Success Stories

"It’s a blessing to produce something with your own hands. But I also needed to learn about all the phases of running a business.”

Designer Marija Milković is both talented and hardworking. Coming from a family "capable of turning ideas into action,” she fulfilled a dream when she launched her own business making beautiful clothing for everyday people in Zagreb, Croatia.

But it’s one thing to have drive, and quite another to singlehandedly manage your own start-up. When she first opened her doors, Milković not only needed to apply her formidable skills to design and manufacture, she also needed to hire staff, market her products, serve customers, optimize her premises, and juggle the finances for a growing business. There were hardly enough hours in the day.

That was when she turned to the CEPOR SMEs & Entrepreneurship Policy Center in Zagreb, the first organization of its kind in Croatia. The EFSE Development Facility partnered with CEPOR to create the Supporting Youth Self-Employment program, which offers technical assistance to local entrepreneurs.

Over the course of ten mentoring sessions and eleven workshops, Milković acquired the tools she needed for long-term success. She now feels well equipped to manage her time and take on the challenges of business ownership. "Being a good designer does not automatically make you a good manager,” she explains. "And I needed to learn to be an effective boss so I can make the most of staff and expand in business. I found that support at CEPOR. The whole educational program was very well organized and implemented.”

Today, she has added an employee and plans to invest in new equipment. She is particularly proud of her company’s market orientation and has concrete ideas of what to improve next. Although it sounds like she is already on the right track: When Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović commissioned an article of clothing from Milković, she knew she had made a name for herself!

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