Azra Hodžić from Bosnia and Herzegovina has always been an enthusiastic traveller. Until the COVID-19 pandemic started, she travelled for business and for pleasure and visited numerous places. Travelling brings her joy, and a trip to Berlin a few years ago also became the unexpected starting point for a new business endeavour.
Azra was looking for a backpack that she could use on this trip but also when back home. She couldn’t find anything that would fit her specific needs, so as soon as she was back in Sarajevo she designed something that would serve her purpose, and sewed it together with her father.
This first backpack that Azra designed and sewed with her father had a simple design, but it was just what she needed. It was immediately noticed by her colleagues at the company where she was working. “They all gave me compliments on the backpack and asked where I got it from. When I told them that I made it, a friend asked if I could make one for her,” says Azra.
After this first order, other requests followed, until Azra realised that this could be turned in to a good business. She launched a social media page where she advertised models in a range of designs. She also came up with a very creative idea how to call her business. Ranac means ‘backpack’ in Bosnian, and St stands for ‘saint’. That was the reason for the name of Azra’s company ST RANAC, but Azra also saw that when you connect the two words you get another meaning. Stranac in Bosnian means ‘foreigner’.
The business went well for two years, with Azra designing and her father sewing. But with a constant increase in orders, Azra had to find a solution to be able to expand further. She lacked proper business management training, equipment and support for marketing and advertising.
A friend told her about the EU4Business programme that supports young companies and aspiring entrepreneurs in business management and growth. Azra applied and received much-needed business management training, which lasted for over two months. She also received a new industrial sewing machine, which enables her father to produce more in a shorter period of time, and financial support to buy raw material in bulk in advance.
“Before, I could not buy a serious amount of raw material as I depended on cash flow. With the support from the EU, I moved to the next level. Now I can respond to higher demand from clients and am ready to become a big company,” says Azra.
As the world finds new ways to travel in the COVID-19 reality, Azra is expecting further growth of her business. She plans to increase her range of products and, in the near future, to offer employment for other people in her company. She has certainly had challenges, but with her passion and hard work – and a little help from the EU – she has managed to overcome them all.
EU4Business aims to stimulate the development of entrepreneurship, export-oriented sectors, tourism and agriculture in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The programme is jointly funded by the European Union (€15 million from pre-accession funds) and the German government (€1.1 million). The project is implemented by GIZ (the German Corporation for International Cooperation), the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Development Programme and will end in March 2022.
Photo credits: ST. RANAC
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