United States Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Eric Nelson has published his new blog
“Since arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’ve been delighted to meet many young entrepreneurs who are working to make the future of BiH a bright one. Connecting with entrepreneurs in BiH is one of the main reasons we started outreach in the LinkedIn network, where we can follow what people are working on. I hope more entrepreneurs will connect with us at linkedin.com/usembassybih. In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which we recently celebrated, I’d like to highlight some of the courageous, inspirational entrepreneurs whom I’ve had the honor to meet, both homegrown and returning members of the diaspora.
Entrepreneurship, or even an entrepreneurial mindset in a workplace, has the potential to move the economy of BiH forward. The United States Government supports the growing trend of diaspora who are returning home to start businesses in their communities through grants, technical assistance, and networking events as part of USAID’s Diaspora Invest Activity.
Some diaspora members are convincing their company management to open factories in BiH. Suad Bešlić moved to Germany during the war and began working for a firm that produces customized firetrucks. In 2015, Suad was helping the firm recruit and train workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina for the German plant. The mother of one young man whom Suad had recruited to move to Germany told Suad, “If my child leaves for Germany, will his wife and my grandchild leave too?” The mother began to cry and her tears haunted Suad. Thinking of her, Suad returned to BiH in 2016 and established “Sućo d.o.o.” Today, he employs 40 workers to produce customized fire trucks for EU customers. The emotional decision also made good business sense.
Homegrown entrepreneurs have proven to be just as successful, and that hasn’t stopped them from broadening their businesses internationally. Bojan Vuković was born in Nova Gradiška in 1991 and moved with his family to Banja Luka shortly thereafter. In 2013, after working for several years in the IT field, Bojan founded his own software development company, DVC Solutions. The company now has offices in Banja Luka, Chicago, and Halmstad, Sweden, and has worked with companies based in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. Bojan is also the CEO of Meerkiddo Inc. and Co-Founder of HUBL Education center, which is based in Banja Luka and teaches students how to code and launch their own startups.
Women-owned businesses are growing in BiH with support from a fund created by USAID four years ago as part of a project to support marginalized populations in the country. Using grant funds, several women have turned their ideas into businesses to support themselves and their families. Some have even created small businesses employing others in the community. For example, using her skills as a designer and seamstress, Sanela Čičkušić founded a company called “Women for Tradition.” She and her team of nine women make quality garments and folk costumes using traditional techniques, such as hand embroidery and knitting.
We are also supporting more women entrepreneurs through a new program we just launched called BOLD – BiH Omladinski Lideri. This will be a place to build the skills needed to start a new venture and be supported by other young entrepreneurs trying to turn their ideas into reality. Those who are interested in joining the program can head to the website BOLD.ba, where they’ll also find opportunities for workshops in BiH and fellowships in the United States under the economic development theme. Ultimately, members of BOLD will be part of a network of like-minded people who want to help grow the economy in this country. We want to hear what people are working on and support entrepreneurs and innovators around BiH.
The IT sector has great growth potential, and some members of the diaspora are coming back to take advantage of BiH’s talented programmers and developers. Senad Santić fled to Sweden from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993 when he was four. Like many other members of the diaspora, his family maintained close links to their native city of Mostar, spending most summers there during his youth. Years later, after graduating from college, Santić realized he wanted to connect his Gothenburg and Mostar friends and business networks.
After studying IT in Sweden, he went to the United States for a year, and that’s where he discovered his passion for business and entrepreneurship. He returned to Gothenburg and, together with some of his professors, started a company to develop a mobile application used by local schools. In 2016, Senad finally made the leap and co-founded an IT company that, in his words, brought together his two hometowns. ZenDev Company started operations in Mostar in late 2016, and Santić was quickly recognized by the local community as a credible and ambitious young entrepreneur willing to work with new ideas and provide new opportunities to Mostar youth.
Bojan Rankić was born in Srebrenica and moved to Serbia at a young age. He owns an industrial container manufacturing firm in Serbia and, in 2018, decided to open a similar company in Srebrenica, because of high demand for containers in the region and his desire to make a difference in his birthplace. He moved most of the production equipment to the Srebrenica facility, where he employs a diverse staff of 30.
Dino Šito is an example of a second-generation diaspora member who has decided to return. He was born in Koper, Slovenia, and worked there before returning to his ancestral homeland in 2017 at age 23 to establish BioFood BH. This company has four full-time employees and numerous seasonal workers and collects and sells mushrooms, berries, and herbs for local and EU markets.
These entrepreneurs – along with so many others – want to transform this country into a land of opportunity – a country that people will not want to leave and will happily return to. They are showing that it is possible to successfully open a business in BiH. They are leading the way in creating jobs, increasing sales and exports to EU markets, and further integrating BiH into the Euro-Atlantic community. I wish them great success!