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May 2017

Coordea – a solid business plan and dedicated effort to a growing company with rising potential

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We talked to Vladimir Ivanovski, Project Manager at Coordea, a Swedish BPO company operating out of Macedonia. We talked to Vladimir in the beautiful floorplan of the office staffed by youngsters talking enthusiastically in their headsets. The positive working environment gives the synergy that the company cultivated in order to expand its customer base.

Tell us briefly about Coordea

We are a young but successful company that opened up shop seven years ago. The company offers high quality professional administrative and creative solutions to clients in the Nordic countries. We started providing accounting services but continued to explore other sectors. Now we reached the goal of expanding into sales, marketing and IT.

Has there been anything new in the company?

The new thing is that we are increasing our capacity in services in architecture, precisely interior design. We are ready to take on new niches and provide our services to new clients. The other news is the opening of our office in Skopje where the focus will be on digital marketing and sales.

How is Coordea connected to Sweden?

The company’s founders have lived and worked in Sweden for many years and this is where our main clients are located. The employees in Macedonia are responsible for providing administrative and accounting services for several Swedish companies.

Why did you decide to have your office in Tetovo?

Most of the companies in our sector are based in Skopje, but there are some in the smaller cities in Macedonia. Tetovo has what to offer. There are three universities here and a high percentage of educated young people, who have had a working experience and who speak and understanding English well. I should note that those who study here are not just from Tetovo, but from all around Macedonia. The same is true about Bitola, Veles, Gostivar, Strumica, Ohrid and so on. These towns have potentially the same quality in the workforce which can be found in the capitol. These are young people who are ready to show what they can do, without having to commute to other towns. So, the choice of Tetovo for our first base was a strategic decision. Our plan is to set up shops in other towns in Macedonia where there is good pool of young professionals.

How many people work for Coordea?

There are 50 young people in our office in Tetovo, focused on various spheres such as economics, marketing and IT support.

Is it required to know Swedish to work in Coordea?

It is required to know English very well. Swedish is not required by the company as English is spoken and widely used in Sweden. However, because of our contacts with companies in Sweden’s economic zones, it is normal for our employees to learn to understand some Swedish and that is a good start.

Do you cooperate with universities in Macedonia and do you participate at job fairs, panel discussions, etc?

Recently we participated at the career fair organized by the South-East European University (founded by Max van der Stoel and known in Macedonia as Stoel’s univeristy)We had the opportunity to meet many young people from Tetovo and those studying in the University. We have an ongoing communication with several other institutions on that level in Macedonia and we are working to develop a plan for closer cooperation. The young students are our future and it is important for us to be part of their development.

What is the biggest advantage of Coordea being located in Macedonia?

The advantage is that we are creating jobs for young people, which wouldn’t be possible without companies like ours. In my opinion, it is a good thing that the number of foreign businesses in Macedonia is on the rise. This results in people improving the quality of their skills and helps to expand the scope of professional services that we can provide to international companies, also, Macedonia now figures on the map as one of the attractive locations for BPO in Europe. Macedonia is a three hour flight from any point in Europe and there is a range of companies that fly here, which makes it logical for companies to consider coming here. Our clients receive quality professional services, a wide palette of profiles and services areas which can help them develop their business. Last but not least, I will underscore that we are living in the era of the digital economy. As a consequence of this, new companies can become global in a very short period. Here is the need for agility and international and global approach by organizations and building partnerships which don’t depend on geographic borders. Companies all around the world have need for good workforce, regardless where they are located. Macedonia has what to offer in that regard.

In what way can the institutions help in the making of seamless transition from the school desk to the workplace?

First and foremost, people out of university, for the most part, are without working experience and have a deficit of practical experience. Universities are heavy on theory but they lack on practical skills. There needs to be a better approach in that regard. A good part of what I studied at university was not presented through practical work and I had to learn many things from the beginning, which is still, part of the learning process at any job. Another thing is that universities need to open new fields of education that will be in step with global trends, such as business intelligence, visualization of information, analysis, statistics, business control, work process automatization, data science, etc. This would open up new areas for new investors from around the world.

What represents practical preparation at school for what you do at Coordea?

In my opinion, in Sweden almost everything is done online – banking, bills, etc. This removes the need for someone to process paperwork and bills by going personally to a location. The same is true for administrative tasks. It is necessary for students in Macedonia to have an experience with various software platforms which are used around the world, including here. There are many such platforms, but in essences, there are three or four types that are used in accounting. This would shorten the gap between theory and practice.

Do you have a message to companies and people who are just learning about Macedonia?

My message is that Macedonia has a lot to offer. Our success as well as the success of other companies in this sector is the best proof to that. In Coordea we receive CVs each day from people of different professional backgrounds and education. I would say, the first step is, if you have a presupposition or a stereotype about the Balkans or Macedonia, to look through it, to come here and meet your next business partners.

