Young Entrepreneurs Against Unemployment

When Aida Krupalija graduated from the University of Sarajevo eight years ago, she did not expect that getting a job she had studied so hard for would be that difficult. For four years, she applied to every open vacancy for a school or kindergarten pedagogue in Sarajevo, and received one rejection after another.

Tired of unsuccessful job hunting, Aida decided to turn her long-standing hobby into a small business, and she is now a beekeeper with her own small homemade honey production at her parents’ mountain house in Trnovo near Sarajevo.

Although she is still working to develop her products and broaden her network of market contacts, she is happy with her choice. “It takes a lot of work and effort to actually see the results, but it’s worth it,” Aida says.

Working as a self-employed farmer, Aida belongs to a growing population of young Bosnians who decided to take action for themselves to fight joblessness in a country with one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe.

Widespread mistrust and lack of motivation prevent most young people from creating job opportunities for themselves, thus many studies note that young Bosnians today seem to suffer from apathy.

This, however, cannot be said for 31-year-old literature student Alen Šabić from Zenica who decided to take a risk and open a small café with his younger brother two years ago when both of them lost their jobs.

With the help of friends, Alen and his brother used their modest savings to refurbish a small abandoned space in the center of Zenica and open what is now the most popular meeting point of Zenica youth. “I have killed two birds with one rock—I have made my dream come true, and both me and my brother are employed again,” says Alen announcing a number of artistic and cultural events that he plans to organize at his Cafe Bonaparte.

The strengthening of youth entrepreneurial potential and involvement in entrepreneurial activity through self-employment can be a complementary strategy for fighting overall unemployment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, young entrepreneurs need training and incentives to be able to achieve their goals.

One of those who did not want to wait for outside support is Edina Malikić, a 22-year-old law student from Tuzla. When she bought her first sewing machine five years ago, she knew only basic techniques of clothes remodeling.

After a few months of self-learning, Edina started to fall in love with clothes design. “At first, I could only do some basic skirt remodeling or add a piece of material to refresh an old shirt. Then, one of my friends told me to share some pictures on Facebook and that’s how it all started”.

Online promotion brought her some of her first customers from her hometown, and very soon from other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina too. While her Facebook page Retro Maca is getting more and more fans every day, Edina is working hard to learn new design skills and distribute her products to fashion lovers across the country.

“The biggest pleasure for me is to see the clothes I designed on the girls I meet in the streets of my town and other towns in Bosnia,” she says. Edina now makes a living doing something that started as nothing more than a hobby, and she plans to expand her business to other European countries.

Some 160 kilometers to the West of the country, two years older Sanja Hajek has a similar dream – to promote her newly established brand Zerica i Bobica and gain more customers throughout Europe.

Soon after she became a student of Faculty of Technology in Banja Luka, Sanja started to play with pieces of clay she bought for herself to relax in her free time. As she started discovering it gives her great pleasure to spend time modeling, she was more and more into creating mini dolls that can be used as brooches, key-rings or simply as attractive yet inexpensive gifts. After some time, she created her Facebook page, posted first photos and what was a hobby – officially became Sanja’s job.

“I tend to create dolls as ordered by my customers because they usually want for dolls to have some features of the person gift is made for,” Sanja says. “But not only that – I will soon start to organize creative workshops to teach other people how to do it because my Facebook fans contact me every day saying they want to learn it too.”

These four young Bosnians give evidence that, when put together, good ideas and efforts can lead to success and, more importantly, enjoyment in doing what they like and living off it. So if you visit Bosnia and Herzegovina this summer, be sure to eat Aida’s homemade honey, have a coffee in cozy Bonaparte Café, try out some of Edina’s dresses and buy a Zerica i Bobica gift for your friends. Sanja, Edina, Alen and Aida will do their best to have you as another happy customer.

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