Catch up with the winners of the Women’s Month 2022

People with bikes in Zagreb
Blue Bike tour at Glavni kolodvor (Main train station) in Zagreb

PUBLISHED: 27.2.2023.

In 2002, we initiated our first Women’s Month campaign, and this year, we are continuing with it. Our motivation is to recognize International Women’s Day (March 8) and honor the incredible women across Croatia. We dedicate the entire March to female entrepreneurs.

As an introduction to Women’s Month 2023, we chatted with the last year’s winners in February. We wanted to catch up on the information about their businesses, projects, and lives – if something new is on the horizon, do they still work hard, and what they learned during the past year.

Read more about our 2023 campaign here. If you are curious about the last year’s campaign, view more information and winners here.

Jump to a 2022 Women’s Month winner:

Let’s dive in…

Catch up with the winners of Women’s Month 2022

Alida Mezić of Blue Bike Zagreb

people with bikes in front of the building
Blue Bike tour in front of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb

Sara: First things first, how are you? How is your new year so far?

Alida: Nice of you to ask, I’d say by its beginning that we are entering a very intensive year, fortunately, and finally. Compared to pre-COVID winter months, this year has already started busy.

Sara: In 2022, Croatia’s tourism experienced a swift recovery post-pandemic. How was this past year for you? Were there any notable changes in the types of tourists you had or their overall outlook – after experiencing such a traumatic, worldwide event?

Alida: 2022 for us, as I believe for many people in the industry, was a big comeback, so let’s say we were back on numbers from 2019, maybe even exceeded for some percentage. What we definitely didn’t reach yet are tourists from far destinations (Australia, USA, Canada). They started coming, but still in very modest numbers.

So, let’s conclude our 2022 guests were mainly Europeans, and most of them (still!) prefer cars to plains. I think we are still traumatized by canceled and delayed flights. Another thing I noticed is that people prefer being with their families, so many of our tours turned into private family tours.

Sara: You hinted at a new partnership with the leader in city bikes globally last we spoke. Did anything come of that? If not, any other new projects or expansions on the horizon for Blue Bike?

Alida: Yes, as planned, we teamed up with Fat tire tours, a global bike tour provider, as their exclusive partner in Zagreb, as we have been for Baja Bikes for some time now. Besides Viator, TripAdvisor, GetYourGuide, and such big resellers we work with, these are smaller but very custom-focused companies, and it is a pleasure and privilege to work with them.

Sara: This time last year, your favorite tour was “Back to Socialism”, which winds through Novi Zagreb, an area you said was “unfairly neglected” by locals. Is this still your favorite tour? Do you have any new tours in the works?

Alida: Back to Socialism is still an intriguing and most surprising tour of ours, since it reveals a side of Zagreb tourists have no idea about or even have a completely different idea of.

To explore the hype of nostalgia, we designed the Back to Yugoslavia tour, which was a success as expected. Following the requests of our visitors, we also added some super specialized tours, like Zagreb 4 kids, Bike & coffee tour, Zagreb Art bike tour, Zagreb by night… You can see all of them on our web page.

Sara: We are so happy to touch base with you to see what you and Blue Bike are up to in 2023. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Alida: Come cycling with us!

View the interview with Alida Mezić from 2022, when she won our Women’s Month campaign here.

parade and people on bikes
Blue Bike tour near Saint Mark’s Church in Zagreb

Iva Silla of Secret Zagreb

Marija: First things first, how are you? How is your new year so far?

Iva: First things first, thank you so much for including me in your Women’s Month initiative again. Last year’s participation was one of the highlights of my year, and I hope that this year’s nominees and winners will feel the same.

The month of March, with the first days of spring, is when everything is reborn. Isn’t it the best time to look back at our achievements? Last year, you gave me that opportunity, and, for me, it was an incredibly positive boost.

This year is especially exciting here at Secret Zagreb because, at the end of June, it will be precisely 10 years since the first Secret Zagreb tour ever. That’s why I am very busy preparing for the big milestone, and I feel very festive.

On the other hand, my business is as young as it can be. I finally switched from obrt to doo. Although the expenses and stakes are much higher, this change has been very empowering.

So, on a small scale, the year has kicked off rather well. But, as anyone, I am not blind to the harsh reality of the world we live in, which is even worse than when we spoke last year. The uncertainty and unpredictability are even scarier than last year.

I believe it has been hard for everyone to cope with tragedies, with tragedies becoming normalized everywhere around us, and with a sense of powerlessness. At moments, starting anything new feels suicidal and completely purposeless.

Marija: During the pandemic, you started to work on a podcast Croatia Underrated and self-guided gamified and audio tours. Did you launch Croatia Underrated? Are there any innovations in Secret Zagreb? Do you have any new tours, games, or tour guides?

Iva: This year is especially exciting here at Secret Zagreb because, at the end of June, it will be precisely 10 years since the first Secret Zagreb tour ever. That’s why I feel festive and am occupied by thoughts on how to prepare for the big milestone. I am still in the process of developing self-guided tours, and this is my most important project for this year.

Last year was very busy in my little workshop, as it was marked by collaborations, and I had a lot of projects that involve interpretive writing. Up until recently, nobody really knew that writing was my true passion.

I especially enjoyed developing some self-guided explorations, which anyone can now try out. If you visit the Istrian town of Ližnjan, you can stop by the tourism office and pick up the printed brochure that will take you on a fun adventure about the local fishing heritage. Another similar booklet is available in the town of Bakar in Istria – this one contains as many as three different gamified explorations of the city.

I love these projects as they offer free “edufun” things to do. Both booklets are available in four languages (Croatian, English, German, and Italian), and are completely free for visitors. And there are more coming up in other destinations.

