Meet Biljana Lovrinović and find out why her business sights are set firmly on Travnik.
I recently spoke with Biljana Lovrinović, an energetic Croatian-American activist, who has several admirable and ambitious initiatives in motion. It was extremely interesting to hear about her many Croatian-related projects and her zeal to give back and start a business in her homeland of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Her journey began in 1992 when the then 11 year old Biljana and her family left war-torn Travnik, BiH, and fled to Zagreb, Croatia for safety during the war. The family moved to Virovitica, Croatia in 1994 before moving again that same year to Hamburg, Germany. It was interesting to learn that even as a new immigrant, Biljana became class president and played in the first division youth handball in Germany. She admits that it was important to her to be part of a Croatian community in Germany. The community helped her keep her Croatian identity while assimilating and helping her succeed in school, sports and a social life.
When Biljana was in high school, she and her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Always having an entrepreneurial mind, Biljana began to build her portfolio as a freelance graphic designer as a student at Kent State University. After graduating, she worked in marketing and spent 5 years building her career in Los Angeles, CA. Biljana returned to Cleveland and had a very successful career which included consulting for the Cleveland Clinic. But, Biljana, always had a dream of starting her own business venture.
Little over a year ago that dream became a reality, when she became the owner of her Cleveland-based business, the Equus Group. Her company focuses on marketing, branding, website applications and e-commerce. Biljana’s company specializes in small to medium-sized businesses and some of which are Croatian owned. It was very apparent in our discussion that her company takes a very creative and consultative approach with multiple interviews and meetings to customize solutions for her client’s needs.
Another dream of Biljana’s is to expand her business to help young people in BiH. Biljana spent two months in Croatia and BiH this past summer, meeting with numerous business professionals. She was amazed by the amount of young people who told her that they didn’t want charity, but honest employment. She stressed that they are very educated and full of enthusiasm about building their communities in BiH and she was convinced that if more of us from diaspora get involved, invest and bring the know-how, then most would want to stay in BiH. Biljana strongly believes that there are opportunities in BiH for manufacturing, knowledge transfer, IT infrastructure, agriculture and clean energy and hopes that more Croatian Americans, especially those with family ties, consider making investments there.
I was very impressed to hear that Biljana is applying for two grants available to BiH diaspora. She applied for a USAID grant to start a business in BiH. USAID will match an investment of up to $35,000. If Biljana wins the award, she plans to hire four employees in her hometown of Travnik to build a secondary office that will focus on digital marketing and will compliment her business in the U.S. She has submitted a bid for a United Nations development grant that would extend $12,000 in matching funds.
As a very energized business entrepreneur with a full plate, she consults with a local social enterprise which helps adults with autism express themselves and to find a meaningful way to earn an income. She also works with the Innovations Center in the Cleveland area which assists with the start-up or expansion of small businesses.
Besides her business, Biljana is truly dedicated to her Croatian American community, showing leadership with a few national and even more local Cleveland organizations. She serves on the National Federation of Croatian Americans (NFCA) Board and is an active participant with NFCA’s BiH Croat Task Force committee. Biljana is the local chapter president of American Croatian Association Professionals (ACAP) in Cleveland. The group is planning events focusing on health and wellness, legal issues and mentoring college students. Cleveland will probably host the 2019 annual ACAP conference.
Biljana also enjoys Croatian folklore dancing and singing and belongs to the Cleveland Croatian Business Association and the National Association of Women Business Owners. She’s active at St. Paul’s Croatian Church in Cleveland as a choir member and finance committee member.
Biljana’s dynamic activism in the Croatian American community and her business acumen was a dual factor in her selection as one of the NFCA’s “40 Under 40” winners which honors rising stars and role models within our Croatian American community under 40 years of age.
It’s refreshing and impressive to hear how energized Biljana is with wanting to make a difference and start a business in BiH. Biljana knows starting a business in BiH, is not easy by any means, but believes anything of true value takes some sacrifice and risk. She hopes this story will help inspire others to consider making an investment in BiH or to partner with her. She says that giving back is really important and she is so grateful for all the opportunities that have been bestowed upon her in the U.S.
She told me that she is motivated by projects that can be impactful and truly appreciates the team work necessary to support any worthwhile cause or any business project. Biljana is a proud Croatian through and through and it’s not a coincidence that almost all of the causes that are close to her heart, are Croatian in their nature.