Ruud Raaijmakers is a Zwolle native

'Zwolle's ambition makes you dream bigger too'

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Founder Ruud Raaijmakers of weflycheap and online marketing agency Blue Flamingos saw the most beautiful places on earth. Yet he considers Zwolle the perfect home base. He regularly receives guests from all corners of the world via Couchsurfing. "I love showing these people my city. Then I notice myself how much I appreciate Zwolle," the entrepreneur says. An argument about the ambitions of the Heart City and his own big dreams.

"With friend and companion Eelko and my wife, I have traveled a lot. Now that we are more settled, we sometimes miss that feeling of freedom you have on vacation. We solve that through Couchsurfing.com. Through that platform you arrange free overnight stays with individuals. We regularly offer guests a place to sleep in our house. People from South Korea, Colombia, Russia and Germany have stayed here. Often we then show them around the city: we grab a terrace, eat an ice cream at Salute or visit a concert in Hedon. In this way, we have a vacation feeling in our own city.

Cozy and convivial

Those guests are super enthusiastic about Zwolle. They find it a cozy and pleasant city with all amenities within walking distance. They also often love the history. Funnily enough, I didn't come to appreciate the history and atmosphere of downtown myself until later. I grew up in Ittersum. That used to be a bit of a village in itself, so I didn't visit the center much. Now I do see how beautiful Zwolle is. Especially if you take the time to quietly look at the facades or, for example, the murals at Van der Velden in de Broeren.

Conscious in the inner city

Meanwhile, I live on the edge of downtown. From my home, I walk to the IJssel River in 25 minutes. I find that a magical place. But when I open the curtains in the morning, I also see the Peperbus. That continues to be enjoyed every day.

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With our company Blue Flamingos, we consciously choose a downtown location. A place in an industrial area is much cheaper, but the investment definitely pays off. The inner city alone makes us much more attractive to employees we want to bond with. During the lunch break we walk together along the canal or we score a sandwich. And we're close to the best places for Friday afternoon drinks.

Zwolle's ambitions

Ruud Raaijmakers](https://www.touristserver.nl/img/255921-1675076068/C200X200/BF-26.jpg) Zwolle is bursting with ambitions. You can see that the city is developing on all sides. Zwolle is renovating the old neighborhoods and constantly investing in new facilities. That character is also reflected in the city's entrepreneurs. I also notice this in myself and the fifteen employees of Blue Flamingos. Somehow you dare to dream bigger and come into contact with larger clients more easily than you thought possible. Just like Zwolle, we want to grow with Blue Flamingos and make more dreams come true.

Cheap travel

That dreaming started during my student days in Groningen. Like Eelko, I didn't have a penny in the bank, but wanted to fly out and discover the world. Together we scoured the Internet looking for cheap air travel. That way we could go to Asia or New York. How do you do that with student debt?", more and more friends asked. 'We're good at Googling,' we'd say. Pretty soon then we saw opportunities for a small business: so weflycheap. When the corona pandemic flattened travel, we started Blue Flamingos with our knowledge and experience. With it, we increase online visibility for companies.

The perfect home base

After my studies in Groningen, I thought it would be good for my career to move to the Randstad. Besides a number of job applications in the west, I also sent a letter to Wehkamp. A large international company in Zwolle. And that was exactly where I could start. So I returned to Zwolle after all, and I haven't regretted it for a moment. At Wehkamp I learned a lot, I lived close to my friends again and rediscovered that this city is a wonderful home. Zwolle has everything I want and need."

The Top 3 of Ruud Raaijmakers

  • "At Van der Velden in de Broeren, which until recently was called Waanders, I like to wander between the shelves. I find that a beautiful and inspiring place. I really unwind there. I also like that you can tell by the titles of the books what's going on in society."
  • "Sports I do at CityFit on Assendorperstraat. The atmosphere of the gym suits the street. A bit cozy, but very cozy. Perfect imperfection. You can be completely yourself there."
  • "Ox and Pepper I think is a great restaurant. You eat there what the chef comes up with that day. That makes a visit every time very surprising. With each course you get an interesting explanation. The view of the Peperbus creates a special atmosphere."

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