Doubling the workforce at Catwalk Sarajevo | WeBalkans | EU Projects in the Western Balkans

Doubling the workforce at Catwalk Sarajevo

An EU-funded project supported a fashion company from Bosnia and Herzegovina to grow their business.


Catwalk Sarajevo is a fashion company from Sarajevo, founded by Ema Burdžović in 2011, initially as a trade and sales company importing goods to Bosnia and Herzegovina and selling them in their Sarajevo shop. However, as Ema explains, the business did not go well at that time as she was aiming to import quality goods which were expensive, and the turnover was not high enough due to overall buyer capacity in the economic situation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Six years ago, she decided to change her strategy and shift from trade to production, employing two experienced tailors.

However, the shift was not an easy one. Ema is an economist by profession and at the time of the shift she knew very little about the specifics of the textile production process. She remembers facing numerous challenges in securing raw materials, proper machinery and the necessary workforce. “Unfortunately, there is a trend of skilled workers moving from Bosnia and Herzegovina in search of a better life. It was not easy, but we managed to find qualified and ambitious workers who are the cornerstone of our company,” says Ema.

“The EU-funded project has significantly improved our business and helped us overcome the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic years.”

Ema Burdžović, founder of Catwalk Sarajevo

Just when the company began to settle and build a vision for a better future, the COVID-19 pandemic started. Textile companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina faced numerous challenges during the pandemic. Orders and sales significantly dropped, and supply chains were disrupted, making the purchase of raw materials very difficult from early February 2020. The industry estimates that that every third job lost in the country during the pandemic occurred in the textile sector.

Ema did not have to fire any workers; however, she could not grow as planned. At that time, she came across the announcement by the EU-funded project EU4Business Recovery who provided financial and technical support to the textile industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina, mitigating the impact of the pandemic on sales and jobs. Ema applied and got the support she needed so badly. “The EU-funded project has significantly improved our business and helped us overcome the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic years,” she says.

Crucial contributions from the project included the purchase of new equipment and launch of an online store, as well as a new retail store in Montenegro.

“With the support we received from the EU, we doubled the number of our workers, from 12 to 24.”

Ema Burdžović, founder of Catwalk Sarajevo

As a result of the support from the project, the management originally planned to create five new jobs. Ema proudly points out that that aim was not only achieved but eventually exceeded. “With the support we received from the EU, we doubled the number of our workers, from 12 to 24,” she says.

The company is currently launching their new product line – swimsuits – and have improved their production processes by purchasing software for clothes design. They also aim to start exporting to EU countries. According to Ema, their vision is to build a strong medium-sized factory that will not grow too big, but will be able to make sufficient profit – and, more importantly, pay good salaries for their workers.

About the project

The EU-funded “COVID-19 Investment Response-EU4 Business Recovery” project is implemented by the

International Labour Organisation, in partnership with the German development agency GIZ and the United Nations Development Programme. The aim of the project is to support the recovery of the BiH economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The specific objective is to provide emergency support to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to ensure their business continuity, retain more than 1,000 jobs, and create at least 100 new jobs, especially supporting women entrepreneurs, young people and other vulnerable groups.

Photo credits: Catwalk Sarajevo

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