Thursday, 8 October 2020

Interview: Meet Najfiniji Sapuni Itd., All-Natural Croatian Cosmetics

October 8, 2020 - Najfiniji sapuni itd. (Finest Soaps, etc.) is a line of all-natural cosmetic products, owned by two Croatian single moms, Maja Pejcic and Jasminka Grbelja. With a breath of the Mediterranean and a lot of will, they have become noticed in Croatia.

So, “Najfiniji sapuni / Finest soaps, etc.” Not at all mundane or standard. How did you come up with the name? 

Najfiniji sapuni started with solid soaps. After that, we decided to start making face creams, lotions, balms… In essence, the name comes from a combination of what we are - the finest cosmetics for body care and growth. And now, we are going further with our product range.

What is in your product range? What are the ingredients used?

Najfiniji sapuni now has a nice range of body care products. Face creams, lip balms, butter and body lotions, part creams, hydrolats, solid and liquid soaps, shower gels, salt and cream peels, hand creams, and soon micellar waters and facial cleansing foams. We decided to go with simple basic raw materials: coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter and butter, Mediterranean essential oils. We try to weave all the best from nature into our body care products (following all legal regulations and norms, of course). We want our consumers to understand what they are reading when they check out the ingredients on the bottle. That the raw materials are recognizable - we go to a lot of ingredients to win over the audience with a lot of text on the packaging - we go to quality and comprehensibility.

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-07 at 12.10.45 (1).jpeg

© Matej Paluh

I believe that you like every product, but which one are you especially proud of and why?

All our products are loved and created with a lot of love. But we have our pride.

Maja: I am very proud of the solid soaps - they were basically made according to my grandmother's recipe. So here’s my significant sentimental connection. And deodorant creams.

Jasminka: Deodorant cream! My firstborn in the Finest Soaps.

When moving into each new product design, the guiding thread was: what would we want on our skin? What are the ingredients that are really good and what we don't like in the products? How do we use that wonderful Mediterranean of ours and its essences? So there was a lot of imagination, love, and effort to create the product.

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-07 at 12.10.45 (2).jpeg

Najfiniji sapuni © Matej Paluh

What hindered you the most in starting a business? What motivated you?

Like everyone else, it is the bureaucracy. Collecting documentation, finding regulations, applicable regulations, reading the law, fighting various offices. These are things you need to learn on the go. No one prepares you for such a struggle; no one prepares you to understand systems and norms.

And what motivated us? Well, of course, the desire to put everything on a sound footing and start with the finest story. When you want something strong enough, then you have a powerful motive to fight for it.

The word "Mediterranean" runs through the whole story - how did it find its place in your laboratory?

It was a logical sequence. Najfiniji sapuni made our first steps in Baška on Krk. All these fragrant herbs, all these benefits were at hand, so why not use them and create something useful, that is, in body care? Thus, olive oil, essential oils of immortelle, lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, immortelle, lavender hydrolats, orange, and cherry found a place in our laboratory. The Mediterranean provides a great treasure.

The media often tells the fact that you are single mothers. When combined with the context of what you have achieved, is it a compliment to you, or do you feel it is not necessary to mention it?

In one segment, it is important for the very reason that many think that it is impossible with such a status to be equally committed to your home and work. The proof is there - it can be done. A lot has been achieved, but the fact is that it was not at all easy to reconcile everything. We don't consider it a handicap, but maybe even a benefit, because we are used to holding all four walls of the house by ourselves. Let that struggle be something to us every day, and we may have found it easier to cope with all the obstacles than others. We know nothing but persistence and strength.

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-07 at 12.10.44.jpeg

Najfiniji sapuni © Matej Paluh

Speaking of kids, are they faithful helpers, or do they still not know what mom is concocting in her dish?

Of course! Little Iva is a master at mixing with a spoon in her dish. She is a real lady who enjoys applying lip balms and hand creams. And Antonio is a teenager who uses solid soap and faces cream. They are faithful helpers because they are with us. They know what we are doing, but it is our job for them. Of course, with us, they learn to use the natural, to protect the environment - and when they grow up, who knows, maybe they will follow in our footsteps.

