Croatia’s Foreign Entrepreneurs: Meet Robyn, from Sydney to Split

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Continuing our Foreign Entrepreneurs series, today we meet the lovely Robyn Vulinovich from Sydney, Australia, who now lives in Split and has found success in her boutique travel agency – My Hidden Croatia.

As thousands leave Croatia and echoes of despair about the state of this country continually ring through the air, we wanted to start this series about Foreign Entrepreneurs, not to alienate or shun Croatian entrepreneurs but more as a way to highlight the fact that there are people from around the globe who are choosing to pack up their lives and make a go of it here in Croatia. People from all walks of life who have fallen in love with Croatia for one reason or another and, through the many challenges of starting life afresh in a foreign country, they are finding happiness and success.

This is where I need to introduce Robyn Vulinovich, Robyn is one of the wonderful women I feel very lucky to have connected with in Split and one of the reasons this series was actually started! Robyn is an Australian of Irish heritage who permanently moved to Croatia 7 years ago but first visited the country (Former Yugoslavia) in 1969 with her late husband. Following the passing of her husband in 2004, she eventually made the decision to move back to the country that had stolen her heart from the very first visit.

Since then, Robyn has started a company called My Hidden Croatia, where she creates personalised tours for small groups and individual travellers. Robyn’s background in restaurants, love of Croatia and all things related to gastronomy makes her the perfect ambassador for Croatia. Robyn is not only great at sharing the best Croatia has to offer with international travellers but she is also extremely active in the community, just read any of Robyn’s blogs that she has written about expat women in Croatia, Robyn is the first to praise others and try help people wherever she can – everyone could do with a little of Robyn’s attitude!

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Robyn on tour with the team from Brac Excursions

After connecting at the Split B2B, Robyn and I recently took a trip to islands Šolta and Brač with Brač Excursions; the conversation came up about the state of Croatia – how there are no opportunities and everyone is leaving. Robyn and I obviously disagreed with this statement and said ‘How great would it be if we could find the exact numbers of foreigners living in Croatia (we are still working on this) and share the positive stories from foreigners who have moved here AND found success in Croatia!’


Myself and Robyn with Neno and Dragan Kostadinovic from Taste Dalmatia

Hence, this series was born. So, without further ado, meet Robyn Vulinovich.

First and foremost, where are you from and why did you choose to move to Croatia?

I was Born and raised in Sydney, as a young Australian of Irish heritage, a student at Waverly Teacher’s College at 18 years of age, I was destined to meet a young immigrant who had recently arrived in Australia, the land of opportunity and adventure! A total chance meeting in a crowded coffee shop, and on that day my ‘fate’ was sealed, entering another world, a world of romance and stories about a far-away magical sounding land called Croatia, in those days, a part of the former Yugoslavia.


No amount of telling me about his homeland prepared me for my first visit all those years ago. As we travelled along the highway between Split and the Makarska Riviera, I gazed out at the scene beyond. The majestic Biokovo mountain range soaring from the seashore to the dizzying heights above. Little villages along the way nestled in the bays of azure waters, remnants of the days of the powerful dominance of the Venetian Empire, followed by the Austro-Hungarians. Terracotta tiles, well-worn limestone walkways, olive groves, figs, cherries, and grapevines, donkeys, homemade wines and cheeses, and olive oil for sale. Signs along the road advertising Sobe/Zimmer Frei/ Camere’ (Rooms to let) But it was the absolute beauty and colours of nature that took my breath away on that very first trip. The sheer magnificence of this rough and rocky landscape helped me to better understand the people of this harsh rural environment. The soft Mediterranean Sea against the harsh landscape, a sharp contrast, yet it has created through history, since the 7th century, these Croatian people with enormous strength and resilience, while at the same time possessing warm hearts full of romantic passion and love of their homeland. 

I was at once and forever in love with Croatia! 


