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EBRD supports Montenegro’s first one-stop-shop for home renovation

By Stasha  Igrutinovic

Business expertise helps Okov remove its barriers to growth

From hinges to home decor, Okov – Montenegro’s first major home retailer – boasts a wide selection of home goods and tools that come in handy whenever repairs or renovations are in order.

business advisory project supported by the EBRD and the Small Business Impact Fund (ItalyJapanLuxembourgNorwaySwedenSwitzerlandSouth KoreaTaiwanBusiness – EBRD Technical Cooperation Fund and the USA) helped Okov improve its key business processes, including financial reporting, sales and internal controls. 

A milestone at every turn

Stanka and Gojko Bajovic not only formulated their idea of a hardware store from their kitchen table but effectively launched it there. Their home turned into a shopfront, and the couple started selling a limited range of small hardware products to help with window and door fixtures.

Following a successful launch in Montenegro, Okov started broadening its product range. Power tools, kitchen appliances and cookware soon became the company’s most coveted items and traditional stores gave way to modern retail centres. Stanka and Gojko were on the cusp of launching Montenegro’s first-ever large home retail chain.

But with each new milestone came a new hurdle.

“We experienced the same kind of issues that other businesses were going through,” says Jakov Bajovic, Stanka and Gojko’s son, who now manages Okov.

“In a very short space of time, we transitioned from operating a small shop to operating several retail centres spread across Montenegro,” adds Jakov. “But the EBRD’s involvement came at the right time, just as we were alerted to the fact that we needed to build more efficient internal processes and improve our overall financial management.”

An expert funded by the Small Business Impact Fund worked with Okov to better understand the business's specific needs and design a tailored project accordingly. The home retailer benefited from the adviser’s recommendations for implementing best practices and improving the company’s accounting, IT and inventory systems, amongst other key areas.

The project also helped Okov accomplish its broader goal of expanding abroad. In 2019, they opened their first store in Belgrade, kicking off “Okov International”, hiring additional staff and bringing their sprawling complex to 14 retail centers.

Coronavirus spurs growth of home decor industry 

When social distancing and travel bans confined Montenegrins indoors, they started looking at their living spaces differently and perhaps with a little more scrutiny. Okov was in the perfect position to respond resolutely to the resulting surge in do-it-yourself projects.

“We noticed this DIY trend starting to take root in Montenegro when our paint sales skyrocketed. There was a paradigm shift in how consumers interacted with home retailers. Online shopping became commonplace and the safest option during the pandemic,” says Jakov. “Thanks to the EBRD, our systems were already in place and poised to react to this rapid transition.”

Wrapping up, Jakov emphasised the key role that fostering a strong company culture played in Okov’s leadership: “Our values are not just a list of pledges: they inform every decision that we make as a team.”

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