A million dollar projects are being designed in Macedonia and implemented in the United States

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Meet the young businessman Emil Hristov, who has three firms in the U.S., Canada and Macedonia, construction and solar energy

By Sonja Madzovski

SM: Mr. Hristov, you left very young to the United States, firstly alone and later followed by your parents. Does that mean that you learned what it means to be independent and alone at 15 years of age?

EH: I went to America as a high school student. I went as a child, separated from the family, which was a great lesson for autonomy and independence. Then I enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture, although I was more interested in finance. But in America, when they (immigrants) arive, for example Italians become chefs so they open restaurants and thus Macedonians become builders. Even during the studies I had contacts with top construction experts. In the meantime, my parents moved to America. We opened a construction company. We started with construction of apartments. Started without any capital. I did not borrow a dollar and I did not have a dollar. I needed a startup capital that I did not have, but I had a picture of what I want to accomplish. I knew that I was not going to be able to do it all at once, so I started with small projects, did parking lots and roofs. I used to find work, and other firms performed projects. I was a broker, but well paid, up to $ 5,000 a week. The most important thing was to build credibility and trust with the people I worked with. In a year I already had 30 employees in the company and a sale of $ 3 million.

SM: Why was America the country in which you saw the fulfillment of your dreams and happiness, and how much work was crucial for success?

EH: Luck and talents are only 10%, everything else is hard work. I worked for 20 hours and slept only 4 hours. Thus began the development of the business. One success brought a new one. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you are constantly searching for new opportunities. We organize the work and in certain projects we engage up to 200 people. We started with commercial projects. Built for pharmaceutical companies, but then went to collaboration with state institutions. Today we are building schools, kindergartens, courts, municipalities.

SM: Construction business was one of the hardest hit sectors during the crisis. Is it hard to be an entrepreneur in America?

EH: People use to get into investments much quicker, no one regarded the efficiency. The crisis has changed a few things; now most of the companies want to prove themselves by offering quality. We as a small company made it during the crisis. Our motto was to continue to improve. Construction sector fell and the payment was disastrous. In that time 20 percent of our business was focused on private projects, and 80 on state funded projects. But within a year the situation completely changed. The state has been a reliable payer, and stimulated the construction of civil projects. New schools were built and old ones were renovated. We refocused the business in time. That is why we grew in a time of crisis and in the most sensitive construction sector. At that time I went to China. The fact that all materials we used in our projects were from China, inspired me to make that trip. Now all materials are received directly from there.

SM: Following the successful expansion of your business in the U.S. and Canada, it was crucial to open a company in Macedonia?

EH: Major corporations during the crisis have begun to move the business in India and China, and I did not have the need to go there, instead I decided to open a company in Macedonia. In the same time I became a member of the organization “Macedonia 2025”. I did not know Mike Zafirovski, I simply wanted to help. I was looking for a way to keep my company profitable, thus I decided to move only one part of the business, one that makes the estimates of the construction projects. The main reason I came to Macedonia was to reduce the cost, and now is a strategic point.

SM: What does your company in Macedonia specifically do?

EH: In Macedonia, the company operates as a design firm. This is where we make assessments. In Macedonia we design projects for solar panels in millions, and then we implement them in America. Our firm in Skopje and Strumica has 20 employees that make the expertise. Mainly they are electrical engineers and architects, but there’s one with completed traffic school. The most important thing is whether these people want to learn, and more importantly want to work. If you choose the right people and build trust, it is the key that brings success.

SM: How do you assess the conditions for doing business in Macedonia? You are emotionally tied to our country, but when looking at only the business, are these conditions very different, is there an earning potential in our country?

EH: The potential is there, if we focus on success and if we look long term, not just for today. It is also necessary that we have healthy local companies, but it is good when foreign companies come and bring knowledge that we cannot buy ourselves. We can translate a million books, but if there is no one to transfer knowledge and properly apply it, then is all for nothing. There is hope, there are changes being made in the field of education. Maybe it will be difficult for another ten years but that is not a long period. Twenty years we have just waited and talked, and now there is movement, but still there are a lot of things to be improved.

SM: In our country in recent years, construction firms are very engaged, but there are more monuments built than there are investments in the infrastructure, construction of roads, railways, power plants.

EH: I’ll give you one example. A friend from Western Europe, who I welcomed at the Thessaloniki airport, while traveling on the highway “Alexander the Macedonian”, asked me whether this is a local road or highway because there were no vehicles. I think that it’s greater investment today to bring the right people, knowledge, and technologies. Infrastructure is not that crucial to get the investors. There should be a movement. Many people are already asking about Macedonia. Key player is the Diaspora, they are emotionally attached to the land and it will be easier for them to decide to come. Until recently they were afraid, there were bad examples. The picture on the functionality of the administration is still bad, it needs to become more efficient, the judiciary system as well. There’s room for improvement.

