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Swiss EP

Founder Eleonora Sergijevic – pivoting success in times of COVID

Female founder from Serbia starts a venture during COVID19 crisis in order to protect and help those on the front line of the pandemic defense system

Meet Eleonora Sergijevic. Eleonora is one of the most active and energetic female founders in the Serbian startup ecosystem.

The Swiss EP team has had the pleasure to get to know Eleonora and work with her for almost two years now. Eleonora was part of the Serbian delegation of female founders, representing her company Swiftty at the Women Entrepreneurs Week organized by Swiss EP in Zürich in early 2019. In Zurich, Eleonora picked up key advices from mentors, engaged with peers and founded another startup, Enqlo. Enqlo offers a 360-degree design collaboration and project management solution.

Back in Serbia, Eleonora deep dived into a long-term mentoring relationship with Swiss EP expert, Barbara Fischer, focusing on business development and fundraising issues.

In the words of Barbara:

“Eleonora is outstanding, both professionally and personally. She is a serial entrepreneur with strong technology and design expertise. Working with Eleonora is a pleasure, because she has great interpersonal skills combined with strong subject matter expertise.”

Meanwhile, Enqlo was picking up speed. The future looked bright.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and Serbia. Eleonora had a choice to make.

Swiftty and Enqlo are not Eleonora’s first ventures. Ten years ago, her company Omnis Design Studio was active in research and development of protective gear for medical workers. Back then the production of Biosafety level 4 suits aimed to address the Ebola epidemic and serve mobile hospitals.

In response to Serbia finding itself in a desperate situation with one of the highest number of infected medical workers in Europe and a great shortage of protective supplies, Eleonora and her team decided to put Enqlo on hold and devote all their time and energy to a new company, Omniprotect (Airtech Med), manufacturing reusable protective suits and protective face shields. However, manufacturing during lockdown turned out to be no easy task as closed borders meant no access to key supplies or delayed deliveries.

Eleonora went knocking on many doors to secure materials for production. Thanks to her strong entrepreneurial spirit and resourcefulness, she managed to have production up and running in less than a month.

Throughout this period, Eleonora communicated with Swiss EP team members and experts in Belgrade, sharing insights and advice. Meanwhile, Innovation Fund Serbia (a public institution and Swiss EP partner organization) also played its part, by introducing a grant challenging founders and startups to approach the crisis situation with innovative solutions. 300 companies applied for the grant. Airtech Med was one of 12 winners, picked for their ability to bring developed prototypes, products, services and technologies to market in a short time and become available for application in combating the consequences of the pandemic.

The social impact of Eleonora’s initiative included employment of elderly women, giving their lives a new purpose and creating a distraction for them as they endured almost three months of lockdown at home. The final result included three types of protective suits, two types of protective coats, and four models of protective face shields. In a short time, thousands of these products were distributed free of charge to medical personnel all around Serbia, allowing the workers to continue their crucial efforts while being properly protected.

Eleonora and her team showed that they are exceptionally competent and brave people. Omniprotect will continue its production, keeping medical workers safe and setting an example of Serbian founders determined to continue finding solutions to fight the crisis, while also keeping their companies on a path of growth.