Women-owned businesses in Bosnia and Herzegovina get a boost through the BizUp programme
Experimenting with vegan recipes led 24-year-old Naida Bojičić to open a small restaurant named Zelena Sredina in Sarajevo in June of 2021. But with no previous knowledge of how to run a business and no advice from experienced caterers, it had a slow start: “We had no marketing, there was no news about us on web portals or on social media. The start was modest,” explains Bojičić.
Hers was among 15 micro and small women-owned businesses supported through the BizUp programme, implemented by Foundation 787 and UN Women Bosnia and Herzegovina under an economic empowerment project supported by the United Kingdom. BizUp focuses on providing women entrepreneurs with tailor-made support and mentorship to increase their resilience and capacities in design, branding, management and other areas to enable them to develop and sustain their businesses.
“I got a lot of advice, especially on how to learn to appreciate my own work,” says Bojičić. “Through the work with my mentor, different ideas gained momentum.” She changed locations and business started to pick up. In February of this year, she hired her first employee and the restaurant is now flourishing. Bojičić says she has learned a lot about how to run a business and handle partnerships. Read more.
Another one of the businesses supported is Sarajevo Card, which simplifies visits for tourists to Sarajevo. It was conceived by Nađa Huseinbegović, out of her love and experience with travelling, and a desire to present her hometown in an attractive way. The card offers services ranging from accommodation to public transport, tickets for museums and the city’s cable car, as well as an Internet package. With COVID-19 decimating tourism, her business was in crisis, but she says the financial support and mentoring provided by the BizUp programme was a game-changer. Read more.
Travelling and getting to know the richness of different cultures also inspired architect and designer Aleksandra Ivanković to create the Imaginarium studio, which sells modern clothing, jewellery, accessories and toys. She started her small business in July 2017 but faced many ups and downs before finding the support she needed to help her business survive and grow. Through BizUp, she began working with mentors on promoting her business and her brand. “I needed someone to tell me ‘These are your weak spots, focus on that, and do this’, someone who would give me the tools, show me the steps.” Through BizUp, she also bought much-needed tools for screen printing. Read more.
Upon learning about the needs of Banja Luka-based IT companies and seeing how much time and energy they spend on administrative tasks, economist Božana Ćorda created Boffice, which runs such tasks for about 50 clients, mostly from the IT sector and creative industry. The idea of starting her own company grew over eight months and Boffice was born in early 2021. She started with a modest set of clients she knew personally but with the mentoring and financial support received through BizUp, her client base has grown eightfold, and she is expanding her team. “They simply gave me another perspective of my small business which I didn’t see and that helped a lot,” she says. Read more.
Najla Kevrić, 28, invested her small savings in buying a wood-working machine. A year and a half later, she could barely keep up with all the orders for wooden piggy banks, puzzles, didactic learning materials and decorations under her brand K King Design. Through BizUp, she received advice on how to write a business plan, how to market and present her business and she also met a lot of women entrepreneurs, which resulted in business cooperation. Her products are now being shipped across Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as to the USA, Austria, Germany and elsewhere. Read more.
Home-made liquor, nut sweets, jewellery and soaps are among the many products available at the Handmade Art Gallery, a souvenir shop located by the Old Bridge in Mostar. It offers products made by more than 60 women across Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was created by Mostar-born Emica Ćorić, opening just five days before the pandemic hit. With financial and mentorship support from BizUp, Ćorić is working on designing a concept that will attract tourists and make her products more recognizable. Read more.
Various raw seeds, nuts and their butters comprise the brand Butteria, conceived by Hamida Begović in a small workshop in Donji Vakuf. As an Arabic language graduate without work in her profession, Begović dedicated her time to producing spreads from highly nutritional nuts, drupe and seeds. She opened a business in 2020 but it took off after a new name, design and products were coined through mentorship and after financial support through the BizUp programme. “The financial help was really helpful to me, as I bought ingredients for new butters and a new machine right at the time when one stopped working,” she says. Her products are now being sold across Bosnia and Herzegovina. Read more.