SM: The summit, organized by “Macedonia 2025” in October is seen as a great chance. There will be businessmen attending from the world-famous companies. What will you recommend them?

Recommendations are two ways. First, our businesses need to realize that without education, implementing new technologies, there is no progress. They cannot work the same, and expect something new to happen. There is a lack of investment in knowledge. Directors must not behave like dictators. They are managers, and they need to learn to manage. As in sports, everybody should know their place. The coach cannot organize the game and make goals in the same time. Leader is one who multiplies the leaders, who shows openness to new knowledge, opportunities and innovation application. We are aware that things cannot change overnight, but you have to move in that direction and follow the successful examples. Some of them are foreign investors, “Johnson Controls” and “Johnson Matthey”. Recommendation to investors is that Macedonia has the potential for their business interests. The cheap labor and agricultural resources of Macedonia are only few of them.

To local businessmen I recommend to focus on production of products with higher added value. That way they’ll become more competitive.

SOURCE: UTRINSKI VESNIK

“Gragjanski” exclusive interview with John I. Bitove

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Mr. John I. Bitove, sits on the Board of Directors of Macedonia 2025 as a Chair of Business Development and Events Committee. He has a distinguished record of accomplishments in the corporate and sports endeavors as well as the community service in Canada. He is the principal shareholder of Obelysk, which controls several businesses in Canada.

Gragjanski: Economic development is in the focus of your engagements. How can you (Macedonia 2025) assist in that regard?

JB: Macedonia 2025 has been assisting in many regards to help support economic development in Macedonia.  There are two important parts of economic development.  One is to attract and retain foreign investors, the other is to build an innovative, competitive atmosphere where entrepreneurs are able to strive and be successful.  Our goal is to assist on both fronts.  We have good relations with Invest in Macedonia and we have successfully worked with them in the past on getting companies to invest in Macedonia and we continue to do so.  We are also hosting a Global Investment Summit this October to help attract investors, including members of the diaspora, where opportunities in Macedonia can be explored and discussed.  We also host economic roundtables where we discuss the business environment with local business leaders, we work towards identifying issues and discuss potential ways to improve the atmosphere.  We also are advocates for increased mentoring and skill development labs within Macedonian companies.  This allows employees an opportunity to increase skill sets and innovation within a company. 

Macedonia 2025 has also developed programs to help young professionals and university students through our education program.  With our executive education program, we work to provide young professionals the opportunity to develop academically and professionallyIn fact, some of my companies have helped these students with internships for a few months, where they work and interact with our employees to see first hand how we operate.  Internally in Macedonia, we host programs that assist in encouraging university students to excel and explore opportunities around them. 

Economic growth must come from both investment and development of the current state, but also development and investment in the youth of today.   

Gragjanski: What are the biggest benefits of the system in Canada that stimulate investments and business development?

JB: All modern democracies have programs to assist in stimulating investment and development.  It never falls to one group or person to get it going.  There are roles at the national, state or provincial level, city or town and even in local communities.  It just takes both the government to want to do it and, just as importantly, people who want to take advantage of these programs to be successful in business.  You cannot run these programs as employment agencies.  They have to be set up and accountable to achieve success by creating programs that work.

Gragjanski: Do you have plans to invest in Macedonia?

JB: We are not set up as an organization to do direct investing, but hope to help those who are interested by providing insight and encouragement to invest in Macedonia. 

Gragjanski: According to your perception, what are the main advantages and main disadvantages of Macedonia as business destination?

JB: The main advantages to investing in a country such as Macedonia are obvious and can be utilized to the countries advantage.  First of all you are strategically located between Europe, Asia and Africa.  Secondly there is a highly educated and trained workforce at wages that are very, very competitive on a European basis.  These are some of the reasons companies now see Macedonia as a good place to invest.

Gragjanski: What key reforms you would suggest in order to improve the business climate and, moreover to achieve high economic growth in the long run?

JB: A few areas that can be improved to assist in strengthening the economic growth in country are to further develop and encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and competitiveness.  It is also important to have an efficient and resilient governance and judicial system to ensure basic public services and trade ethics.  Accountability and transparency are still highly important when it comes to the governance of the government and within corporate practices.  If the governments are not seen as fighting organized crime, supporting an independent court system and protecting basic rights of investors, then all of this will be a waste.

Gragjanski: Do you see Macedonia as under-developed country stuck in the transition process or as a modern and developed economy?

JB: Macedonia is a developing country still going through many transitions, but I do not believe the country is stuck by any means.  There are many areas that improvements are crucial to its development in the global markets, but overall, Macedonia has done a good job with growth.  Considering the Eurozone crisis and difficulties many developed economies are facing, Macedonia has shown its ability to stay strong and keeps a consistent rate of improvement and growth that shows its potential.  This is never easy, but patience and commitment in the end will always pay off versus doing nothing.

