EYE as a starting point for entrepreneurial journey

Since I was a teenager I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and didn’t stress myself too much with that. I was planning to study economics, get the basics and mind-set of an economist and afterwards step into entrepreneurs’ world. But, as my impatient nature didn’t allow me to wait, during studies I partnered with my best friend, colleague and a neighbour to start car and carpet wash service. We were not money driven, but wanted to experience the life of entrepreneurs, see how we work together and conclude if we want to be businessmen in the future. And yes, we loved it, we put some money, knowledge we had and our hearts into washing cars. And people recognize and salute beginners’ enthusiasm.

Nikola Ristić

Now, when I have bachelor in economics from Serbia, master degree in international business from Poland, some experience as entrepreneur, marketing and leadership experience from Philip Morris and e-merchandising from Saatchi&Saatchi, I am once again stepping into entrepreneurs’ world! However, even more experienced and with a vision of what i want to do, I was afraid, lacked self-confidence and didn’t know where to start!

Just after studying abroad, I realized how much Serbia is beautiful and how much I like my country. Also, all the people I have met that had a chance to visit Serbia, were thrilled when just talking about how food is good, how history is amazing and how people are hospitable. It clicked in my head that I should be someone presenting the potential of Serbia, whether they are Serbs or foreigners. Being more for B2B type of business, I decided to start consulting agency for organising team-buildings, providing clients with recommendations and advices on what, where, who to and why. Also, agency is dedicated to organising conferences, meetings, product launches, trainings as core services, and within special services, weddings, cocktail parties, anniversaries, incentive trips, corporate family days and corporate social responsibility actions. For all of the services mentioned, agency is trying to cover phases from consultancy, planning, organisation and implementation. I try to do it in a way to promote hidden treasures and highlight the potential of offer.

As all of this was new for me, I felt insecure and lacking self-confidence. The moment I heard of Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs from Business Development Centre Kragujevac, I knew it was the right thing for me. It will give me chance to learn about events from more experienced and proven agency, I thought, and some time to shape my business model. And so It happened, consulting agency from Matosinhos (Porto district, Portugal) contacted me and in the matter of days we started working on a commitment document defining how they can help me and what can I do to help them. Besides working on what you came for, EYE allows you to learn and experience much more, it allows you to grow.

First of all, living for few months in a different country shapes you a lot, you become more independent, learn how things work there, different perspectives from your home country, mentality of people, their tradition and nutrition, habits, norms and most of all, how business is done. Further, if you get lucky as I did to come to company with several departments, you get a chance to learn things you didn’t think of, but will certainly open up your mind, and you never know when you will need that knowledge. I found myself in a position that several people already asked me to work together on EU funded projects’ proposals, something I didn’t even think about before coming to INOVA+ for Erasmus experience. Finally, I try to use the time efficiently, dedicate myself towards projects but primary, work on my business, exploring possibilities for partnering, having trainings and meetings with experienced INOVA+ employees and try to learn as much as I can.

What I have to say to all present and future EYE alumni are three things: First of all, ask anything you want to know and talk to anyone you have a chance to. Every conversation with anyone can be useful if you know how to ‘drive’ it. Second of all, make the most of your journey, organise yourself to dedicate enough time to your business, your host, to explore the country and get to know people. Don’t let the rain stop you from walking. And the last one, be the ambassador of your country, especially if you are coming from a country people have prejudices to, such as Serbia. Don’t teach your new domestic friends how to swear, but rather how to say hello to you in your own language, feels good and feels like home. The way they see you is the way they see your country, so think well how you will present yourself.

Nikola Ristić