From one-man show to blockbuster supplier
Metalworking and entrepreneurship run in the family.
When Marco Šunjić founded a metalworking enterprise in 2016, he had already perfected his craft making cooking utensils in his father’s shop. Now, he was ready to set off on his own with Koval, a Croatia-based manufacturing company for barbecue grills.
Demand for Marco’s quality products was high right from the beginning. This boon was simultaneously the new business owner’s greatest challenge, however, as he started off as a one-man show: “I had to do all the paperwork and make all the products,” he recalls. Time spent managing orders, keeping the books, and juggling overhead requirements was time not actively spent in the workshop, and Marco realized he could use another pair of hands.
He also realized he could use some guidance from Croatia’s SME and Entrepreneurship Policy Centre, CEPOR. Its Supporting Youth Self-Employment (SYS) initiative was created together with the EFSE Development Facility.
The SYS program helped Marco organize and prioritize all the tasks associated with running a business. Seminars and one-on-one mentoring enabled him to draw up a plan for the next steps, and he asked his father and brother to join him in his growing new business. With the attendant increase in productivity, Marco was also soon able to hire two full-time welders and land a lucrative contract making grills for a restaurant chain owned by Paulaner, the famous German brewery.
And that was just the start. Today, Koval has five employees and Marco is seeking to hire more to keep up with booming demand. Production has expanded beyond standard barbecue grills: Marco’s workshop now also manufacturers two other types of grills; modern wrought-iron gates for residential buildings; various cooking utensils such as woks and skewers; and shields.
That’s right – shields. The hit fantasy series “Game of Thrones” is filmed on Croatia’s beautiful shores, and Marco’s business has benefited from the associated demand.
The company’s positive momentum shows no signs of slowing down, either. When asked if his business might one day compete on a level with American grill giant Weber, Marco pauses thoughtfully. He may just be considering the possibilities.