Gragjanski: In Macedonia, political issues dominate over the economic ones. Is this according to your consideration, due to the fact that the country has 31% level of poverty and nearly same level of unemployment and what would be the best option according to you, to change these “priorities”?

JB: Unfortunately, political issues dominate in many countries.  Here in Canada every few years we are faced with the issue of possible separation of the French speaking Province of Quebec.  It dominates all federal issues when it arises but that is life in a democracy.  Macedonia has good fundamentals to attract foreign investment and that is what is important.  As the economic environment improves, political issues will seem less important, but they will always exist.

Gragjanski: The business sector in Macedonia is very much dependent on state budget money (around 70% of the private market contracts is with government/state institutions) and therefore, this makes the private sector very much dependent on political party in power. Is this the case in Canada?

JB: NO and this will change over time in Macedonia too.  When the economy is not growing fast then governments invest more in the economy than in good times, this is done everywhere.  Now certain political parties may have different strategies regarding what sectors to invest in, but they really are not based on party affiliations as much as what will be the best return for the investment.   

Gragjanski: Considering that you were managing the basketball team Toronto Raptors, do you have any advice how we can build a true sport nation?

JB: All of us were thrilled last year with the performance of the Macedonia national basketball team.  I myself watched most of the games on the internet.  The team played with passion and sacrificed themselves as a team member to win.  That’s what it takes in sport as well as nation building.  Everyone has a role and with good coaching and teamwork there is always success.  I think Macedonia should become a sporting nation because in today’s multi media world it brings credibility to the countries who win internationally.  I think there are some good summer sports we can select to concentrate on like basketball and handball to play strong internationally.  But I also think, (and please don’t laugh) that the country should look at ice hockey as an international sport to participate in.  Some of the best players in the National Hockey League are Macedonian.  I don’t know why this exists, maybe we are all strong and swift athletes as a people.  But whatever it is if these players can help develop a national team we may one day play for Olympic medals. 

Gragjanski: Macedonian companies that are modern and competitive abroad are few. What will help the corporate sector develop more dynamically and become competitive in international terms?

JB: I think you are on the way to developing companies that can compete abroad aggressively.  I myself have met and talked with the Seavus group and they are doing great things.  People have to realize you cannot build a multinational company in a few years.  It takes a lot of time and patience.  What is important is these companies have the right kind of leaders running them, who set a standard of work and ethics that the employees believe in.  And together they go after global aspirations.  It’s really that simple.  To look beyond Macedonia, the Balkans or Southeast Europe and say “we can build a leading global company”.  It doesn’t matter if they are from Macedonia, people don’t care who makes their goods and products as much as when they buy it they are happy with the purchase.

Gragjanski: Considering that one of the engagements of Macedonia 2025 is lobbying with foreign investors to invest in Macedonia, what is their perception of the country, what are they mostly interested in regard to taking an investment decision?

JB: First of all, most investors are unaware of Macedonia and where it is.  So we start at a disadvantage but it is easy to change that with giving them the facts.  Lets face it, we are only 20 years old and with our small size we have some educating to do.  Macedonia 2025 works with organizations, like Invest in Macedonia, to attract foreign investors to Macedonia.  Through this relationship we talk to the people who are involved in assessing Macedonia as a place to invest.  We discuss their strategies and options and lobby hard about why The Republic of Macedonia is the best place for them to make their next investment.  Direct investors tend to look for a number of things when determining where to invest.  A few of these items are the rules and regulations pertaining to entry and operating in a country for the foreign investor, restrictions on home earning and profits, the standards of treatment, the functionality and efficiency of the market, other general economic indicators such as taxes on capital gain, quality of domestic accounting, reliability of dispute settlement systems, the degree of protection for investor’s rights, and of course the wages and skill levels of the employees. 

Gragjanski: Did you meet Mr. Gruevski and do you have information of some Canadian companies that have intention to invest in Macedonia?

JB: We work with Invest in Macedonia and the Prime Minister’s Office to assist any way we can in attracting companies to Macedonia.  We have so far had successfully cooperation with companies like Johnson Control, Johnson Mattheys, and Kemet who have all recently invested in Macedonia and some are already expanding.  I personally know Export Packers, a large Canadian poultry company has started to invest there.  One by one we will keep adding companies.  The Prime Minister is a great salesman for Macedonia and he has to keep doing what he has been doing to attract foreign investment. 

Networking events: Macedonia 2025 Cocktail Reception in Chicago

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Macedonia 2025’s board members Mike Zafirovski (Chairman of Macedonia 2025), Mitre Kutanovski, and Alex Kormusoff hosted a cocktail reception for the business Diaspora of the Chicagoland area at the Union League Club.  The cocktail reception gave Macedonia 2025 an opportunity to introduce their mission, goals, and activities, to the members of the Diaspora and encourage their assistance.

