Women’s entrepreneurship: a step towards gender equality

Ajla Aljić, founder of the Doolzee brand (used with permission)

The three of them show strength, desire, and great business initiative. Erna Šošević, founder and CEO of Bizbook.ba, Samra Bešlija-Ašćerić, Doctor of Dental Medicine, and Ajla Aljić, founder of the Doolzee brand, are successful business owners who stand as a prime example of women’s entrepreneurship in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The company “Bassantis” is the first company in Bosnia and Herzegovina associated with the development of means for maintaining oral hygiene. The company’s first product is the Cawex premium toothbrush, designed by dentist Samra Bešlija-Ašćerić. She says that she and her husband dreamed of producing quality products for maintaining oral hygiene even in their student days.

Bizbook is an interactive digital platform where companies create a business profile, publish offers, and communicate directly with other legal entities to conclude business deals. This platform was designed and conceived by Erna Šošević. She created the platform to help businesses solve their problems. She says that she is constantly brainstorming solutions to these business problems and enjoys the process.

A slightly different business, DoolZee, is a unique brand of handmade women’s nightgowns founded by designer Ajla Aljić. In addition to her successful brand, Ajla says that she is most proud of her “other” job as a mother. She says that she is a positive person, aware of the reality and circumstances in her environment and how difficult it is to reach one’s desired goals. Her first love was design, but soon after, she fell in love with caring for her two children.

The first steps in starting your own business

“The pandemic situation has prompted us to do things now. We have seen how important it is for countries to have their own means of production and not depend on others. We decided to start a company and take the first step of this journey”, says Samra, who considers herself persistent, ambitious, and perfectionist.

On the other hand, Erna points out that business beginnings typically mean dealing with a slew of everyday problems. “I noticed that domestic companies import a lot of products and services from countries in the region because there is no online B2B place where they have an overview of the market and where they can cooperate with other businesses. When I confirmed the utility of my idea, a completely new world of opportunities for personal and professional development opened up to me”, states Erna.

“The first step towards founding a business is a love of design, a love of creation. I generally love all kinds of art. When it comes to my future and what I want to do, given that I am a mother of two, I have decided that my path will be a path where I will be able to be successful both as a mother and as a businesswoman”, Ajla says, explaining her first business steps.

Obstacles as an integral part of business

“Obstacles are an integral part of business. The most important thing is to arm yourself with patience and gradually solve your current problem. It doesn’t always go according to plan, but it’s not a problem once you know your goal. It is important to keep striving for that goal and not to give up,” stated Samra.

Ajla knows firsthand that dreams do not come true overnight. She sees obstacles as integral parts of life: “You have to be focused on every little thing. We all face obstacles in life, and we never know what can happen to us, but mostly when they come, I say: Ok! If it weren’t for this obstacle or temptation, it would be something else, bigger than this.”

“I analyze some obstacles trying to find more ways to solve them; some I solve with my team, and others with my mentors and partners. I consider them development opportunities, and no matter how big or difficult they are, there is always a solution,” explained Erna, who says she is not a person who gives up easily.

Samra Bešlija-Ašćerić, Doctor of Dental Medicine (used with permission)

Business performance of women-owned businesses

“Based on my experience and the businesswomen I met, I would say that women are very successful in business here. Women are extremely persistent, precise, and dedicated to their work. For women, running a business is often not an obligation but a desire. By supporting women who own businesses, you support their dream,” says Samra, who sees her job as a fulfillment of her student dream.

“Although there are still very few women who start their own businesses, those who do enter the market with their products, start production and offer services with their expertise. According to the indicators we have on Bizbook.ba, most of our clients run their businesses successfully, and 40% show constant growth, even during the pandemic. Even though they only have the basics, women are unstoppable,” pointed out Erna. Ajla agrees and believes women can still go above and beyond expectations, despite juggling multiple roles.

Breaking stereotypes about women in business

Samra says that she has not encountered any misunderstandings in her business and that both genders are amiable and open to helping young entrepreneurs at the beginning of their careers. “When we started with our work, we were surprised at how selflessly men and women help young people like us to achieve their goals.”

Erna says that through the entire development of Bizbook as a BH tech startup, she received support from both men and women. She added that VC investors often advised her to resign from the position of director of her company because, as they said, Bizbook would be more “desirable to invest in.” “Software company Ant Colony d.o.o., owned by three men, was the first to recognize the potential of Bizbook, but also me as its founder, which is why they invested in the development of the first and second versions of the platform,” explains Erna.

Ajla says she doesn’t expect understanding from the opposite gender but adds that what matters is how women actually feel after a hard day. “Even when we’re cooking and when we’re too tired from work, I think one nightgown is a complete hit to make us look and feel graceful even then.”

Erna Šošević, founder and CEO of Bizbook.ba (used with permission)

Entrepreneurship as an opportunity for women’s networking

Although entrepreneurship is a very competitive form of business, examples of cooperation between women in senior positions are numerous. “Women are aware of how difficult it is to be a mother, wife, daughter, and business owner at the same time, so they support each other. They are very friendly, approachable and network more and more with each other through numerous groups, associations, and events that are specifically intended for women’s entrepreneurship”, states Samra.

Erna believes that social and business networks for female entrepreneurs are big motivators, and Ajla agrees: “After finishing my first collection, I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of successful women. I was surprised that the most successful responded positively, supported me, and offered help. And that is something that motivated me to go on,” concluded Ajla.

Almedina is a Balkan Diskurs correspondent from Breza. She is a student at the Faculty of Transport and Communications at the University of Sarajevo in the Department of Communication and Information Technology. She is also a volunteer in the Red Cross and is interested in peace and justice.

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