Belgrade | Serbia
7 years ago, I moved to Belgrade and I saw there are no normal fruits and vegetables anymore – says Nikica Marinkovic, founder of Zeleno. Big companies started to open supermarket chains here. Usually, they are supplied by big producers from all over the world, there is no place for small producers as it was in the past. I started to think: why do we have cabbage from Spain and strawberries from Greece, while ex-Jugoslavia was an agricultural land? How can we change it? I started to work on a website. I’m not an IT engineer, I’m an agriculture engineer, but I have few friends who helped me and at the end we created a website called Zeleno, which in Serbian means green. It’s a website which connects small domestic producers with customers in Belgrade.
Now there are about 20 producers involved. Zeleno collects food from them and delivers directly to customers. In very special packaging.
10 years ago, within UN projects, I was working in the north of Montenegro and south-east Serbia, which are both full of sheep. I saw people throwing away a lot of wool, which was not good enough for clothing companies. I started to think: why don't we put wool instead of Styrofoam in packaging? It’s much more ecological. I created some prototypes and in 2014 we won a contest in Sweden, called Smart Living. I think in future you will be obligated to run all the process of the production to sustain yourself. It doesn’t make sense to have just a website with food. But with the packaging you can close the circle. Then, the wool which cannot be used in boxes anymore will be upcycled for bags.
Packaging is not the only innovative idea they have.
We want to move now to recipes, link recipes with domestic food. You can order a particular recipe and get all the needed ingredients. My mother inspired me to do so when she said she doesn’t know what to cook for me and ask me to tell her. Another thing we want to start is blogging. Publishing stories of farmers, information about organic production, etc.
Nikica is full of ideas, making sense both from a social and business perspective. And it seems he has nurtured it since his childhood.
My first money came from selling fruits on the street. I asked my father: can you give me money for a skateboard? He said: ok, no problem, here you have fruits, you can sell them and have your money. I was 8. This entrepreneurial spark stayed with me. When I grew up, I started to look for something new, something which will really improve the quality of life, not only mine, but also people around. I was working with farmers and I just matched the problem with the solution, that’s it. It’s an adventure with a rational part.
Adventure which starts from talking to people.
If you want to succeed, technology is not enough. Talk to people, go on the street, meet others not only through social networks, but from real life. Do things, instead of just reading about them. Try, there are so many opportunities.
More about Zeleno: zelenoo.com