STARTING UP DURING AN ECONOMIC CRISIS - WeBalkans | EU Projects in the Western Balkans

STARTING UP DURING AN ECONOMIC CRISIS

A start-up founded by a young entrepreneur from Serbia is growing despite a challenging business climate

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Strahinja Tirnanić, 31, is an entrepreneur from Serbia. He started his career as a web administrator at a company that manages an online employment portal and quickly made his way up the ladder, earning a promotion to Marketing and PR Manager and Business Developer.

At that point, he realised that he could probably start and run a business of his own. “I’d held the idea of running my own business inside me for a long time. After six years of experience in business, continuous education and a good base of business contacts, my self-confidence had grown. I decided the time was right to make the entrepreneurial leap,” he says.

Making the leap
His research showed a shortage of marketing and management consulting services in the market. These were the areas where he had skills.

He developed a business plan, quit his job and registered his own start-up consultancy company specialising in those fields. However, like many other young entrepreneurs in the Western Balkans, he needed additional support – in particular, to help in exploring new markets outside of Serbia and learning how to manage projects remotely.

A timely promotion on social media introduced him to the EU-funded Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE) programme.

“I saw an event on Facebook about an information day for the programme taking place in my city. As I was just on my way to Switzerland for a holiday, I contacted the organisers and asked if we could schedule a meeting for my return. They agreed, and as I set off for Geneva, I felt my journey in international business was really starting!”

I decided the time was right to make the entrepreneurial leap”

The project that supported Strahinja is called StartUp2. It facilitates the exchanges, learning and networking for new entrepreneurs. The exchange takes place during a stay abroad with an experienced entrepreneur, who helps the new entrepreneur acquire the skills needed to run a small firm.

This was exactly what Strahinja was looking for.

Off to Slovenia
He chose to visit Slovenia for his exchange and selected the Luxembourg Slovenian Business Club (LSBC) as the host organisation. He was attracted by the array of activities they were involved in, new ways of working and a creative and intercultural environment. “I was sure that this would be a great challenge for me, and I was also looking forward to exploring Slovenia and its business environment.”

He stayed in Slovenia for three months, an experience he looks back on as the best time of his career and life so far. With advisors working throughout the world, the LSBC has great experience in remote operations. One of the most important things that Strahinja says he learned during his stay was how to manage people remotely. He also upgraded his digital skills for improving productivity and efficiency. However, it is the network of people that he considers the most valuable gain from the exchange.

Networks create business
During his stay, Strahinja participated in many business events and worked on expanding his network. As a result, his Customer Relationship Management system now includes the names of over 60 executives whom he met at events – with a particular point of pride that among them is the globally renowned US entrepreneur and founder of multiple start-ups, Jeff Hoffman!

Strahinja came back with five clients and partners from Slovenia with whom he still collaborates. One of them is PGN.global, a start-up for innovative technologies, whom he says is his biggest client. Since then he has hired two new colleagues, moved to new offices and gained two new clients.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Strahinja has experienced considerable growth over the last six months. He gives special credit to the StartUp2 project for this success. “I believe that this success is a result of our ability to work remotely and our focus on the international market. These are the things I learned at the LSCB in Slovenia,” he says.

I believe that this success is a result of our ability to work remotely and our focus on the international market. These are the things I learned at LSCB in Slovenia”

Strahinja is one of many young people who have benefited from StartUp2. The project has so far supported 128 entrepreneurs from different countries with on-the-job training, facilitating and consolidating successful start-ups and helping small firms gain a foothold in other European markets. It is run by a consortium of eight partners from Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, and the UK – and is coordinated by CESIE (European Centre of Studies and Initiatives) from Italy. The Business Development Centre from Kragujevac is the project partner in Serbia.

StartUp2 is supported by Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs (EYE), which is a cross-border exchange programme giving new or aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to learn from experienced entrepreneurs running small businesses in other participating countries. The host benefits from fresh perspectives and opportunities to build links with foreign partners and learn about new markets. Serbia takes part in the programme, along with all other countries in the Western Balkans.

Photo Credits: Strahinja Tirnanić