Croatia Trade Mission Recap Pt. 1, by the veza team 🙂

It has been a couple months since we returned from the veza trade mission to Croatia and wow, what an experience it was. We are still processing all that happened since we touched down in Zagreb. These types of experiences are more than a trip; they change us at our core. They alter the way we look at the world, how we view ourselves and how we view what is possible in the world.

We have had many people ask us what happened on the trip, so collectively, we gathered our thoughts and are writing a summary to share the highlights with you… which are coming next week. But first, we thought we’d share our answers to a couple of the frequently asked questions:

Why Croatia?

Well, veza is a Croatian word for connection. It was by fate that our founder/CEO, Manpreet Dhillon was searching for the word that would represent a global movement to economically elevate women of culturally diverse backgrounds and create a community where such women felt a deeper sense of belonging. As she searched the words, she came across “veza,” which also means “someone who aligns other’s to their truth.” veza does exactly this through the leadership and business coaching that we offer. Once we received a few requests for an Europe trip, Croatia seemed like the ideal choice, as it made sense to go to the country the name of the company originates from.

On a practical level, Croatia is also a market ripe for business and a great inroad to the EU. For many Canadian companies, Europe presents the next easiest market to understand and connect with after the United States, but it can be difficult for small businesses to get in the door. We see the emergent Balkans as a great place to start! (Croatia is also a gorgeous country with amazing pastries, so it’s hard to go wrong.)

Who were your partners in making this happen?

The trade mission came about after a conversation with the Canadian Trade Commissioner in Croatia. The current Canadian government is a strong supporter of gender equality and women entrepreneurship, therefore the local Ambassador Dan Maksymiuk and Trade Commissioner, Synthia Dodig were excited to support the trade mission of Canadian women entrepreneurs to Croatia. Synthia was kind enough to make introductions to the Linda Zanella of the Canadian Croatian Business Network, who hosted Manpreet for the first women’s event of the network in February 2018 and was instrumental in making this trade mission a success.

Why a trade mission? (And what is a trade mission anyway?)

A trade mission usually means that the individuals going as a part of the collective are interested in exploring or engaging in a market to export their product or service. The typical format involves businesses from one country go to explore a second country in terms of market options, potential partners, vendors, suppliers and learning the way that business is done in that country. In our case, the trade mission was a mix of business, professional and personal development while learning of the Croatian culture. Trade missions are an integral part of encouraging women-led businesses to export. Only 11% of Canadian companies that export are women-owned and when small businesses do export, they see, on average, a 55% increase in profits that same year (Statscan, 2018). It’s important to create opportunities for women entrepreneurs to see these same gains. Trade missions are a great way to get a sense of the market and context around doing business, as well as to meet potential clients.

The veza team believes that such experiences are transformative in more ways than just business deals, so we also take advantage of the opportunity of a change of place and routine to get clearer on ourselves, what we want and what is holding us back. We like to capture the feeling of a leadership retreat, while still delivering on B2B connections and networking opportunities.