, I heard her tell stories about parties in Barcelona, climbing a volcano with her friends and just living life under the sun. At age 25 I was done with grey and boring Belgium and was longing for something different. I already traveled a lot but every time I had to go ‘home’ I had a breakdown. There had to be another way for me. I’ve visited +43 countries, lived for more than 3 months in about 12 different countries and now I
spend most of my time in Valencia, Spain.
2: What challenges have you faced along the way living in different countries/cultures?
One of the biggest challenges has been community building. Putting yourself out there and
making new friends. Once I made new friends, there was another reason for us to leave the
country. I now have friends in almost every country but I rarely see them. We talk and message
but you know, you create a very different relationship when you rarely see each other in person.
3: You are an online business coach and marketing strategist who guides entrepreneurs! How
did this start? How did you become a business coach?
Entrepreneurship is something that runs in my DNA so it was an easy decision to join a business
as co-founder at age 19. From there I didn’t have the traditional route of college, finding a job
and working my ass off to get a house, dog, car and kids. I always wanted something different. But somewhere along the way the feeling of not having a college degree started to bother me. So at 22, I decided to get a degree in education and become a teacher. This gave me the opportunity to keep working on my business and study. I’ve always had a natural interest in writing, marketing, and social media so during that time I picked up some clients for social media marketing. Over the years this grew to an agency together with my now partner. We built a team, had over 200 active clients and I learned so much about running a remote business.
People started to ask me questions such as:
“How did you scale?”
“What marketing advice would you have for my service business?”
So from there I naturally transitioned into coaching. I did some certifications and decided to
stop the agency as it wasn’t allowing me to have the lifestyle that I desired. I wanted more freedom, less responsibilities. I wanted to teach and guide. And with the current business, I get to be 100% me!
As a coach, mentor, & guide I get to use all my previous experience, intuition and skills to help
others go for what they desire out of this life.
4: What are the key tips you have for female entrepreneurs in building a unique brand?
Embrace the messy & unique story that makes you, you! People want to work with people so
embodying a personal brand that is an extension of who you are is the way to go. This isn’t the
easy route because it asks you to lead from the inside. To show yourself, be vulnerable, be
brave but it creates deep meaningful relationships with your (ideal) clients.
5: What advice do you have for females who are looking to start their own business or work
remotely and live the entrepreneurial digital nomadic lifestyle?
First of all, for me starting your own business and working remotely are completely different to
me. So for me to answer this question for both options I would say that environment matters. It
matters a lot more than you think. Whenever you land somewhere new, your unconscious has
to process a lot of new information. This is tiring and can take away from your productivity. So
wherever you go, make sure it is a place where you feel comfortable. Especially if it is the first
time, go to a city or country you know. Try it out for a few weeks before you commit to selling all
your belongings. I learned that the hard way.
6: You can speak a lot of languages - tell us about your journey to bilingualism and what advice
do you have for fellow females?
I don’t know if it’s a lot but I speak 3 languages and understand quite a few more. I’ve always
been fascinated by languages and communication. What we say and especially what we don’t
say. So if you have decided to learn a new language, go people-watch. The easiest way is to
look for some Netflix series in the native language you want to learn. See how people
communicate, how do they use their hands, facial expressions, etc. This helps you to decide
the message way beyond the words they are saying.
7: Tell us about your digital nomad lifestyle? How do you balance work and travel life? Do you use co working spaces? How do you structure your lifestyle?
After many years of living nomadic it's now quite easy to balance the lifestyle with working and traveling. I've created a natural routine and I have the help and support of my partner. We both work from home and when we rent a home we pick something with +2 bedrooms so that we can at least convert one into an office. We both have a lot of calls so a co-working space doesn't really align with what we need. If we stay in a hotel we ask to use the business centre or one of us goes and works in one of the restaurants/lounges.
The only thing that is harder is a workout routine or self-care routine. I tend to look on 'meetup' for sport events like yoga or pilates and check out a few of the gyms to see if they have short term options. My favourite way to discover a new place is by walking so I normally start my first week in a new place with lots of walks and going to 'meetup' events to get a good idea of the city/area.
8: What do you do in your spare time?
I love to go for a picnic in the park, read a book on a bench and watch people go by.
Anything with water, wellness - beach - pool. You name it, I’m there.
9: Where have you traveled to/lived/worked that really inspired you?
One of my favourite places is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I love the people, the culture, the high
rise, and the parks. It is such a diverse community that you’ll easily blend in. They are so
welcoming and easygoing that I felt very comfortable there. And a lot of start-ups or people have
10: Lastly, your podcast the ‘Stephanie Smolders show’ sounds interesting! How did you get
started in the podcast world? What challenges and positives have you faced?
Talking is natural and easy for me. So when I was thinking about different platforms for my
marketing a podcast was a simple step for me. I already had been interviewed for a few podcasts so
I knew what to expect so I decided to do some research and just try. First I had a Dutch podcast with
a fellow entrepreneur where we would discuss a topic every week. This led me to create my own show and use it as a way to share my message, invite inspiring people
and connect with my audience.
Connect with Stephanie:
https://open.spotify.com/show/7l4iql4VAS2m22gIQQRH3D?si=fbfe45aff44b431b (podcast on Spotify)