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Foundation 787 — Supporting Female and Youth Entrepreneurship in Bosnia and Herzegovina

In the past couple of years, Foundation 787 has been one of the most ardent supporters of female and youth entrepreneurs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The business ideas they have helped grow vary from small family businesses to tech startups. Recently, their campaign #poduzetneZAJEDNO (‘entrepreneurial together’) in which they partnered with Bonjour.ba and DM, has raised 10.000KM for support of BH female entrepreneurs whose businesses have been impacted negatively by the COVID-19 crisis. The Feel Good shirt — signature of the campaign — also lifted the spirits of many women around the country, who now proudly sport this locally made shirt with the words — sister, friend, colleague, boss, neighbour — superwoman. We talked to Dajana Dzindo, women-in-business expert and one of the founders of Foundation 787 about the recent successes of the organisation and their plans for the future.

Can you tell us something about the campaign #poduzetneZAJEDNO? How did you get the idea to collaborate with the well-known website Bonjour.ba and DM? And how did the now famous FeelGood t-shirt come to be?

The common and strongest thread that binds the Foundation 787, Bonjour.ba and DM BiH is the desire to support women and empower them professionally. It was a great pleasure for us to respond to the invitation of the Bonjour.ba team, whose daily activities, which make them the most successful lifestyle magazine in BiH, are often accompanied by creative, socially responsible activities. It was really great to learn that we will focus our new project on supporting women entrepreneurs and that we will reach all parts of BiH with our story. We wanted to be an example of mutual support and to encourage others to do the same and spread this beautiful and positive story to help and make progress together.

The crisis has led us to return to things that are truly important and which we have unfortunately completely forgotten because of our fast-paced lifestyle and many daily challenges. The power of unity is such an example of how great things happen when we are together for each other.

For several months now, the citizens of BiH have been able to help diligent entrepreneurs, who are facing new challenges and difficulties this year. Through this project, everyone could continue supporting their fellow citizens, colleagues, and friends from all parts of BiH, by purchasing the FEEL GOOD T-shirts in the local DM shops. This gesture directly contributes to the implementation of the support program by Foundation 787 for entrepreneurs focused on their practical education and increased visibility of their products and services.

What was the impact of the campaign? Have you noticed a new interest for the topic of female entrepreneurship?

The number of positive responses to our #FeelGood story that arrived shortly after the launch of the campaign delighted us. We receive photos of FeelGood t-shirts from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina daily. The high number of purchases of t-shirts thrilled us as we understood the importance of the campaign and how it will affect entrepreneurs from different sectors and different parts of BiH.

Considering that this is only the first part of the campaign, and that we still have education and various forms of support for small businesses, we hope for an even greater positive impact soon.

What other projects does the Foundation 787 currently work on?

Apart from the #poduzetneZAJEDNOproject, this year was especially full of the different activities of the 787 Foundation. We have focused our team on implementing eight support programs for various groups of entrepreneurs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One example, there was “Tech Boost”, the pre-accelerator program whose primary goal was to hasten the development of tech startups. This program assisted founders in securing their first investment through direct work with mentors, participation in workshops and the presentation of their own ideas, as part of an international pitch competition.

Also, there was the “BizUp” program for businesses run by women entrepreneurs, which have suffered significant negative consequences because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we provide them with professional and financial support. Other programs followed like “Investment Readiness” through which young potential entrepreneurs in Bosnia and Herzegovina will learn how to secure and use their first investment and business financing, “EKI Academy” for micro businesses from Sarajevo, “Bold Start” program for young people with impact business ideas, etc.

What is your view on the state of female entrepreneurship in BiH? What is its biggest strength, and what its biggest obstacle?

It is difficult to accept the fact that we have to stop and tackle only some of the challenges that women entrepreneurs in BiH face every day to work, as unfortunately, there are many such challenges. Although minor changes in the position and representation of women in the entrepreneurial world are visible annually, the crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19 has taken businesses a few steps back.

Considering the alarming fact that almost 50% of women in BiH do not start a business for fear of failure, it is important to point out that such discouragement and lack of self-confidence is something that in most cases accompanies entrepreneurs in starting a business. There is then difficulty in accessing finance, where because of limited opportunities, women usually start businesses with their own savings, which take them a long time to collect on average. The common challenges for all entrepreneurs in BiH are also those of an administrative nature because of our country’s complex systems, which are often harsher than the market reactions themselves.

Bosnia and Herzegovina still has a long way to go to strengthen the presence and activities for women in the world of entrepreneurship. In BiH, only 34% of women are active in the labour market, and only 27% of existing businesses are owned or co-owned by women, which are the lowest rates in Southeast Europe. If we look specifically at the tech business segment, we also have a similar situation where only 10% of these businesses are run by women. However, the progress in the last few years is visible, but the process is long and extremely slow, and achieving equality is one goal of the Foundation 787. We are glad that we have devoted over 6 years to implementing these activities and providing serious support to women entrepreneurs for their development and progress. And so it will remain. 😊

Thank you for reading our story!

We are a small team dedicated to the startup community of Sarajevo, who collects entrepreneurial stories for sarajevo.tech and organizes awesome fireside chats and panels within Startup Grind Sarajevo. Stay updated for more events and stories and subscribe here.

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