Mr. Zafirovski, Mr. Kutanovski and Mr. Kormushoff each gave their personal perspectives, stories and ambitions on how to help their homeland. They underlined the importance of Diaspora’s collaboration with the business professionals in Macedonia and the assistance they provide in strengthening their link to the Western world.  The Board of Directors further discussed the formation of “Macedonia 2025”, as well as its recent developments, accomplishments and collaborations with different organizations, such as “Invest in Macedonia”.

Mr. Zafiroviski also discussed the Global Investment Summit, its high profile guests and announced the potential development of a fund in Macedonia.  The Global Investment Summit taking place in Ohrid, Macedonia from October 18th to the 21st, will cover the opportunities of investing in Macedonia and networking with Macedonian businessmen and governmental leaders.

Special guest, His Excellence, Mr. Jakup Redzepi, the Chicago Consul General of the Republic of Macedonia, welcomed members of the Chicagoland Macedonia Diaspora and discussed Macedonia 2025’s activities and successes stories over the years.  “We appreciate the efforts of Macedonia 2025 and their endeavors to help the Macedonian companies, educate its managers to grasp the global market opportunities, and their support in promoting the country as an investment destination” stated Mr. Redzepi.

Mr. Redzepi presented the government’s initiatives of continued economical growth and increased employment within Macedonia, as well as the benefits and incentives provided to international companies who decide to invest in Macedonia.  He encouraged the guests to support Macedonia 2025’s efforts and explore opportunities within Macedonia.

Executive Director, Andriana Ivanovic, closed the event by thanking everyone for attending, further elaborating the need for help in order to accomplish the Macedonia 2025’s objectives. She encouraged future collaborations in order to help build a stronger Macedonia, together.

Interview with Senior Board Member, Vera Stavroff

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“New opportunities: through business diaspora to increased trade, investment and economic growth” is the motto of the organization’s Global Investment Summit “Macedonia 2025”, which will be held in Ohrid from 18 to 21 October, and the goal will be to strengthen cooperation among the business community in Macedonia and Diaspora.One of the participants in the project is Macedonian Vera Stavroff born in Bitola, whose parents once emigrated to Ohio, U.S..Today, she collaborates with “Alkaloid” and she promotes Macedonian products on the U.S. market.

Mr. Vasilevski: You are the President and CEO of HerbalScience Inc. What is the main focus of the company? What is your connection with Alkaloid AD Skopje? What are the experiences of selling a Macedonian product on the US market? Do you have plans of expanding your assortment or your presence on other American markets?Do you think that Macedonia could position itself as an eco-producer, producer of quality organic food that will be recognized and accepted in the developed markets? What should we do to reach such an image?

Mrs. Stavroff: I established HerbalScience to pursue a lifelong dream and passion for plants and science.  Growing up around my Grandmother Zvezda, I was fascinated with medicinal plants and their healing powers.  My grandmother like many other Macedonians discovered long ago that by blending different herbs and balancing their unique effects, they could actually awaken their body’s self correcting ability to improve overall health and well-being.  HerbalScience with our partner Alkaloid AD, develops, manufacture and sell the most exquisite therapeutic teas around the world.  All of our private label teas are 100% Certified Organic according to the USDA/NOP, EU and JAS (Japan) Standards. Our Good Nature Organic Teas are sold in 26 states in the USA as well as our website at www.goodnaturetea.com and several other health & wellness websites.  Our plan is to expand and have our beautiful teas available for sale in all states and Canada.  I strongly believe that we can position Macedonia as an eco-producer of the highest quality functional herbal teas.  Macedonia and the South Eastern Mediterranean Region are blessed with therapeutic medicinal herbs.  Plus, Macedonia has highly skilled, educated and experienced workforce in the pharmaceutical and botanical sector.  Alkaloid AD was one of the first manufacturing facilities in the Balkan region to produce natural pharmaceutical products and medicinal teas.  Alkaloid has been in business for more than 75 years and they possess a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience.

Mr. Vasilevski: What is your previous experience with Macedonia? Do you visit often and what is your overview of the Macedonian economy? What do you think we need for further progress catching up with the global economy? What kind of potential do you consider Macedonia has that is interesting for the global market? What are our strengths and where should we focus on?

Mrs. Stavroff: All of my experience with Macedonia is through our partnership with Alkaloid AD.  I love coming back to Macedonia as often as I can.  This year, my partners from Alkaloid came to the USA on three separate occasions.  I think it’s very important for them to see the US Market, look at the competition and get inspiration for new products.  In regard to the global economy, I think it is challenging everywhere and I think Macedonia is doing pretty well considering everything that is going on around the world.  In terms of strengths, I think the health and pharmaceutical sector represent a massively untapped universal market and have huge potential.

