Women in Business in the Western Balkans

The EBRD promotes Business Advisory Services focusing on female entrepreneurs.

With her modern tailoring, chunky silver bracelet and dramatic red lipstick, Mirjana Brlecic cuts a sophisticated figure. Yet she is also an advocate of her Nikel line of cosmetics, which use only 100 per cent natural ingredients.

Her Croatian-based company’s branding and marketing strategy reflects this blend of the contemporary and the natural and have helped Nikel grow its sales considerably.

Mirjana developed her marketing campaign with advice from the consultancy, Studio Idea, whose assistance came via the EBRD’s Business Advisory Services team. It’s just one example of how BAS is helping female entrepreneurs in the Western Balkans.

Donor support for female entrepreneurs

Assistance has deepened thanks to the launch of a dedicated Women in Business programme in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Funded by Luxembourg, the TaiwanBusiness - EBRD Cooperation Fund and the EBRD Shareholder Special Fund, the initiative offers grants for consultancy projects, training for start-ups and more experienced business owners, networking opportunities, a mentoring scheme and facilitates access to finance through partnerships with local financial institutions that offer specialised financial products aimed at female entrepreneurs.

Local business associations

The two-year programme was launched in 2011 in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb, where other female entrepreneurs such as Mirjana will be able to benefit from BAS support and the synergies of the BAS network. The programme actively involves local business associations. For example, in Belgrade, BAS supported Sanja Popovic Pantic, President of the Association of Businesswomen in Serbia, in developing a long-term strategy and optimising the marketing activities of her organisation. As a result, the association now has a constant inflow of new members and a growing project pipeline with various donors.