ALUMNI SUCCESS


Tana Zimmermann
RIT Croatia Class of 2009
Tourism, Hospitality and Service Management
Job title:Co-founder and CEO at bazzar.hr

Viktor Zimmermann
RIT Croatia Class of 2014 (expected)
Tourism, Hospitality and Service Management
Job title:Co-founder and CEO at bazzar.hr

 

Beginning this year, you started your first project: bazzar.hr, the first social network of supply and demand. Tell us, how did you come up with this idea?
Viktor: We were astonished by the amount people pay for similar web pages so I thought, why wouldn't I do something like that? Then my sister Tana set a challenge for me – to make that web page if I thought it was so easy. The whole family actually contributed to this project. The name bazzar came from our mother. The only problem was to find a free domain as bazar.hr was occupied. Then our mother suggested adding another letter z – bazzar, because our last name is Zimmermann and we all liked the idea. Even today we keep the screenshot of mom's message when she wrote: "It should be bazzar. "

Lately, you have been very active on various social networks and we came across a few articles about bazzar. Are you satisfied with the project?
Viktor: We are very satisfied! We have a great response and we have been recognized by our target group. We are growing every day and have already started to cooperate with agencies and big buyers. We have over 40 000 advertisements and more than 400 000 web page visits a month. Furthermore, we keep the track of numbers from our own server and we are noticing growth, which proves that the business is functioning; people are visiting the page and making transactions. The interesting fact is that at any moment there are at least 20 people on the page.

Viktor, did you do the whole web page yourself or did you have help?
Viktor: In the beginning I started everything myself, but soon I realized that it would not be easy and that we would have to form a team. I started working with a friend who is a programmer, and with time we became experts for this business. Bazzar is a big project and we were forced to learn new things every day. In the end, we decided to divide responsibilities- I am in charge of design and concept, while my colleague is in charge of the structure.

What are your plans for the future?
Tana: We have many plans, but for now we do not want to go into many details. Our main focus is Croatia but we have no intention to stop here. We are ready for new markets – with domains and teams. We would like to finish the .hr version and use it to increase the market share and then start working on other things. Our goal is not to be an advertising place for used stuff, we aim to create a social network where people can trade. We decided to create a social network, which provides security since we control personal identification numbers. Moreover, we added the F&B category and placed our main focus on family agricultural businesses, which can now sell their products through our website. Our idea is to enable certain legal entities to sell their products through our website like they are having a small web shop instead of creating it and paying a lot of money for it.

What did you learn from this experience?
Viktor: Start-up is not a job of 8-10 hours per day. It is a job of 24 hours a day. When you start your own business and you invest your own money and time, then you are fully in it. I dream codes at night. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I already know the solution for the problem. On the other hand, Tana is the one struggling with the Croatian bureaucracy and paperwork where we encounter many problems. One of the problems that we encountered with was fiscalization. Initially we were told that we will not need it because we accept only credit card payments, however in the end it turned out that we still need to do fiscalization. We had to buy a fiscal program from FINA and insert it on our web page. The problem was that no one in FINA was familiar with this and they did not have any instructions for us so we had to figure it out on our own for months. For two months we were not able to sell anything until we entered into the fiscalization system.

What is your message to young people who cannot find work in these rough times?
Tana: Thus far, we had two job openings where we were looking for young students and we received about 200 applications. For most of the applicants, the biggest problem was lack of experience. We came across very few of those who had been working during their studies. Among the applicants we mainly noticed two groups; those who stated in their CVs that they have some previous experience but during the interview it turned out to be wrong or the ones who did not have any experience. There were also those who had the opportunity to work as waiters, but they did not accept it. My advice to young people would be to accept any position because through each job they will gain work habits and learn something. Employers will certainly give the competitive advantage to candidates with any experience than those who had no experience.
Viktor: I would like to add one advice for IT students. When applying for a job, highlight the projects which you have been working on. When searching for programmers, we asked the candidates to send us a project they worked on and almost no one had anything to send. It is important to use all opportunities and even if they look silly. I started by doing the design for Ciro Blazevic, Nives Celsius and Edo Majka's blogs. This was my first serious project in high school when I was 15 years old. Even though this seems funny now, that was definitely an experience through which I learned something.

Tana , in 2009. you graduated from RIT Croatia and so far you have developed an impressive career . During the study you attended a mandatory cooperative education - how did it contribute to your career development?
Tana: Co-op helped me a lot in developing my career and I would say that this is one of the biggest advantages of studying at RIT Croatia. Through the studies I had various co-ops and that experience contributed to my personal and professional development. After I came back from an 18-month co-op in the United States, I applied for jobs in Croatia through RIT Croatia Career Education Day and got twelve job offers. Even then, I had the opportunity to choose because of the gained experience. Most of the offers were related to the hotel industry, where they offered me well paid positions. On the other hand, Phillip Morris International offered me an entry level position. I realized that I want to try something new and different, and despite the better positions in the hotel industry, I decided for the entry level position. It turned out to be a good decision.

How do you achieve balance between work and private life?
Tana: To be honest, it is not working perfectly, but I am working on it. Two months ago, our mother read somewhere that all private employers who have worked on Sundays have failed, so we decided not to work on Sundays. Of course, we do work in case of an emergency, but generally we rest on Sundays. In our business it is essential to get enough sleep but since the whole team prefers working late, we allow ourselves to sleep a bit longer. It is difficult to balance personal and professional life but simply we have to force ourselves to get used to that because everyone needs a little relaxation. When you are exhausted it is no longer good for business, because you cannot contribute enough, you are not creative, you make mistakes, you are nervous and sleepy and all of this does not bring any results.

From 11-13 October 2013 Start-up Weekend, a global network of entrepreneurs whose mission is to inspire and educate individuals, teams and communities was held in Dubrovnik. At this competition bazzar.hr won the first place. Describe that experience.
Tana: The experience was very good because it actually pushed us to go through an existing business plan and reminded us all about some things. The winner of the start-up weekend is the team who best presents a new idea within five minutes to people who hear about it for the first time. There were a lot of good projects that unfortunately did not present themselves in the best way. The first three projects including us were excellent! Second place went to the team of RIT Croatia with brandfriend.me and third place to the girls from Dubrovnik with the idea of organic seedlings. Since the presentation was the key factor, this helped us and the team from RIT Croatia a lot, because we spent a lot of time presenting during our studies and we were very confident. I would love to see the stronger competition, but overall I think it is great that an opportunity like this exists. This is an excellent opportunity for young people who want to learn something. You do not even have to have your own idea; you can just come and join the team whose idea you like the most. In this way, for three days, you can learn a lot, especially if your goal is to open your own business. Besides this, start-up weekend is an excellent opportunity for networking.

What do you think about the importance of lifelong learning? Is it crucial for building a successful career?
Tana: Education is important because it sets foundations and knowledge that we need to continuously build. It is crucial to recognize the additional values you get during the studies, like presentation and communication skills and resourcefulness, but many people do not recognize this. It is important to combine theory with practice and take advantage of all work opportunities. Finally, young people have to realize that they cannot become top experts immediately after graduation, because this process requires a bit more time.





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