From Potential to Power: Nurturing the Growth of Women Entrepreneurs in Croatia

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On centre-stage: Some inspiring women entrepreneurs of Croatia

#CroatianWomenInBusiness #EmpoweringEntrepreneurs #WomenEntrepreneurs #CroatiaBizRevolution #WomenEntrepreneursRise

Croatia stands out as a country with immense economic potential, in the heart of Europe. But, it grapples with a gender disparity in its entrepreneurial landscape. The entrepreneurial spirit is undoubtedly vibrant, with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) forming a vital pillar of the Croatian economy. Surprisingly, women-led enterprises represent only a fraction of this thriving ecosystem, marking Croatia with one of the lowest rates of female entrepreneurship in the European Union.

Back in 2015, SMEs constituted a staggering 99.7% of all enterprises in Croatia, contributing significantly to total revenues, employment & exports. However, as we delve into the gender dynamics, a stark reality emerges. Merely 25% of these SMEs are steered by women entrepreneurs, indicating a vast untapped potential.

The tide, however, is turning. With a surge in support from financial institutions and targeted programs, women entrepreneurs’ landscape is evolving. Initiatives like HBOR’s loan programs are acting as catalysts for this change, paving the way for increased participation and influence of women in Croatia’s business sphere. Moreover, Croatia distinguishes itself as one of the rare nations with a dedicated Female Entrepreneurship Development Strategy, outlining a roadmap for the empowerment and growth of women in business.

Here we explore the challenges, triumphs & the promising future of women entrepreneurs in Croatia, shedding light on the transformative journey towards gender parity and inclusivity in the Croatian entrepreneurial narrative.

> Maja Šepetavec & Ana Teskera, Co-Founders of Croatia’s first female-owned brewery, Brlog

The Brlog brewery in Zadar was born out of passion. Combining their flair for creating seriously tasty beer, with the desire to create a social enterprise, Brlog was the brainchild of two very focused, Croatia ladies – Ana Teskera and Maja Šepetavec. They are now the proud co-owners of Croatia’s first female-owned co-op brewery – an inspiring enterprise that is bringing a change in the business scene of Zadar. 

Sharing a firm belief in equality and cooperation, Ana and Maya aspired to bring together the best people, and involve the community – to establish a business that had a positive social impact. The people working in the cooperative are not employees, they have ownership of the project too. The word, Brlog, translates from Croatian as den, where a bear sleeps, and here is an inspiring space – a cosy, warm space where everyone feels welcomed.  

> Marija Boskovic Batarelo, Founder & CEO, Parser Compliance

Marija Boskovic Batarelo, Founder & CEO, Parser Compliance has a background in Law and Technology. Her field of expertise is the interaction between these two fields – she has experience finding compliance solutions to face legal challenges of employing emerging technologies. She is a GDPR mentor in the Zagreb-based BIRD incubator and Vice President of the Croatian Compliance Association, which promotes compliance, resolves issues of common interest to the profession, and gathers experts in ethics and compliance.

In 2019 she founded and became the CEO of Parser Compliance, a company that helps others to understand the business and tech side of compliance and to simplify its complex digital context.

> Renata Brkić, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Feelsgood Capital & Project Partner at BAIF

Renata Brkić is a serial entrepreneur, backed by a rich business experience. She has worked as a Project Officer Emergency Programmes for UNICEF, co-founded Professor Balthazar, a social impact enterprise based on the unique socially responsible cartoon character, and is also a qualified angel investor and Project Partner at BAIF – a Croatian Business Angels Impact Fund.

Moreover, she is passionate about impact investing and remains strongly devoted to fostering innovative solutions with social impact. Currently, she is Managing Partner at Feelsgood Capital, a Social Impact Investment Fund, that she also co-founded. She also won a TBAA award for the best social impact investment in South East Europe.

> Tereza Kulic, Co-founder & CFO; Vivian Lukšić, Co-founder & COO, GetByBus

Tereza Kulic is a Co-Founder and CFO of GetByBus and Vivian Lukšić is another Co-Founder and COO. GetByBus is a Croatian-based company. It is a strong market player in the Croatian tech and travel startup ecosystem.

It is a bus ticket booking platform and meta-search engine for bus tickets, that operates in more than 40 European countries and is one of the most advanced cloud-based platforms for the coach industry.

> Dragana Lipovac, Founder & CEO, HUBBIG

Dragana Lipovac has a vast business experience in business sectors such as exporting, logistics or supply chain management. She was a Sales Manager in Croatia for a warehousing, logistics & supply chain company CWT Globelink and she is a 2021 Fellow at the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative – the U.S. Department of State’s flagship program for emerging entrepreneurs from Europe.

It was in 2017 that she founded HUBBIG, a logistics company for cargo transporters, and she currently operates as its CEO. This business venture won many awards, including the Best Newcomer award at Central European Startup Awards. She seeks to transform the logistics industry in South-East Europe and recognizes how crucial of a role it plays in making transportation more eco-friendly and sustainable.

> Lili Rodić, Founder & CEO, Ador

Lili Rodić, Founder & CEO, Ador has been present on the Croatian web business scene for many years. She has actively contributed to its development by organizing the first Girl Geek Dinner in Croatia, promoting the IT industry through Fight Club events, and co-founding WECroatia – an association of Croatian Women Entrepreneurs.

In 1996 she founded Ador, a first Croatian web solution company, and she currently operates as its CEO as well as a consultant at EBRD.

> Carla Ferreri, CEO & Co-Founder, TheGepek

Carla Ferreri is the CEO and a Co-founder of TheGepek, a carpooling service for packages. She is backed by 15 years of experience in managing regional and international teams with a focus on business growth and innovations.

TheGepek is a startup that taps into the sharing economy to ensure same-day deliveries. It has an established presence in Croatia and is expanding into other European markets.

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