May 4, 2018 – Croatia has a new breed of female foreign entrepreneurs, whose activities and innovations are present in all sections of society. Over the coming weeks, TCN will be meeting them, starting with Kristina Ercegovic from Business Cafe.
1. For our international readers who perhaps do not know you, quickly introduce yourself and what you do.
Kristina Ercegovic, serial entrepreneur, business teacher, writer and blogger, best known as networker/spajalica, founder of Business Cafe, www.kristinaercegovic.com
2. How did the business start, and what were the major obstacles and achievements along the way?
I have been an entrepreneur for the past 16 years. After graduating marketing as one of the top 10 students on Zagreb Faculty of Economics I started working in Pliva, one of the largest pharma companies back then in CEE. During recovery after difficult spine surgery, I saw an Oprah show on TV featuring mystery shoppers and I immediately wanted to do that. I got up out of bed and googled all. I realized there are specialized mystery shopping agencies measuring and improving customer service and no one did it like that in Croatia so back in 2002 I opened Heraklea, the first agency to specialize in mystery shopping. Even then as always I was ahead of my time, I offered to my clients results within 24 hours on how their employees treat their customers. I sold Heraklea after 10 years.
8 years ago I started Business Cafe – events for small entrepreneurs and I have spread it using franchise model in 8 countries so far. It started as an event but transformed into a movement and new conscious way of doing business. Also I started and sold Milda, a dating app for entrepreneurs. During that period I wrote 4 books, 2 in Croatian 2 in English, received many awards and recognitions both domestic and international, even for the best young manager the youngest until then and the first woman here. My latest English book is available free on www.businesscafe.info and Croatian and regional bestseller Sam svoj gazda (be your own boss) is on www.kristinaercegovic.com
This year I started a new project Love, kilos, money, a conference covering three most talked about life topics. It is a conference which will be held twice a year next time on October 20th this year. Also I am writing 2 books now. One about that Love, kilos and money and the other on conscious entrepreneurship.
Soon I plan to start Business Cafe for foreigners in Zagreb hope you help me with that 🙂
The biggest obstacle was always just me, myself and my mindset.
3. People have told me on many occasions that the perfect combination in life is to live in Croatia and to make your money abroad. Do you agree?
Completely. I am fanatically pro staying here. I try to promote that within Business cafe. It has two main messages you can make it here as well despite everything and everyone. You are not alone. Just find your tribe.
Our success is mainly defined by our mentality and people we hang out. And our mindset is something you take everyone with you. So why go and leave one of the most beautiful countries in the world where there is such a good quality of live in general and go where you know hardly anyone.
4. Let’s talk about the business climate in Croatia, which does not have the best reputation. Give us some positives and some negatives.
I have experience in doing business both in Austria and ex-Yu countries.
I can say our problem here is complaining mentality, blaming others, not taking responsibility, being jealous and envy others for success and thinking the grass is greener somewhere else. Lack of gratitude for what we have.
A lot has been done, but there is still much to do. A change in mindset and mentality must be done and it is a slow process.
5. If there are three things which you could change to improve things dramatically, what would they be?
I am doing that through Business Cafe events, writing blogs, educating entrepreneurs. I have inspired many people to start and build their businesses.
I am trying to change entrepreneurial mentality, perception and climate doing that.
Also I am inspiring women especially and helping them and showing by example how to support each other.
6. Your advice to foreign entrepreneurs interested in investing in Croatia? And to young local businessmen who want to try?
Come, fall in love, invest, live here and enjoy life.
I wouldn’t focus on young businessman who want to try. Regardless of age, I believe life is too short and if we have an idea we want to try don’t waste time just do it. On their deathbed, people regret what they did not do. And good relationships and meaningful work are what makes us happy.
Only 10% of people do the job they love, and not everyone is set to be an entrepreneur, only 3 to 5% of people are. Average age people enter entrepreneurship is 39. So experience, a good network is a good place to start, although when we are young we are “stupid” have no clue what to expect so we can be bolder and crazier.
7. How do you think the business climate will look in 10 years in Croatia?
Hopefully better starting with the perception of who is an entrepreneur has changed. Now a male entrepreneur is a thief, and female “gold diggers”. So rarely someone wants to do that.. if one does not have to 😉
8. How has 2013 EU entry changed business in Croatia?
Today companies compete more to ATTRACT and KEEP TOP employees than among themselves.
People went to work abroad. Good people left the country.
Additionally we can work with the whole world now but in our mindset only a few of us are ready to even try.
And many new companies entered the market so the competition increased even more.
9. Being an entrepreneur in Croatia is not easy. What are the additional challenges experienced by female entrepreneurs in your opinion?
Lack of support. After I gave birth to my son I felt different opportunities and problems. Until I became a mom I earned more than my male partners and had no problems of that kind whatsoever.
However, when I became a mom, especially later as a single mom, I had to struggle a lot and miss many business opportunities because I wanted to be with my son and sometimes had to. And to be honest kids at a young age prefer to be with their moms, and we want to be with them, it is not all social thing there is some nature and biology as well. However we all have to accept everyone is free to choose and there are women me among them who see a mom role as just that another role in life, very beautiful and fulfilling one but just a role, and we are far more than being a mom. And we want BOTH not a or b. And we don’t want to be condemned for doing so. Nor do we want to judge those women who choose differently.
There is no system support – kindergartens don’t work long enough.
There is often a lack of partner support – many husbands just say they support their wives but actually leave a woman to organize herself. And get by on her own. With 1,2,3,4 kids…
There is no society support – Croatia is still a very patriarchal country – ambitions women are sometimes being perceived as selfish bitches.
And last but not least lack of women supporting each other. One of my most popular blogs is the one – Who is taking care of your son, explaining reactions of people when Business Cafe started growing rapidly and I travelled a lot.
Male colleagues said We see Business Cafe grow rapidly bravo, and ladies said hm.. we see Business Cafe grows – and who is taking care of your kid while you are away. You travel too much.
And the biggest obstacle of all are women to themselves – stuck in playing victim and choosing to remain so.
10. If you knew now what you knew then, would you have decided to go ahead? What was good, what was bad, and what would you do differently next time?
Relax more. Take even more vacations and rest. Set boundaries earlier and stronger. Learn to say no. Not overgive to prove my value. Choose who to do business and hang out even more wisely. And start the business even before 26.. latest 16 🙂
If you are a female entrepreneur in Croatia and would like to be featured in this series, please contact us on [email protected]