Emi Stikkelman is a Zwolle native

'Zwolle has unleashed the entrepreneur in me'

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"Just put in the first sentence that I'm not a Zwolle native, then we'll get that over with right away...," smiles Emi Stikkelman before ordering a latte macchiato at Anne&Max on Sassenstraat. She has only lived in Zwolle for four years, but the city feels like her home. And Zwolle gave her life a completely new direction. "I was an educational scientist and now run six companies.... Zwolle has awakened the entrepreneurship in me."

Photo: Emi enjoys working with young local talent (vlnr Mees Rooy, Emi and Pelle Klappe)

"Before I came to Zwolle, I lived in Utrecht for twelve years. There I worked at the university and in business. Always at the intersection of education and ICT. Love brought me to Zwolle. When that relationship ended, leaving did not occur to me. Partly because in the meantime I was in love with Café Koos which I had bought together with my former partner. I felt responsibility for the staff and guests, but most of all enjoyed the family feeling immensely. The emotional involvement in a pub is very strong.

Don't get used to it for a second

But even beyond that, I didn't want to leave Zwolle. I didn't have to get used to the city for a second. While I really loved Utrecht and thought I would miss a lot here. But I really like the character of Zwolle. The city center has many old buildings, the atmosphere is very friendly and I feel safe here. And what I like: Zwolle is small enough to get to know people quickly and big enough for starting new things. You make creative steps very easily here. That has stimulated my entrepreneurship.

Taboo Bar and Kitchen

Before we bought Café Koos, I already opened Holiday Villa Zwolle Central in an old railwayman's house on the Willemsvaart. Meanwhile, I run two more vacation homes and am one of the initiators of city beach Blue Bayou. This spring, together with Jabe Piter Faber, I am opening Taboe Bar and Kitchen on the Gasthuisplein. With that we introduce a new concept in Zwolle: we choose a limited number of main dishes that we offer in a meat and vega(n) variant. With this we show that you can make a full-fledged veggie alternative out of every dish. Currently, the choice for people who do not eat meat is still quite limited.

Room for innovation

That I have six companies is something I couldn't have imagined five years ago. In Utrecht I sometimes considered entrepreneurship, but I never got beyond thinking about it. Zwolle made me an entrepreneur. Apparently we are a good match. That also has to do with the municipality of Zwolle, I think. It gives room to entrepreneurs and people who want to innovate. I also saw that with friends who started a hostel in the old police station on Luttekestraat. Zwolle is not afraid to give that kind of young and inexperienced entrepreneurs confidence. By doing so, the municipality prevents the city from being made up of uniformity sausages. That policy is really different in other cities.


Zwolle residents themselves are open to innovation. But they do not like trendy fussiness without atmosphere and character. It has to stay a bit raw. I like that myself. Zwolle is also an open city. In any case, I have never felt like an outsider. You build a network very quickly here. And let's face it: Zwolle is also just a very beautiful city. Friends, family and vacation guests are always surprised by the city. Really always. 'Gee, what a nice city this is', I hear so often.


Emi Stikkelman
Emi Stikkelman

Whether I'm done with six businesses for a while? For the time being, yes, haha. But together with others I keep looking for additions. At my companies, I don't help in the day-to-day operations, but I am very closely involved personally. And I want to keep it that way. So that means I don't want to multiply a formula a hundred times. What does strike me as a nice challenge is to realize a cultural hub for artists, catering and events. That way you make Zwolle even more attractive for people who want to innovate."

The Top 3 of Emi Stikkelman

  • "My own Café Koos is incredibly close to my heart. It makes me incredibly happy when I walk in on Saturday nights and see people dancing. The coziness often spills out. And, of course, we sit on the beautiful square the New Market."
  • "Time for a shout out to Poppe. That's a restaurant you don't hear much about, but I love the quality and atmosphere. The authenticity appeals to me: they don't pretend to be anything other than what they are."
  • "Special tip perhaps: I love the bike path along the Almelo Canal. In the middle of the city you feel like you're riding right through nature. I love little paths like that."

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