RIT grad students launched innovative ventilation system solutions in Croatia

How we ended up opening our first showroom in Zagreb

September 21, 2020

Marija Lončarević and Vedran Belamarić, peers from RIT's Master of Science in Service Leadership and Innovation program, Class of 2020, just recently started a business together. Aside from really cool courses, it was the fun, good vibes and lots of learning from other peers in the cohort that made two years spent in the program seem like two months. But, we’ll get to that story some other time. This is a story about Marija and Vedran.

Marija is the Head of Marketing in Hermes International, producer of Dida Boža and Dalmatia brands. „I started my career in a completely different field - healthcare, and after 7 years I realized my interests are much bigger, " says Marija. „In 2012, I decided to study International Business at RIT Croatia and that was the best decision possible to this day. In 2015 I took the opportunity to study abroad at the main campus in Rochester, and was part of the Innovative and Entrepreneurship club where I realized there is so much more I can achieve if I follow my potential. I wanted to continue my education, alongside developing my career in marketing, so I enrolled into RIT's Master of Science program in Service Leadership and Innovation where I discovered how our minds can limit us, and how to avoid that by using out-of-the-box thinking. That's also where I met Vedran. "

Vedran comes from a different business background. He is a CEO of E.ON Solar, a part of E.ON Hrvatska group, working on photovoltaic solutions for businesses in Croatia and broader region. The group is a part of one of the biggest energy companies in Europe and the world, with more than 75.000 employees and 50 million customers in 15 markets. „Throughout my career I assumed numerous managerial and leadership positions in variety of industries, starting in pharmaceutical business, then moving on to construction engineering, finally landing in energy sector, " says Vedran. „My background is in finance, but some seven years ago I wanted a change in my career, and I started a small boutique consulting company for business development. This eventually led me to former RWE, now E.ON, working as a project manager, mostly on M&A's. Working in this challenging external environment, but also extremely competitive internal environment, made me realize that I have to continue expanding my knowledge. I recognized RIT’s Master of Science program in Service Leadership and Innovation as the best program available in Croatia by far. "

"We had no idea we would end up starting a business together!”

RIT’s MS program is not your traditional ex-cathedra courses-delivery program. Actually it’s quite different. Students take 11 different courses and most of the time in each of the courses is spent working on projects and papers – by yourself, and in teams. This is mostly done online. The class culminates with 1 week of an in-class course delivery with the US professors from RIT’s Saunders College of Business flying to Zagreb to meet their students in person, and work with them. This is the time when the whole cohort brings their knowledge and ideas to the table. This is when the creative juices start flowing.

"Oh I agree,” says Marija. "Working with Vedran made me realize that although we come from completely different industries and our perspectives differ sometimes, we complement each other perfectly when it comes to business ideas. "

Vedran shares her opinion. „RIT's program gave me insights into the most relevant business knowledge and at the same time expanded my horizons on both professional and personal level. I can't find words strong enough to describe how fantastic people I met are, both my cohort colleagues and the professors. One of these people was Marija with whom I clicked with right away. We worked together on many projects and case studies within the program. We realized that we have the same view of the future and how the businesses of tomorrow should look like, and how customer centricity is crucial."

Introducing innovative ventilation systems of the LUNOS brand to Croatia

Several projects into the program and both Vedran and Marija started thinking about joining forces to offer something new and innovative to the Croatian market. „When thinking about the future, we must find best solutions for the new generations to have a safe place to live," says Vedran. „And we all want to live in a clean and safe environment, but how much do we really think about the quality of the ventilation systems we use? And finally how does that affect the microclimate in our residencies? Being in the industry, I was aware of the innovation and great things that LUNOS has delivered in residential ventilation systems in the last 60 years. Marija and I talked about this and knew that this is an opportunity we both did not want to miss."

Marija agrees: „We became exclusive sales representative of Lunos GmbH that, as Vedran mentioned, is renowned for manufacturing decentralized ventilation systems. We bring innovative, efficient and proven ventilation systems of the LUNOS brand to the Croatian market. It ensures a safe, economical and healthy living culture by offering a permanent solution to all problems with excess moisture, mold and allergies."

Applying the knowledge from the program helped pave the way

They both knew that they had something good at their hands, but they did not anticipate that the interest and the demand for the product would be so great in the very beginning of their business venture, especially in times marked by economic crisis brought about by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

"In a couple of months as we started, our business just took off,” says Marija. "We thought it would be a slow process but as soon as we went live with our website and promotion, the orders and interest started growing from day to day. Now, within a month, we are opening our first showroom in Zagreb!”

"Yes, the rapid development came as a surprise, but we are 100% ready for it,” adds Vedran. "In addition to our own knowledge, skills and vast experience, this program helped us gain an understanding of proper adjusting to continuous changes in the business world. We learned about the know-how that the most successful companies use to gain competitive advantage and to find and implement their "blue oceans” strategies. We learned how to recognize trends, listen to customers' needs, use omnichannel communication of our vision and benefits of our product and services that we offer. And it made us realize that innovation comes in all kinds of shapes and forms."

Becoming a partner for all interested in a healthy culture of living

"Currently our team is growing as we both work for big companies that devour our time and the need for extra working force grows as the workload grows,” says Marija. In the next few years, they strive to become an important partner to all those who want to ensure a safe, economical and healthy culture of living for themselves and for future generations.

The only thing left to say is – go Marija and Vedran! The sky is the limit!

Fall 2020 enrollment for RIT's MS programs on our Zagreb campus is open. Apply now!

MS in Service Leadership and Innovation 

MS in Information Sciences and Technologies

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