Where can potential customers find you, and what would you recommend from your product range?

All fans of our cosmetics can find us all over Croatia. We are on the shelves of specialized stores, souvenir shops, and we are also in the offer of larger retail chains. To make it easier, we have created an overview list of cities and shops under the contacts section on our website. For all those who do not have a point of sale in their vicinity, they can order directly from us through our Najfiniji sapuni webshop.

WhatsApp Image 2020-10-07 at 12.10.46.jpeg

Najfiniji sapuni © Matej Paluh

Do you have a message for the youth or maybe adults who would like to start something similar one day?

Our cosmetics are used by people ages 9 to 99 years. Women and men are equally represented, which we are happy about. People have recognized the benefits of such products. Anyone who wants to embark on a story like this must first know exactly what they want to produce. Furthermore, they have to be educated because, without knowledge, there is nothing. They also have to be ready for one big battle with bureaucracy. And now that they have set it all up like that and decided they have to know nothing happens overnight. It takes over half a year of effort and financial resources for a product to appear on a shelf and be ready for the consumer. Nothing will go smoothly right away, but when you succeed and see your product in someone’s hands - it’s a reward for everyone.

For the latest travel info, bookmark our main travel info article, which is updated daily

Read the Croatian Travel Update in your language - now available in 24 languages.

Join the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community.


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Meet Croatia's Female Entrepreneurs: Jelena Bikić and Silvan Cosmetics

December the 11th, 2018 - Continuing our look at some of Croatia's female entrepreneurs, Meet Jelena Bikić from Split and get better acquainted with her all natural, handcrafted cosmetics - Silvan Cosmetics.

For our international readers who perhaps don't know you, can you Introduce yourself?

My name is Jelena Bikić, and I'm from Split. I finished college in Split six years ago and I hold a Master’s degree in English Language and Art History. After graduating from college, I found it very difficult to find a job in my sector, so I decided to start my own business and while doing it, to combine my hobby with my love of art and heritage.

Silvan Cosmetics stands for natural, handcrafted cosmetic products packed in growing packages with plant seeds in them.

The design of the packaging was inspired by Croatian historical motifs, so everyone who buys a product gets a touch of Croatian history along with it. The brand name ''Silvan'' has a profound historical significance. The God Silvan was very important in the religion of the ancient Illyrians – especially for those Illyrians who lived in the region of Central Dalmatia. These tribes were known as Delmats. Silvan was their God of wild nature, forests and pastures.

As such, Silvan had the role of the protector of the herds, so, he was often shown with horns - which we decided to promote as the distinctive feature in our logo.

Our wish was to establish a connection with the legacy of our country's early inhabitants. From geometric motifs of the prehistoric art, to the God of wild nature - a story that fits perfectly with Silvan - natural beauty handicrafts: simplicity and nature.

Silvan Cosmetics' portfolio consists of three natural handmade products, and they are as follows:

1. Milk and Honey of Mount Mosor

The soap is made with ingredients typical of the Dalmatian hinterland region (goat's milk, honey, and lavender) in order to create a lasting memory of your visit to our beautiful country. The soap also has a very special package design which was inspired by the motives of the traditional folk costumes of the Dalmatian hinterland.

2. Sea Nymph

The soap is made of coconut oil, sea salt, and jojoba oil. The soap creates a smooth and creamy foam that leaves your skin feeling very soft and silky.

3. Black & Pure

This soft and refreshing soap is made of an active charcoal and tea tree oil which is a perfect combination for face cleansing. Silvan Cosmetics' line currently consists of three products because Silvan’s team places strong emphasis on quality. Each piece is carefully designed, produced by hand, cut, and then packed.

