Thanks to EBRD donor support, confectionary producer Rolleo is now a market leader for Kosovar sweets
Lirije Ilazi, owner of Rolleo, has found the perfect recipe for ensuring the success of her sweets company.
When she baked her first biscuits in her kitchen in Ferizaj, southern Kosovo, to supply a local shop, she was already thinking big.
Families across the country, and in particular women, have always taken great pride in - and spent a lot of time - baking traditional treats at home. Ms Ilazi hoped to make their lives easier by providing readymade but fresh Turkish delight of high quality.
Her idea was a huge success in a country where more and more women work away from home and therefore have less and less time for household chores.
Besides, until recently Turkish delight was not easily available on the local market. It was imported from FYR Macedonia primarily during Ramadan and other holidays.
Ms Ilazi got the company off the ground back in 2008, after realising the commercial potential of these traditional sweets in Kosovo and beyond.
Now, after seven years of hard work, Rolleo is a well known brand selling cakes and biscuits and Turkish delight through major retailers in Kosovo, while Ms Ilazi is about to relocate her business from a small garage to a 900-square-metre factory and hire 40 more employees.
“To make a cake, you need many different ingredients,” she said. “It’s just like in business: you need a lot of help and support from many different parties to succeed. The EBRD was one of those able to help me.”
Demand turned out to be high and the business began to grow exponentially. It was at this point that the EBRD started its involvement with advice and financial assistance through a local bank, TEB.
The EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses team put Ms Ilazi in contact with a local expert who guided Rolleo through best practices in marketing. As a result they developed four new product packages and 10 new product labels, a catalogue and an advertising banner.
Rolleo quickly tripled the number of its employees and sales more than doubled, while its products are now being sold across the whole of Kosovo.
Export possibilities are on the horizon too, with one sales agreement currently being discussed with a Swedish retailer. In order to meet certain export criteria, though, Rolleo needs to obtain certification for ISO 22000 and halal standards.
Given the growing demand, Ms Ilazi realised she needed more space for her production lines, new equipment for a new factory and to improve administrative as well as managing processes.
To make those changes a reality, Rolleo obtained a €200,000 loan from TEB as well as business advice from the EBRD on adopting a Food Safety Management System.
The assistance falls under the EBRD Western Balkans Women in Business framework, which is a facility focussed on assisting women-led small- and medium-sized enterprises. The technical support was possible thanks to funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency – the development agency of the government of Sweden.
Elena Petrovska, EBRD Head of Office in Kosovo, said: “We recognise the importance of providing small, women-led businesses with know-how and finance. Not only does it promote female entrepreneurship, but it can drive economic growth.”
Ms Ilazi’s plans go beyond accumulating financial means. “I have always wanted to promote and empower women in my country, considering the high unemployment rate amongst women,” she said.
“I hope that I will be able to hire more female employees at my new factory. The Women in Business programme in Kosovo is a great boost for moving in this direction.”