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Founders are Taking the Driver's Seat

What happens when startup founders take over and organize an event for their peers? We can find the answers at Brezovica, where entrepreneurs from Kosovo gathered for a weekend in November to learn from Swiss EP experts and help one another.

The "bottom-up" approach is at the core of the Swiss EP value system, methodology, and mission. We serve the needs of entrepreneurs, and the organizations who are supporting them, helping both to thrive and, in the end, contributing to the creation of a new economic landscape. In Kosovo, it has never been an easy job.

We knew there were excellent entrepreneurs in Kosovo who could use the help of our experts, but we struggled to find an organization we could partner with. In the end, we found this partnership in entrepreneurs themselves, gathered in two unique communities—Women Entrepreneurs Kosovo and Founders Network Kosovo.

The two communities are different in their dynamics and activities, but they have one thing in common: they know what they need. All the entrepreneurs gathered in WEK and FNK needed to spend time with one another, learn from each other, and absorb new knowledge from Swiss EP experts.

So, joining forces with Arta Shehu Zaimi (WEK) and Leart Zogjani (FNK), we supported their organizing of a Founder's Retreat in mid-November 2022 at the Brezovica ski resort. We also invited a few Swiss EP experts to meet specific demands of the group: Ethan Mayers, Kamen Bankovski, Stoyan Yankov, Alexandru Bogdan, and Ryan Edwards.

On Saturday and Sunday, 40 founders joined the retreat, investing money (by covering their own costs) and time in this unique networking and learning event.

One of the participants, Ardijana Rexhaj, founder and CEO of Kerkoj, shared her key takeaways from the weekend:

When you are a founder or a CEO, you have limited resources and time to talk with people about the different issues you face. Having like-minded people come together for a weekend to talk about their struggles or discuss what kind of ideas they have in a space that is open and where you can be vulnerable is super giving to me as a person. It's been such a meaningful experience.

As Ardijana said, it's crucial to be among people who can fully understand what you're going through. Even if most of these people could meet in Pristina, grab a coffee, and chat, they needed a collective experience and ‘push factor’ to help them bond. They needed dedicated space and time where they could share and learn together.

Swiss EP experts brought additional value to the event. They held 20 group sessions, 36 one-on-one conversations, and a mastermind group. Stoyan Yankov, productivity coach, startup mentor, and Swiss EP expert, was quite impressed with the experience, and particularly by the entrepreneurs he met:

As an international expert at this event, I shared advice and helped people collaborate. But, for me, the most meaningful was seeing all these founders coming together, sharing their struggles, and helping each other out. It was an amazing experience being there.

The exact nature of the impact of a weekend spent away from everyday work and pressures has yet to be seen. Some entrepreneurs might become good friends, others business partners, or mentors,. but one thing is for sure—they will remain connected and continue to encourage and support one another.

In the end, it might even strengthen further the foundation for growing a healthy and giving entrepreneurial ecosystem—from the bottom up.