2. How did the business start and were there any major obstacles along the way?

As I mentioned, after obtaining my Master’s degree I found it very difficult to find a job in my sector in Croatia. So, I immediately thought about starting my own business. It took some time: I did market research; immersed myself in the related scientific literature; and obtained the necessary degree to start such a production.

I needed to get certificates and take courses to get a license to work since I graduated in a completely different field. It took me a year to get all the necessary licenses to start this business, and during this year I was engaged in Croatian bureaucracy and paperwork while at the same time working on product design.

Finally, I knew that there were many natural handmade cosmetic producers on the market, so I needed to find something that would make me differ from the others. What makes Silvan Cosmetics different from other natural cosmetic brands and products and so unique is its packaging: a growing package. The packaging is made from biodegradable paper embedded with a colourful variety of wildflower seeds.

The entire package can easily be planted underneath the soil and must be regularly watered. After a while, the plant from the packaging grows. You never know which plant will grow - you will get a flower of surprise.

3. People claim that the perfect combination is to live in Croatia and make money abroad. Do you agree?

I think our country is one of the most beautiful places on earth for life. We have beautiful nature and incredible historical and cultural heritage. The economic situation, however, is a completely different story, and Croatian entrepreneurs must be very creative and unique in developing their market strategy.

4. Can you give us some positive and negative sides of business climate in Croatia?

The bureaucracy is the huge downside of doing business in Croatia. As far as the positive sides are concerned, there are several organisations doing some amazing work and you can feel the positive impact of their work – “a wind of change”. They are primarily focused on networking and they are a great source of information for entrepreneurs.

5. If there were three things you could change to improve things dramatically, what they would be?

I would start by focusing on one thing: make it easier for honest and hardworking people to do their business! Without an overwhelming amount of paperwork and without overwhelming tax!

6. Do you have any advice for foreign entrepreneurs who want to invest in Croatia and for young enthusiasts who want to start local business?

Croatia is a beautiful country with many opportunities and of course, many obstacles.

People usually have great and creative ideas, but as soon as they realise that Croatian bureaucracy and paperwork can be complicated, they usually give up on their ideas. It took me almost two years to launch my idea and my product on the market. So, it takes time but it's important not to give up. I think you must be patient and persistent. There will be many obstacles along the way, but also many good people who want to help you, and when you see your idea or product on the market, you realise that everything has paid off.

7. How do you think business climate will look in ten years in Croatia?

I'm keeping my fingers crossed! I hope will be more positive for young people with great and creative ideas. I also hope that the government will support more enthusiasts and entrepreneurs, because I hope they have understood the importance of creating new products, developing new ideas, investing and supporting entrepreneurs.

8. How has EU entry changed the business climate in Croatia?

Well, I've only been an entrepreneur since fairly recently, but I do believe it was harder to get your product on the EU market before. Now, things are rather easy when we want to cooperate with foreign countries. I took part in several EU fairs and my experiences were very pleasant.

9. What are some additional challenges experienced by female entrepreneurs in Croatia?

I wouldn’t make any distinction – I think both male and female entrepreneurs face the same amount of challenges in our country.

10. If you knew now what you knew then, would you have decided to go ahead? What was good, what was bad, and what would you do differently next time?

I believe I would have started with this endeavor anyway – because I like the challenge and above all I like the endless possibilities of creating something on your own. It's liberating and rewarding. I have had some negative experiences – my patience and nerves were tested on more than one occasion. It's very important to have a clear goal in front of you and to give your very best every day. I have met some wonderful people and I had the chance to do business with them – to work on some very interesting projects.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page to meet Croatia's female entrepreneurs, get better acquainted with the culture and lifestyle in Croatia and much more.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

124 Million Kuna for Modernisation of Croatian Plant Production

Good news for Croatia's plant production as a considerable sum of money is poured into its much needed modernisation.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Night Of Books In Dubrovnik This Month!

Dubrovnik's ''Night of Books'' will take place on the 22nd of April 2017 at Dubrovacke knjiznice (Cvijete Zuzoric 4, Dubrovnik, 20000)