Lejla Tinjic Zaimovic
Lejla Tinjic Zaimovic is one of millions of valuable women making her way in society. A wife, a mother, a sister and a daughter, she is blessed to be surrounded with her family, friends and support network. She is passionate about traveling, reading and curious by nature. She is also one of the founders of the association ‘Business Women of Bosnia and Herzegovina‘. The association based in Vienna, started its work in early 2016 as an informal platform for the exchange of information and networking of business women from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Balkan region who migrated and now live and work in Austria. Being involved in the work of Association of Business Women in BiH and council member at WeGate platform, she loves to interact with new people and build authentic relationships.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I was born in the country Formerly known as Yugoslavia and only the best memories are coming from my childhood. While the country was communist I didn’t sense any limitations and accessibility of the goods we have today. My parents made sure that my brother and myself grow in nice surroundings with a lot of love. My father was doing third shifts at work in order to be able to care for me during the day for a few months. My grandmother was an entrepreneur herself, having a grocery shop in the 1970’s and my mother started working in her shop as a 19 years old girl. Just about the time to finish high school and start university life, former Yugoslavia ceased to exist and dissolved into small states. Bosnia and Herzegovina was attacked and in war. I had to leave the country for the first time. And I ended up in a foreign country as a refugee. A remarkable woman helped me, took care of me and helped me with my first job taking me under her wings and mentoring me. So, I do not have to look for celebrities or influential people in my life, certainly my grandmother, my mother, my father and people who supported me were my role models. The war ended and there I was back in Sarajevo full of enthusiasm and working for the Mayor’s office and getting my first job after that in a globally recognized international organization. Life was good, I met my husband and two amazing children came along. An opportunity came for my husband to apply for a job in Vienna and here I was again: packing my suitcases now to leave again but this time with my family. In my life journey both defining times in my life were when I left the country and walked out of my comfort zone. First time as a child, leaving the country as a refugee. Second time was when I was doing just fine in my home land, having a secure job and entering the unknown.
Tell us something about your organization. What is it about and how is it helpful for people?
In 2016 a group of amazing women met for a dinner to get to know each other and network. After a little more than a year of meetings and contacts, the formal registration of the Association followed in 2017. Our vision is to strengthen the position and promotion of women entrepreneurs in Austria and Bosnia and Herzegovina, support women entrepreneurs in their development and growth, education and promote positive stories coming from our country. The main focus of the Association is the empowerment of members through the promotion of their businesses, products and services, education, thematic presentations and discussions, and organizing participation in bazaars in order to promote female entrepreneurship. We continue to promote women of various profiles and experiences who identify with the vision of strengthening the position of women in the business world and society as a whole, especially women of BiH origin in the business environment of Austria.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
I agree that as much as covid years were associated with adversities they also have had a positive side. Personally I had to invent new ways to connect with my work colleagues, my husband stopped traveling, our children were more at home. In our association we had to invent ways to make associations operational again. After the first shake we are proud to say that we reinvented ourselves and connected with our members. We did a record number of online events. Cooperation with Bosnian association, lecturers from all over the country suddenly became accessible thanks to the online life we are living. In the highest peak of the pandemic we organized marketing and branding online events for the entrepreneurs with the desire to help them promote online sales. I don’t want to remember the fear we had in the first months of the pandemic or being sick. I want to remember being with my family a lot and inventing daily evening coffee with my parents online which we keep on doing.
What has been the response of the consumers towards your venture?
Vienna is a home to many people from Balkan and there are many associations formed. However we were the first ones to focus on business and female memberships. Having found a niche for forming the first association of this kind and with the desire to change post war perception about people coming from our region the response was fantastic. Every door we knocked was open for us. We even organized events promoting the country. For the last few years, I have been particularly active in the promotion of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Austria. I initiated the presence of our country at the international Bazaar in Vienna by networking with the association of Business women in BiH on the supply of products from BiH. At least 50 small businesses came to Vienna through the association and my engagement and efforts of our core team along with association members who always volunteer at every event. We even have our own Bazaar of the association. Every door we knocked was open to us. From our embassy to business and sponsors. Our members are great and always ready to help with events organization and ideas.
How has your life changed because of your venture?
Today, having my support network is crucial for me. I am so energized by meeting all the fantastic people that this venture brought in my life. There was not a single meeting related to networking that didn’t lift me up. There was not a single educational event where I didn’t learn something new. In our core team we are all friends and we are in touch daily.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
Hard work is important, smart work is even more important. Try to create your own path because you can do that today. My grandmother couldn’t-she became an entrepreneur by the pure need to feed the family. My mother couldn’t finish university: she had to help her mother in the store. I had my way influenced by the war: studying when I was already working women and with the family. My daughter is already having a better starting point. So you are a young budding woman of today.
Give a motivational message for the audience/women who are reading this.
Invest in Yourself and invest in Networking. Both require time and determination. It is rewarding.