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Like Milk, but Completely Different

Komleko is an innovative startup from Serbia that makes plant-based dairy products. The problem they have is peculiar—demand for their products is much bigger than their supply capacities.

Komleko, or LikeMilk in a direct translation, is the first plant-based dairy shop in Belgrade and the entire Western Balkans region. Two brave women decided to produce handmade plant-based milk, and their experiment led them on an unexpected business adventure.

Startups and innovation-driven businesses make people anticipate a digital product or service. They often don't expect to see a physical product, let alone food. Komleko might just change all that.

Svetlana Ćopić and Maja Nadeždić are colleagues and friends who decided to start a business together. They are both passionate about branding, quality food, and working on the things they love.

Komleko was founded in June 2020, but the idea of pursuing handmade plant-based dairy production was born much earlier. When the global pandemic struck, two friends realized that they had the perfect opportunity to start a business. The volume of work at the advertising agency where they both work was decreasing so, they decided to invest their spare time into something they were both passionate about—plant-based dairy. In just a few months, they put Komleko in action.

Komleko makes milk, cheese, and yogurt from nuts and plants (cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, oats, lavender, and sesame). The entire production process is manual and aims to preserve all nutrients and valuable features of the base ingredient. To buy this beverage or cheese, customers order it via the Komleko website and wait for home delivery.

The most significant risk Maja and Svetlana faced at the beginning of their work was that they were the first plant-based dairy on the market. The duo didn't know what to expect and how the market would react to their innovative products:

We were astonished by how fast the word about Komleko spread. Concerning that our brand was unknown, we soon started getting calls from different media curious to hear more about that other milk. We also started overheating now and then random people speaking about us. We didn't expect that to happen! In the best-case scenario, we thought that our first year in business would be pretty casual and that it would leave us space for experimentation.

Svetlana Ćopić, co-founder of Komleko

Market demand dictated the expansion of the business. As a result, Svetlana and Maja had to hire help, start a production line, and face an entirely new set of challenges. Luckily, they manage to overcome most of them with each other's support.

We started from scratch, and we managed to activate a production line, create a brand, and build a marketplace for a completely new product in a year and a half. We're facing and overcoming a lot of small challenges daily. Still, the fact that we're here and that our business is constantly growing is what keeps us motivated. We could say that this is our biggest win so far.

Maja Nadeždić, co-founder of Komleko

The roles of the two co-founders are clearly divided—Maja takes care of finances, supplies, and logistics, while Svetlana is in charge of recipes, branding and communications. When they faced a problem they couldn't resolve, they asked for help. The Serbian entrepreneurial community was open to supporting them. While looking for assistance and advice, Svetlana and Maja met Milena Milić and Preduzimanje. Soon, the two entrepreneurs became part of the Investment Readiness Program for Female Founders, organized in May 2021 by Preduzimanje and Women Founders Network Albania, with the support of Swiss EP.

We can't describe how valuable this experience was for us. During the program, we learned a lot of practical tips and tricks on how to run a business. For us, the key takeaway from the program was the notion that the business we're building already has some value. Our valuation was a true revelation for us, and it gave us a completely different sense of self-esteem. We learned a lot and got new ideas and perspectives for the future.

Svetlana Ćopić, co-founder of Komleko

Komleko is working on new products and new ways to expand the business. Market demand keeps increasing, pressuring Maja and Svetlana to expand. While searching for the right way to do that, they keep mentioning how glad they are for deciding to take a leap of faith and start a business.

If you consider starting your business, if you have the idea that keeps you restless and haunts you and have a gut feeling that you need to make it happen, as we did, our advice is—just do it. Nobody can prepare you and tell you what will happen and what kind of challenges you'll face. So, surrender and bravely embrace the adventure. Ask for advice, talk to people, and take learning opportunities whenever you can.

Maja Nadeždić, co-founder of Komleko