Dalmatian sunsets…

Back in Australia, for many years we were very successful in business as restaurateurs of Italian Cuisine, although our lifestyle was extremely busy, dramatic at times, consuming many hours of hard work and at the same time taking care of our children and family obligations we managed to now and then slip away for a holiday to Croatia to restore our senses. Following the passing of my husband in 2004 I made a firm decision to de-stress, and restructure my lifestyle resulting in a new direction escorting small groups to the hills of Tuscany, relaxing and indulging in cuisine and wines under the Tuscan sun. However, after a number of years spent travelling between Australia and Italy with intermittent visits across the Adriatic to Croatia visiting family and friends, I felt the urge to settle in a place where I felt comfortable and at peace, a place where I could both work and live in harmony with the environment and within a safe community. 

In 2010 the decision was made! It happened as I awoke one morning! I simply asked myself, ’Where in the world do you want to be for the rest of your life?’ The answer was forthcoming immediately! My intuition was screaming at me and so I happily packed my bags, bought my ticket and followed my basic instincts! The following chain of events then took place; a position working for an Australian Travel Agency as tour director on a mini cruise boat was offered, and for the following 6 years I sailed between Split and Dubrovnik, meeting so many amazing people, making many excellent contacts while deciding to make my home in Split. Once again romance knocked on my door and a second marriage followed in 2013.  Split has provided me with all that I need, all that I was hoping to find. My expectations have been fulfilled.


Robyn with her happy guests

Tell us about your business: My Hidden Croatia

Today I am self-employed as a tour consultant assisting independent travellers and small groups. My services at My Hidden Croatia provide the guest with a personalized program, according to their interests, suggested food and wine options, meeting the food artisans and producers, attending social events, art and cultural events, suggesting accommodation, cruising and adventure tourism. I work in conjunction with a few local unique travel agents who are like-minded, providing excellent service, guides, vehicles and drivers. 

Three things you love about Croatia?

  1. The slower pace of life
  2. The safe and pollution free air in a land of great diversity and scenic beauty
  3. The seasonal food and focus on preparation of traditional cuisines.

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Three things you would like to see improved in the business climate?

  1. The attitude of many government employees in government departments.
  2. Easier legal procedures in government offices.
  3. Better and more efficient communication by email with government bodies. 

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How do you find working with Croatians in terms of business mentality?

I have always had excellent working relationships with the Croatian Travel agents, boat owners, guides and tour operators. I choose my Croatian business co-workers very carefully, and would never recommend a service, accommodation or company to my clients without first visiting the premises, inspecting the boats, experiencing the restaurant etc. A successful tourism business is largely achieved by word of mouth, the building of a reputation as an honest entrepreneur follows the careful attention to detail and adhering to sound business ethics.

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Advice for foreign entrepreneurs thinking of coming to Croatia?

Never assume anything…rules, laws, and conditions are changing constantly while the country develops following independence and recently becoming a member of the EU.

Contact the Croatian Embassy in your country to find the correct information that you require before making any definite decisions.

Don’t expect it all to be ‘plain sailing’ during the time of setting up a business. Be prepared for delays, mistakes, misunderstandings etc, however, a word of advice, a pleasant polite attitude together with a warm smile will get you everywhere!

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The potential in Croatia to create a satisfying lifestyle is very achievable; particularly those who have international know-how, a positive outlook and funding to cover the initial set-up period and establishment of accommodation. Croatia is a great country to raise a family and is considered as one of the safest environments with a very high standard of education.


Summing Up

I simply cannot say enough kind words about Robyn; it is no surprise that with her positive attitude, outlook and willpower that she found success here in Croatia. One glance at her Facebook page and blogs will tell you just how passionate she is about this country, she is continually exploring, learning and growing and her guests are the lucky ones who get to benefit from her passion, knowledge and enthusiasm. To see more from Robyn, visit My Hidden Croatia here.


Do you have your own story of starting a business and finding success in Croatia? We would love to hear about it, email [email protected]


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