HOW TO CREATE A COLIVING FROM A SCRATCH

Burgas coliving

Warning: this is not going to be a fancy story, but a story about mud, pain, hurt, demotivation and the importance of believing in yourself.

Part I Creating a Coliving

If you follow us on social media, you’ve seen tons of smiling faces, people playing, playing sports, crafting, cooking, eating together or alone, people enjoying life at Burgas Coliving. It all looks so easy! In fact it is. When you’re surrounded by wonderful people, life is always easier, but when you run a coliving, that’s not enough. One of our colivers once said, “If things in a place (coliving, house, institution, organization, etc.) are going easily, without tension, it means that someone has put in a lot of effort, unseen effort, to make it happen.” So true!!!

before the renovation

So let's start at the beginning:

Hi friends, we are Katia (me) and Tony (my life and business partner) and we had nothing to do with the digital nomad lifestyle before we opened our magical place Burgas Coliving. We were people completely new to this world, but with ambitions to rush into it. That’s why now, 5 years after the idea of coliving was born in my head and almost two after the official opening of Burgas coliving, I decided to share with you all those dos and don’ts we learned during this journey.

one paint and we are ready

In the beginning was the inspiration ...

It was early 2019 when a random article about the increasingly popular digital nomad movement and COLIVINGS around the world caught my eye. I was amazed by these wonderful places like Nine coliving, Sun and Co, Sende, Vine 21 and the idea of shared living and working. We already had our huge property with two abandoned buildings. The buildings were built during communism in Bulgaria and their purpose was a spa sanatorium. And bang… it was like a flash… one of those moments where you just know what you have to do. So we started thinking about it, making plans… But at some point we realized, “Okay, who are we and why do we think we can create a successful coliving in the middle of nowhere!  

the stairway to the wine room

If something has to happen, it just happens...

Two months after the idea was born in our heads, I had a phone conversation with my childhood friend Katya Dimova (now known as the founder of Chateau coliving, the only coliving in a real castle). And you can imagine how surprised I was when I found out that she lives at Nine coliving (one of the places that inspired us) and even helps run the place. Katya helped us so much to fill that gap from nobody from nowhere to somebody from everywhere. She got us to better understand the digital nomad lifestyle and DN’s needs and expectations and even organized a group of experienced colivers who came to us for a month to test the place and give us feedback. 

What we just had to do before this group came to Burgas was to totally revitalize the 8,000 square meter land and completely renovate at least one of the abandoned buildings on it. JUST THAT.

The whole yard was full of shrubs, weeds, trash. The outside tiles and fence were broken. We chose to start renovating the building that was in worse condition to make it easier to renovate the other one at some point. But at the time we didn’t even know how bad the situation of the building was. The roof and some of the walls were destroyed, the windows were broken. Some of the rooms were on fire … But our belief in what we were doing was so strong that it didn’t stop us. But something else almost did…

the first phase of renovation

Covid, welcome

When you’re planning to set up a business targeting people from abroad and you hear that the borders are closed, yes, that’s scary. Just after we started, we had to stop. But luckily Covid was the other thing that we later realized worked for us. The whole wave of remote workers that the pandemic unlocked, and the new reality that set in, definitely helped the industry that we were a part of as well. But we had to be more careful with the investments we planned to make because another thing that changed a lot at that time was the rapid increase in the prices of all building materials and services. We already had a set budget and we couldn’t go much beyond that. The solution :

seconf floor after the renovation

Be creative

When you are almost out of money, there is only one solution – find more skills in yourself and be creative. If you think you can’t paint, tile, make murals, sew, plant, etc. etc. well, you might be surprised at your secret skills. And the biggest challenges – the furniture and interior design in general. in addition to that we wanted to keep everything possible. This was our heritage, so we wanted to show our colivers the beautiful floors so characteristic of communist buildings. The beautiful old bricks. The exterior… We found a local craftsman who works with iron. Another who works with wood. I did the design and plans for all the furniture in the house – tables, beds, wardrobes, shelves etc. And voilà! Our craft furniture were ready.

If you’ve been to the Burgas Coliving, you’ve probably noticed all these little works of art, like the colorful tables or barrels or this amazing blue suitcase-table, all created by Tony. We use all the beautiful carpets, blankets, cushions, dishes etc left over from our grandparents.

All paintings that amazing local artists sent us as gifts. Just the two of us and Ali, a.k.a. the golden hands of Burgas Coliving, did it all. And needless to say, we had absolutely no previous experience with renovating buildings. And the result, yes, was no cheaper than buying everything from a big furniture chain of questionable quality, but it was unique and special. That’s what Burgas Coliving is all about.

the dining table

Let's summarise

DONT’S

  • If possible, do NOT choose a completely abandoned building in the middle of nowhere.
  • Never forget that this is a coliving, not a hotel.
  • Never forget that this is coliving, but your guests need privacy though.
  • Don’t waste too much time planning, life is fast and everything can change quickly.
  • Don’t lose faith, it will be hard but it will be worth it.
  • Don’t refuse help, there is an amazing world of volunteers, people who really love to help without anything in return, just for the joy of doing good to others.
  • Don’t copy, be unique, digital nomads are people with vast experience among different people and in different places, they can easily catch the fake.

DO’S

  • Make a budget and then multiply it by three to get close to how much money you’re going to spend.
  • Find what’s unique about you and your place, and focus on that.
  • Discover your own hidden skills and be creative.
  • Work with the locals.
  • Create different themed areas, people enjoy the variety and the ability to easily change the environment. In addition to the mandatory bedrooms, coworking, kitchen, living and dining areas, we created a craft room, wine cellar, meditation room, yoga/workout room (and tons of different areas in the yard). We noticed it was a really good solution. 
  • Big kitchen, you need a really big and well equipped kitchen. I had never seen people cook so much before we opened the coliving.
  • And most importantly, IF LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE A LEMONADE.

Well, it’s hard to describe three years in a few sentences, but if you have any more questions about how we built our coliving, don’t hesitate to look us up. Also, if you’re really planning to open your own coliving, the person who helped us so much, Katia Dimova, is now ready to give consultation to anyone who needs it (see https://chateaucoliving.com/coliving-consulting/).T