‘Not working? Try networking’ – Richard Branson
Many of us still remember our parents telling us ‘watch out for who you spend time with’, because they knew we might just become like those people. Jim Rohn has said that we become an average of the five people we spend the majority of our time with.
So far I have started three businesses and sold two of them. Business Cafe started spontaneuosly. People I met and spoke to were telling me that I inspire them to start their own business. Then I summed up what I knew and put it into a workshop called ‘Be your own boss’. After about 300 people finished this course they wanted to hang out with me and with each other much more, so they started inviting me for a coffee, but this took up too much of my time. At the same time I came across data that 57% of all business in Croatia is negotiated over coffee, so I put 2 and 2 together and that is how Business Cafe started.
The first event was held in March 2011 and it was about 30 of us. By December 2014 there were 230 of us. Last January we had simultaneous events in Belgrade, Serbia and Skopje, Macedonia, and we connected via Skype. Our first guest, Mr Čoban, a regional media king, was in Belgrade, so participants in Zagreb listened to him. Previously we also had some guests in Zagreb using Skype from Belgrade and Dame DC Cordova, the author of Excellerated School for Entrepreneurs and the Money and You programme, connecting from Hawaii.
Over time the quality of guest speakers has risen, as well as guests and our performance. But one thing remains always the same –our energy, and my intention to inspire and connect people.
Folowing all of this I sold a first franchise to Macedonia, then to Bosnia and Serbia. Now I want to spread it wherever the road takes us, because I believe our dreams also choose us, and God is the best marketing department.
Business Cafe is a place of inspiration where we show it is possible to succeed, no matter what, where and how, regardless of your age, gender, economical situation… We show that entrepreneuship is the way to make people happy, to serve and improve the world, a way to realise your potential, to follow your dream, to be happy, to leave a legacy, to make the world a better place than it was when we came into it.
In the beginning about 70% of the people who came to the Business Cafe owned their own business and 30% were still thinking about it. Now almost all are entrepreneurs. They come regularly and there is also 20 to 30% new people every time.
It is a place of networking where people meet their new business partners and friends. We all know how important the support of like-minded people is from the start to the end. Entrepreneurs are people who are not understood by others, their ideas seem crazy, leaving their ‘secure’ jobs seems crazy. They need someone to say – ‘hey, great, awesome, go for it!’ And that is what we do at the Business Cafe.
It is also a place of action – more than €3 million was made by networking at the events in the past 4 years. For small countries in recession and micro-entrepreneurs, this is a good return.
In terms of format, the event lasts for 3 hours. During first hour I talk to our guests and entrepreneurs, who share their own story of how they started, what success is to them, how they got where they are now… Then we have organised ‘speed-dating networking’, which sometimes also transforms into an after-Business Cafe party.
If someone wants to start a Business Cafe in their town/country, they can easily contact me. I’ll be glad to share this idea with other places and continue motivating people to chase their dreams!
Kristina Ercegović is a serial entrepreneur, writer and business teacher. In 2002 she started Heraklea, the first mystery shopping agency on the Balkans. Ten years later, after achieving many professional awards, she sold it. In 2013 she started Milda, a dating agency for ex YU business people, which she sold in 2014. Since then she has been holding classes on how to start and run a small business, as well as founding Business Cafe events. To date Kristina has written three books, teaches often and is a mentor/member of jury at numerous StartUp projects.