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In 2009, Lucy Von Sturmer was waking up at 4.00am to deliver the news on Wellington’s RadioActive FM. Today, she’s running one of the hottest consultancies in the Netherlands. Originally hailing from Muriwai Beach where she grew up surfing the wild West, this Kiwi entrepreneur is now making waves on the global stage. Kea sits down with Lucy to hear about her journey to Europe and how she’s shaking up the Amsterdam scene.


 

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and where are you from?

I grew up on Auckland’s West Coast and have a deep love for the ocean. Both of my parents are creative entrepreneurs and artists, and they’re young. This means that in many ways I grew up alongside them, and I share their passion for innovation and creativity.

My step father is a wordsmith and writes for a lot of New Zealand publications, and this prompted my passion for writing and working with the media. I’m very lucky to have a strong creative network in New Zealand. Before I left at age 23, I’d worked as an actress starring in Shortland Street, a news presenter for Wellington’s RadioActive FM, a band manager for a hip hop artist signed to EMI, and a lead writer for an independent magazine called Fluro.

How and when did you become an expat?
After finishing my postgraduate degree in International Relations and Digital Media in Wellington, I was itching to get out and see the world. I had no ties to Europe and no idea where to go, so I literally picked a spot on the map. I chose Italy which seemed exotic, and took a gap year spending time living in both Venice and Rome teaching English. I fell in love with European culture and so decided to try and make the move. I returned to Amsterdam as I wanted to work in English and launch my career in digital media.
 

 Why the Netherlands? Did you always plan on living in Amsterdam?

The Netherlands is a world leader in social innovation and social entrepreneurship. In Amsterdam in particular, there is a huge emphasis on the value of creative culture and the arts, and this resonated with me deeply.

It’s young, vibrant, creative, and I like the Dutch and their directness. Fortuitously, it was during Dutch class that I met my now Italian husband, so in many ways the past eight years have come full circle.
 

 

Tell us about your work with The Humblebrag. What’s it like running your own business?

As a foreigner with no ties to Europe, I had to work hard to stay in the Netherlands. I worked as a highly skilled migrant for six years before I could work on my own terms. This was great for me as I had to aim very high in terms of my career from the get-go.

I worked on incredible global programmes across non-governmental organisations, multi-stakeholder initiatives and the creative industries. After seven years, I received my permanent residency and I was ready to build on my own vision.

Starting The Humblebrag, a purpose-driven communications consultancy that champions thought leaders and change-makers, has been exhilarating. Yes, starting a business has been scary, but The Humblebrag has led me to work with people that inspire me on work that I believe in.
 

 What lessons have you learned along the way?

As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that sometimes, no matter how smart and savvy you are, you can’t fast-track experience. Building a business and having a skillset you want to sell are two very different things, and jumping between executor and entrepreneur has been a journey. In my first year, I grew too fast too soon, so I’ve taken some time to restructure my business to meet client demands.

As an expat Kiwi, I’ve also learned that every time another New Zealander tells you a Kiwi is coming to town, take the chance to grab a coffee. Kiwis eager to move overseas usually have a great story to tell and I’ve made some amazing connections just because I was open and said yes.
 

 

What advice would you give to fellow Kiwis thinking about going into business overseas?

Don’t underestimate how forward-thinking and innovative New Zealand is. There are so many Kiwis both locally and globally that are raising the bar. We have an ingrained entrepreneurial and innovative spirit, and on a global stage that resonates.  

How has Kea helped you along the way?

I found out about Kea through other expats I met overseas. I got involved after two years living in the Netherlands when I started to explore how to live abroad while fostering a greater connection with New Zealand. I’ve reached out to various contacts through Kea either out of personal interest, to engage with the community, or to attend events.

It’s been great knowing Kea has been there to support Kiwis achieve their dreams. You don’t have to leave New Zealand when you physically leave it. We have a unique history tied directly to Europe, so Kea is a great way to work on a global scale, but remain connected to home.

MORE ON EXPAT LIFE

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Life as a Kiwi in London isn't all Brexit doom and gloom – all the great upsides of a Kiwi OE are very much still there.

Upon planning the move back to New Zealand, Kiwis have four phases of planning to consider: extraction, landing, transition and long-term.

AUTHOR

LUCY VON STURMER

Born in New Zealand and based in the Netherlands, Lucy is a businesswoman unafraid to advocate for causes she cares about. Her latest project is The Humblebrag: a platform for showcasing trailblazers and game-changers. It is nominated for a SAN New Kids on the Block award for being one of the most promising new businesses in the Netherlands.

On the side she runs the Amsterdam Creative Entrepreneurs’ Collective for more than 300 like-minded individuals. Seemingly unfazed by tall poppy syndrome, Lucy is set to revolutionise social entrepreneurship.

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Part 12