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Breaking barriers: EWA programme supports women of Slovenia in business ideas development for the better agrifood sector

For the first time in 2023, 10 women from Slovenia take part in Empowering Women in Agrifood (EWA) programme to develop their business ideas in the agrifood sector.

26 Jun 2023
EIT Food North & East

On Friday, June 16th, the Empowering Women in Agrifood programme officially commenced in Slovenia with a Matchmaking event, during which selected participants and mentors gathered. The event was organized by the Centre of Business Excellence (CBE) at the School of Economics and Business, and Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, which is also responsible for the local implementation of the EWA programme.

The event began with a warm welcome from the organizers, including Alicja Krakowska from EIT Food North-East, Anja Mrhar from EIT Food Hub Slovenia, and Ajda Marič from EWA Slovenia, who provided an overview of the EWA programme. A valuable addition to the event was a lecture by Katja Cergolj from the Knowledge Transfer Office at the University of Ljubljana, focusing on intellectual property. Blaž Zupan then presented the importance of mentoring and how it assists entrepreneurs.

The EWA programme aims to address the existing gender inequality in the agriculture and food sector. Over the course of 6 months, female participants will receive personalized support from mentors, acquire knowledge, build confidence, and establish a network of influential partners and contacts necessary for successful business ventures in the agrifood industry.

The Slovenian EWA participants are undoubtedly highly motivated and remarkable women, presenting innovative ideas with significant business potential. The event generated a vibrant atmosphere as participants showcased their products, allowing others to sample and experience them.

Meet the 10 entrepreneurs in the EWA programme in Slovenia

  • Anja Šolinc - LCHF Anja

She would like to introduce a different way of eating to the broader public, based on the principles of LCHF (Low Carb High Fat), which is also suitable for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, diabetes (based on scientific research), vegan, or anyone who wants to enjoy guilt-free indulgence. The innovation lies in providing a healthier approach to eating while still allowing people to enjoy delicious food.

  • Lenča Zorko

She aims to develop the “food upcycling” industry in Slovenia, starting with the production of healthy upcycled flour made from brewers’ spent grain. Using a by-product of beer production, flour made from brewers’ spent grain naturally contains low sugars and carbohydrates, while having high protein, dietary fibre, polyphenols, prebiotics, and a pleasant taste. Her aim is to enable better nutritional decisions, tackle food waste, and contribute towards creating more sustainable circular food systems.

  • Lucija Prosen

The concept presented is a home-based, self-watering wooden vegetable planter ("Zelenjavnik"), aimed to promote sustainability and local food production. The innovation lies in its design, where water in the trough beneath is absorbed ensuring constant soil moisture It aligns with the agrifood sector by offering a convenient solution for people to grow their own vegetables, particularly those without garden access.

  • Martina Zupanc Lah

The initiative provides parents with essential information for introducing food to infants with a focus on making healthier dietary choices. The innovative concept promotes seasonal eating, considering the child's needs and relaxed introduction of foods, laying the foundation for lifelong healthy habits. It uses an online shop that also educates parents. By combining education and direct access to various food providers, it positively influences the agrifood sector, encouraging more sustainable practices and healthier eating habits.

  • Monika Bažec Kukulin

The innovation of the idea lies in transforming traditional olive oil into a functional, healing food with an exceptionally high content of polyphenols. This innovation promotes the development of healthy and sustainable food, aligning with the growing demand for such products in Slovenia.

  • Mojca Pušlar

Her innovative business revolves around producing a unique dessert: 'Piškoti na žlico' or 'Edible Cookie Dough.' This product is a safe-to-eat raw cookie dough, made with pre-baked flour, free of yeast, baking powder, and eggs. Introduced to the Slovenian market in September 2022, it capitalizes on the nostalgia of licking raw cookie dough from the mixing bowl. The product is currently sold online, in partner stores, and in cafes. The goal is to make this unique dessert a staple among Slovenian consumers and introduce certified vegan cookie dough as well as a gluten-free and lactose-free range of edible cookie dough.

  • Nina Krašna

The venture pivots around garlic, a valuable plant with abundant health benefits, contributing to the agrifood sector with a range of unique, high-quality products. The products include garlic emulsion and fermented garlic powder, which are distinctive and yet to be seen on Slovenian shelves, showcasing the innovative aspect of the enterprise. With an emphasis on minimal waste, the enterprise also uses garlic flowers, a typically discarded part, adding to its sustainability credentials.

  • Nuša Marinc

The innovation lies in the concept of utilizing waste materials from the food industry to create natural cosmetic products. The participant, as a formulator of natural cosmetics, focuses on reducing waste by incorporating zero-waste ingredients into her products, such as seed oils, cellulose, algae, and wood extracts. By incorporating waste materials into natural cosmetic products, it not only addresses environmental concerns but also offers consumers an alternative option that aligns with their preference for healthy lifestyles and sustainable choices.

  • Špela Kocjančič

The innovation of the idea lies in the production and promotion of traditional bone broth as a natural source of collagen-building proteins, addressing the issue of food waste and inefficient resource utilization in the meat industry. By reintroducing traditional, nutrient-dense foods like bone broth, it encourages consumers to make healthier dietary choices and contributes to a more environmentally friendly and socially responsible agrifood system

  • Špela Pibernik

The innovation lies in using lyophilized bananas, which would otherwise be discarded, to create a powder that extends their shelf life. By purchasing Love2Bake's banana bread mix, consumers become part of the solution, actively supporting the reduction of food waste. Overall, this idea promotes a more sustainable and responsible approach to food consumption, benefiting both individuals and the agrifood sector.

Each participant was matched with an individual mentor with extensive experience in the industry. Mentors who will support the development of ideas and business plans are experienced entrepreneurs and professionals in their field.

Meet the selected mentors in the program

  1. Anja Žagar, Entrepreneur and Business consultant;
  2. Anuška Beltram, Entrepreneur, Business consultant and EIT Digital;
  3. Katja Kek, Entrepreneur, Business Consultant and Communication specialist;
  4. Lucia Lučka Klanšek, Entrepreneur and Business consultant;
  5. Mateja Vadnjal, Entrepreneur, Lecturer and Business consultant;
  6. Mojca Skalar, Entrepreneur, Business consultant and Head of the Women's Entrepreneurship Programme at SPIRIT Slovenia;
  7. Nika Močnik, Entrepreneur, Lecturer and Business consultant;
  8. Rok Starič, Entrepreneur and Business consultant;
  9. Urša Žorž Požrl, Entrepreneur, Lecturer and Business consultant;
  10. Žiga Lampe, Director of Strategic Development at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia and Business consultant;

What's next?

During the six-month, participants of the EIT Food EWA programme in Slovenia will:

  • Devote countless hours to the development of their ideas.
  • Spend at least 6 hours a month consulting with their mentors.
  • Deepen their knowledge by watching virtual trainings and reading tips and research about building a business.
  • Participate in live training sessions.
  • Communicate with the media.
  • Present the progress made during the program during the final event on November 16th. The final grants of the programme equal 15,000 EUR!

About Centre of Business Excellence

Centre of Business Excellence (CBE) is a bridge between the business world and the School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana (SEB LU). Its purpose is to allow a two-way flow of internationally competitive and high-quality knowledge through workshops, consulting projects and various events. SEB LU is the leading institution of higher education in business and economics in Slovenia. The SEB LU has become the first and only School in Slovenia and the broader region to have been awarded the EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA international accreditations. This ranks the SEB LU among the top 1% of business and economic schools in the world

Learn more about the Centre of Business Excellence on their web page.

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