Mr. Vasilevski: The media in Macedonia first heard about Vera Stavroff this year, as you joined Macedonia 2025 in May. What is the background of your involvement in Macedonia 2025? Why did you join the organization and what are your expectations?

Mrs. Stavroff: The first time I heard about Macedonia 2025 was in 2007, when Mike Zafirovski, the chairman of the Board of Directors spoke about the organization in Washington DC.  I was very impressed with Mike’s presentation and loved what the organization represents.  I joined the organization because I believe in Macedonia and the potential the Macedonian people have; and together I strongly believe that we can make a difference.

Mr. Vasilevski: You are a member of a committee that works on developing education in Macedonia. In particular, how do you think that you can contribute to developing education and do you work on any specific proposals or projects?

Mrs. Stavroff: I would like to contribute by promoting a prosperous climate and education for entrepreneurship by sharing my experience and knowledge on establishing a company and developing and marketing high quality products from Macedonia. We develop programs that offer further professional development of young individuals that stand-out as perspective entrepreneurs and business professionals. We offer executive courses and internships with mentorship from our board members. But also, we have an executive program which serves young professionals interested in developing their skills through academic and professional experiences outside of Macedonia.

One of the most significant education initiatives that we have established this year is the International Education Council. This initiative includes identifying prominent academic and scientific Diaspora members and mobilizing their potentials towards developing education in Macedonia. We know of remarkable scientists, professors and researchers from the Diaspora, who have the capacity and the knowledge to expand the international programs offered by the Macedonian education institutions, to help them develop strategic partnerships with foreign institutions,  develop the capacity for research and development, etc.  They are very enthusiastic to promote the Macedonian education, and it is our duty as an organization to create the platform for these remarkable individuals to join forces and contribute to their homeland.

Mr. Vasilevski: What does it mean becoming a member of Macedonia 2025. What is the mission and structure of the organization? How do you plan to achieve the organization’s goals and what kind of activities do you have? What are the benefits of the members?

Mrs. Stavroff: Being a Member of Macedonia 2025 is truly an honor. Not only because it is a gathering of successful and charismatic people but also an organization of joined forces for proceeding a noble mission and that is to work for a better perspective of our homeland. Our main activity is economic development, by promoting Macedonia’s key industries, helping business expand regionally and globally, as well as providing managers with mentorship to develop more innovative and competitive products and services. We are committed to research, innovation, competitiveness, and developing a business-friendly environment that attracts investment and encourages economic growth. Our board of directors communicates with potential investors and promotes Macedonia as an investment destination. For this purpose, This year we decided to unify our efforts, expertise and contacts in the corporate world and organize the Macedonia Global Investment Summit.

Mr. Vasilevski: Macedonia’s 2025 biggest project is the Macedonia Global Investment Summit. Could you please tell us about your expectations and the outcomes? How will this summit help Macedonian economy and companies? Do you plan of establishing some kind of on-going support of the linkage between Macedonia and its Diaspora in the terms of investments, joint ventures, exchange of ideas and projects?

Mrs. Stavroff: Macedonia 2025 organizes this Summit for the first time and our role models are the Irish, Israel and other Diasporas that have made a huge difference in helping out their homeland reach a higher level of development thru strategy and programs of incorporating the Diaspora in the domestic economy. The Macedonia Global Investment Summit will be a place for members of the Diaspora, foreign investors, and global business professionals, to come and explore the potential of Macedonia.  The Summit will present investment, joint venture and export opportunities, provide participants an opportunity to listen to top professionals from around the world, discussing their experiences and why they believe in Macedonia’s future. In addition to the board members of Macedonia 2025 who will participate at the Summit, we have around 20 other interested investors and companies from the Diaspora, looking to expand their business in Macedonia. We are hoping to establish a platform of ongoing cooperation among the companies from Macedonia and our Diaspora, and to fully use the untapped potential of the Diaspora business professionals. We know of there are many Macedonian business professionals working as key decision makers in prominent international companies, who have a wide network of associates and experts. These individuals are aware of the potentials in the country and it is our perception that they are becoming more willing and open to look at their homeland as a potential investment destination.

Mr. Vasilevski: You have experience in selling a Macedonian brand on the US market. What would you advise to other Macedonian companies, how should they build a brand that will have good competitive values and be sold on the high-selective and high-income customer segments?

Mrs. Stavroff: Building a successful brand for any market including the US, takes time, passion and patience.  One of the most important factors in building a Macedonian brand is the story…the Macedonian story.  We need to narrate a unified image of the country, its people, our traditions, culture and lifestyle. We need to be creative and innovative, and jointly create a distinguished “Macedonia” brand that will be recognized around the world. Also, positing, high quality product, design & packaging for that particular market, along with integrity and proper pricing are all critical.

