February 22, 2018
It has been more than a year since Fronterra sparked off a “can-do and will-do” spirit in Mostar. In the last quarter of 2016, fourteen participants from Mostar and wider region of Herzegovina successfully underwent a packed Fronterra schedule: an intensive four-day Kick-off program, a Fronterra Dinner and Art Exhibition “Tradinnovation / Innovations in Tradition”, a two-month mentoring program “Test Lab”, two Fronterra Business Cafés with local entrepreneurs and, finally, a “Demo Day” pitch competition.
We are happy to say that even after the official ending of the program, the Fronterra community in Mostar remained alive: the participants continued to nurture the friendly and entrepreneurial relations and kept supporting each other in further development of their business ideas. We have learned that all (9) business ideas are still active, even though in different degrees.
Having in mind the rocky path from startup to viable business which may be financially, emotionally and physically challenging, especially in the complex and discouraging administrative setting of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we simply have to ponder upon the critical ingredients which Fronterra provided to motivate the participants to start their business and continue supporting each other.
Was it the size of the group? The small group of 14 persons enabled them to get genuinely acquainted. Perhaps it was the fact that all participants operated in geographical proximity, and thus could better understand the common challenges and act as allies. Also, their business ideas belonged to the same cluster – (agri)cultural tourism – but they were not direct competitors. On the contrary, they have complementary business ideas with ‘packaging’ potential.
It is also possible that the magic key lied in the elaborate design of the program which offered quite a diverse content – from basic introduction to group and individual sessions as well as solid and continuous visibility in the community. The fact that the content was carefully tailored to the needs and opportunities in the local community was presumably an important element. It might also be that, thanks to its duration, the program managed to incite and fortify certain long-term healthy routines to entrepreneurial success. Or perhaps the gleeful atmosphere of the stunning natural setting in which a considerable part of the program took place might have played a decisive role in inspiring the participants to co-create.
Finally, could it be that the aftermath of the program strengthened the participants’ entrepreneurial mindset? We organized a number of monthly meetings and mingles to talk about participants’ progress and obstacles (i.e. maintained a support group after the official ending of the project), and tried to provide a continuous online and offline exchange of information, ideas and recommendations.
We are still not certain what was the critical ingredient, but we are inclined to think that it is the combination of the elements presented above. Needless to say, we are certainly looking forward to further test this recipe in the region, with the quest for building bridges by building businesses and economic resilience.
The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole
Peter Block, author
We truly think your money is well spent here. And if your grant is substantial, your are welcome to witness how it works.
“Food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place” Ottolenghi