As for Croatia Underrated, because of so many interesting collaborations,  I wasn’t able to keep it up as much as I would love. The best result is that I actually got to meet some of the listeners who joined my tours in person. I even received several awards last year: a Croatian award Simply the Best, for a new entrepreneurial tourism project, and an international Creative Tourism Media Award for the best creative podcast!

women in front of the church at night
Iva Silla on a Secret Zagreb tour; Image by Branko Nađ

Marija: Last year, you said it is not good the biggest promotion goes to the most visited destinations in Croatia. Did you notice any changes lately regarding niche tourism? What is different in Croatian tourism now after the pandemic?

Iva: This is still true, as far as I can tell. Smaller destinations (as they officially call them within the system: “touristically underdeveloped” ones), have to be extremely creative to even be allowed to use some of the assigned funds for promotion.

As I exchange experience with other creative entrepreneurs, I notice that they aren’t even especially eager to work with smaller destinations as they have very limited funds, and it’s hard for them to promise a long-term collaboration. In other words, as collaborators, we need to invest a lot of energy to understand a destination, its authenticity, and identity, and how things work there, only to be hired for a short-term project.

Smaller destinations can get proper visibility only through good projects. There is a general mindset that there so many tourism boards (destination management organizations) are completely unnecessary.

Last year, there were some turbulent changes in the tourist board system, as all the managers had to be (re)elected, and their terms are now a bit stricter. I hope that more tourism boards will now work in the same productive way as the trailblazers who had already shown the true purpose of destination management organizations for smaller destinations. I know several of them, and they are energetic visionary workaholics that offer us a glimpse into how Croatian tourism could look like if everyone was working as dedicatedly.

By the way, since this is coming out in women’s history month, can I just say that all such inspiring managers of tourism boards that I have ever met, happen to be women?

Marija: When we spoke in 2022, you said spending time with your friends in the evening is rare because of work. Did anything change? How do you manage your schedule now, and do you have more free time?

Iva: Ehm… not much has changed when it comes to friends, but I am managing the time with family better – that’s a start, isn’t it? I have been traveling more for business in the past year, but we also managed to travel together as a family more than before.

I have to say I’ve learned to include breaks in my schedule: for instance: taking (and scheduling) a day off doing nothing after I’ve submitted a project.

Marija: We are so happy to touch base with you to see what you and your business are up to next. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Iva: Why not use this opportunity for the beginning of the Secret Zagreb 10-year celebration by sharing a special promotional code with your readers? If anyone was thinking about joining a Secret Zagreb tour in 2023, please mention EXPATINCROATIA2023 anywhere in your message – it will secure you a 10% discount.

I would also love to invite everyone to follow Women’s Month posts, because it’s both inspirational and intimidating to read about the chances and challenges of female leaders, plus it’s wonderful insight into the Croatian entrepreneurial mindset. It’s almost heart-warming when you realize that women who feel successful, don’t measure their success by the state of their bank account.

View the interview with Iva Silla from 2022, when she won our Women’s Month campaign here.

Tabitha Burill of Tabitha’s Glass Emporium

woman with purple hair
Tabitha of Tabitha’s Glass Emporium

Sara: First things first, how are you? How is your new year so far?

Tabitha: We are having an amazing start to the year. Our team has grown to 16 women, and we have had a record-breaking month in February, getting over 1.000 orders in one weekend when we made a free worldwide shipping offer.

Sara: Last year, you shared that you are the largest producer of vitrigraph murine glass in the world and that you were the first to make floral designs. What new designs or experiments have you cooked up?

Tabitha: We are always making new products as well as more educational content on YouTube. We recently made a range of Tulip murine which have been very well received. We have so many new products our customers or I have the idea to design – we are in for a busy all year.

Sara: When we spoke in 2022, you were hoping to work more closely with the local government in Drvenik with regards to glass workshops for children, possibly getting a larger space and opening up more cooperation in general. Any developments?

Tabitha: Yes, we are looking at a new space now, unfortunately, the help we were hoping to get to make the space we are in bigger has not been forthcoming. It’s amazing that only after just over 1 year, we have already outgrown this space. It’s not entirely surprising as when I was offered if I was aware it was too small for how I saw the company growing, and had hoped to be able to expand the building, this has proved impossible, so now we are looking for somewhere new and bigger. I am doing a daily visualization of us being on premises to fit our growing needs by this time next year, watch this space.

Sara: When we chatted last, you and I shared our mutual concern about the euro coming to Croatia. How has the transition been for your business thus far?

Tabitha: Amazingly, we haven’t had any problems as yet, I still feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but on the whole, it seems ok. Maybe I’m slightly cushioned by having always thought in euro since I moved here, coupled with how well the company is doing. I felt that everyone was ok, but my staff has just told me they find it confusing, everything seems cheap, but it’s not. I think we will still have to wait and see.

Sara: We are so happy to touch base with you to see what you and your business are up to in 2023. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Any big plans on the horizon?

Tabitha: For now, getting a bigger space is our focus. When we have that and have a proper space for a classroom, I will launch an amazing program of learning for kids around Croatia and people from all over the world.

View the interview with Tabitha Burill from 2022, when she won our Women’s Month campaign here.

Time flies and businesswomen are busy. We did not manage to catch up with our 4th 2022 winner Jasmina Brković due to a large volume of projects she’s currently occupied with. However, you can view the interview with Jasmina from 2022 here.

Now, let’s officially jump into our Women’s Month 2023! Stay with us and enjoy listening to the stories of Croatia’s magnificent female entrepreneurs during the month of March.

View our Women’s Month posts

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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