Business Forums: Robert Arsov keynote speaker on “Global financial trends and their implication on the Macedonian economy” Roundtable discussion at ec

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Robert Arsov, Director in the Investment Banking Division of Credit Suisse, USA and Vice Chairman of Macedonia 2025 provided the Macedonian businessmen and bankers with an in-depth analysis of the financial challenges facing financial institutions in USA and Europe. He discussed the effects that the financial crisis will have on the major global markets, and the changes that companies need to implement to address the lack of investments and capital. “The lack of capital will urge the banks to change their investment policy; only companies that are flexible enough to restructure their business model and change the management practices will be able to succeed” – explained Mr. Arsov.

 

Mr. Antoni Pesev, Chairman of the Chamber’s Assembly discussed the investment climate in the country and emphasized the major role that the financial institutions will have in stimulating economic development. The participants concluded that stable and secure legislature is the key factor for attracting and retaining foreign investors. The Chamber together with the companies will continue their efforts in influencing the policy makers in drafting and implementing investor friendly laws.

 

Mr. Arsov has more than 15 years of banking experience, dealing with complex international mergers and acquisitions. He is the Vice President of Macedonia 2025 and believes that this organization can provide the Macedonian business leaders with the right mentorship needed to transform the economy into an innovative and competitive regional market player. He also invited the participants to join Macedonia 2025 at the Macedonia Global Investment Summit to be held in Ohrid in October. This Summit will be an excellent opportunity for the participants to develop a platform for mutual cooperation between the companies from Macedonia and the business professionals from the Diaspora.

Leadership Series: Robert Arsov keynote speaker at the School of Young Leaders

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On August 23, 2012, Robert Arsov, Vice Chairman of Macedonia 2025, participated as a keynote speaker at the School of Young Leaders, a project initiated by the Cabinet of the President of Republic of Macedonia, Dr. Gjorge Ivanov.  The School of Young Leaders is an educational program constructed to help train and stimulate positive values in young leaders in Macedonia.  The program includes prominent lectures and guests from around the globe to speak with students about leadership and management skills.  Mr. Arsov, an experienced investment banker and one of the many prominent guest lecturers, discussed competitiveness and leadership in the global market.

Mr. Arsov provided the audience with a unique perspective on the development of successful executives based on requirements driven by globally competitiveness.  He urged the participants to develop personal tools for how to differentiate and compete in the global working environment.  He also shared valuable insights on understanding the meaning of leadership, meritocracy and opportunity as fundamental underpinnings for the development of a successful executive. “I applaud the initiative by the President of the Republic of Macedonia, Dr. Gjorge Ivanov, and I hope it will continue and be supported by all future presidents of the country. I’m very impressed with the organization, all the participants, the questions and the dialogue. This was a very rewarding experience for me and would be more than happy to come back.”- stated Mr. Arsov.

Mr. Arsov, who started his Wall Street career in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group at the investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in 1999, now works as a Director in the Investment Banking division of Credit Suisse.  Mr. Arsov has specialized in Mergers & Acquisitions and works with a wide variety of publicly traded and privately held companies on complex U.S. and cross-border assignments, including mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, spin-offs, and LBOs, as well as hostile and defense transactions.  He is also the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chairman of the Governance & Nominations Committee of Macedonia 2025, a not-for-profit organization focused on helping the economic development of the Republic of Macedonia.

The School of Young Leaders takes place in Ohrid, Macedonia from August 21st to the 31st.  For more information please visit:  http://www.president.gov.mk/en/school-for-young-leaders.html

Business Forums: Macedonia 2025 Attended The 3rd Annual Conference Of The Diaspora Organizations

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Representatives of Macedonia 2025 attended the 3rd Annual conference of the Diaspora Organizations organized by the Agency of Immigration held in Skopje on 18-19 of July.

The conference had several discussion panels that covered topics like – education in Macedonian language for the Macedonian Diaspora, decrease in applicants for Macedonian citizenship, right to vote and improving legislature to make the voting process for Macedonians abroad easier.

One of the panel discussion was the “Mini business forum – investment possibilities in Macedonia”, with presentations from Invest in Macedonia, Macedonia 2025 and successful Diaspora businessman who invested in Macedonia. The panellists pointed out that the investment climate in Macedonia is favourable and that there are dozens of business Diaspora members that returned to their homeland and established small or medium size businesses.

Biljana Markovic, Head of Skopje Branch of Macedonia 2025, presented the organization and its economic development activities, with a special focus on the Macedonia Global Investment Summit 2012. The Summit, to be held in Ohrid this October, will provide an opportunity for participants to learn about different investment projects, to stimulate exports and to open new markets for Macedonian products and services. Ms. Markovic invited all participants to join the Macedonia Global Investment Summit 2012 in Ohrid, and to help build a platform for collaboration between Macedonian businessman from the Diaspora and Macedonian companies.

Leadership Series: Field Trip at Cosmic Development for IT students of the Universities in Macedonia

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On June 8, 2012, Macedonia 2025, as a part of its “Motivating the Future” program, organized a field trip for IT students to visit Cosmic Development, an “A to Z” web development company which implements quality services and latest technologies. Third and fourth year students from across the country studying various fields of IT development, including web development, web design, android, iOS or blackberry development, were invited to attend this full day trip to experience a unique and never before seen work environment in Macedonia.

The students had an opportunity to speak with the leader of Cosmic Development, Ilcho Bojchevski, about the start-up and development of the company. He revealed “the secret” of Cosmic’s success, which even though a young company has already secured global clients. “For Cosmic, the secret ingredient is the right people: successful, young and creative software engineers and designers that have the courage to be unique, creative and possess a vision. Here, we are all equal and we equally contribute to the success of the company,” stated Mr. Bojchevski. He also encouraged the students to follow their dreams, as he has with Cosmic. “It is my true pleasure being a part of such an event and it is my hope that doing this we will motivate you to follow and accomplish your goals, to deliver the message of not giving up hope, and for the most successful ones, we always have an open door at Cosmic, no matter whether you’ll be a part of our team or an entrepreneur with an own idea developing it together at our business incubator,” stated Mr. Bojchevski, motivating the students to pursue their goals..

The Cosmic team presented the work of the software engineers, as well as the technologies being used in Cosmic, emphasizing the global perspective of the PHP programming. The students were provided with information on the designer’s projects and were informed of Cosmic Development’s newest project, the innovative business startup incubator.

Students were immediately intrigued by the success and development of Cosmic over such a short period of time. They attended the presentations with great interest and expressed their aspirations to be a part of a creative, forward thinking working environment. “I haven’t worked with PHP before, now you intrigued me, and I would like to start”, said Ratko Koteski, graduand at the University of St. Kliment Ohridski, Bitola. “I work in PHP and .NET and as a software engineer I would like to be a part of such a prosperous team” commented Biljana Trimcheska, a post-graduate at American College.

At the end of the day, the students had a chance to play a game of ping-pong with the staff of Cosmic.

The faculties that participated in the field trip with selected students were:

  • Computer Sciences and Technology Faculty at the South Eastern European University

  • Faculty of Informatics at the European University

  • Electrical Engineering and Information Technology Faculty and the School of Information Science and Computer Engineering (FINKI) at the St. Cyril and Methodius University

  • Technical Faculty at the St. Kliment Ohridski University

  • School of Computer Science and Information Technology at the University American College Skopje.

For more information on Macedonia 2025’s “Motivating the Future” program, please contact us at 

Mr. Andy Peykoff Sr. Joins Macedonia 2025, Board of Directors

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Mr. Andy Peykoff Sr., founder of Niagara Bottling, joined Macedonia 2025’s board of directors during a
regular board meeting held on May 29, 2012.

Founded in 1963, Niagara Bottling is the world’s largest private-label bottled water company and the
world’s second largest bottled water company overall. Mr. Peykoff began delivering high quality, low
cost water in five-gallon glass containers for home and office delivery, using his garage as his storage
area. More than 49 years later, with production capacity of over 21-billion bottles of water per year,
Niagara is the industry leader in high speed automation and emerging plastic technologies, including
vertical integration and light weighting. Niagara has received the Best PET technology innovation award
in 2009, recognizing the Eco3 bottle design as the most innovative technological accomplishment in the
PET industry. Niagara recently received the 2011 Best Sustainability Initiative Award for the launch of
nested packs at the Global Bottled Water Congress, and was also a finalist for the Best New Packaging
Innovation Award. Our Eco-Air IV bottle was highly commended as the Best New Bottle in PET.

Mr. Peykoff’s entrepreneurial spirit, dedication and passion  has led him and his family on the road to
success.  As a Macedonian, he is passionate about his homeland and excited to work with Macedonia
2025 to assist in building a prosperous future for entrepreneurs, businesses, and investors alike.

“Within Macedonia, there are multiple opportunities to bring incremental value, create jobs and generate
profits.  Many of these opportunities can be taken advantage of with minimal or no foreign investment.
What is required is recognizing opportunities, a business plan, and hard work by like-minded
Macedonians,” stated Mr. Peykoff of the economic opportunities present in Macedonia today.

Macedonia 2025 is enthusiastic to welcome Mr. Peykoff to our board.  “Andy is a great example of how
hard work and dedication can  take your career to the next level.  He is a great role model for
entrepreneurs all over the world.  We are honored to have him on board and believe he will enhance the
quality of our efforts to build competitiveness  of Macedonian companies  and strengthen the
entrepreneurial spirit in Macedonia” stated Mike Zafirovski, chairman of Macedonia 2025.