Cakes and pastries have been Silvana Vidović’s passion since early childhood. When she was a little girl, she would sneak up, steal some dough from her mother’s bowl, and form it into all kinds of shapes for baking.
Vidović, who lives in the town of Livno in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), has faced some tough times. Her husband’s salary was once their only source of income, and they had four children to feed, clothe and put through school.
Because jobs are scarce in Livno, many families and youth have left to find work elsewhere. Vidović also has an intellectualdisability, adding to the difficulty of getting a job and handling the demands of working full time, every day.
In BiH, the government is unable to fully meet its responsibilities to citizens with special needs, and people with disabilities are often economically and socially excluded on a much larger scale than those in Western Europe. A majority of people with disabilities—81 percent—are unemployed.
Vidović wanted to start her own business and started baking cakes and pastries in her tiny kitchen, selling them to friends and neighbors. Her sweets were a hit, much to her surprise and delight, and her home was permeated with the delicious smell of baked goods.
“I’ve always loved baking, but I couldn’t even imagine that others would love eating what I make as much as I love baking it,” said Vidović.
But conditions were not sufficient for baking on a grander scale.
At first, the road to success was bumpy. Vidović did not have the money to start a more serious, productive business. Her kitchen was not a registered business, and customers were hard to find, especially those with larger orders that would enable her earn a solid income.
Even when she heard about support from USAID’s Marginalized Populations Support Program in 2016 to help women start and expand their own businesses, Vidović was not optimistic. Now she believes in miracles, she says. After reviewing her business plan, USAID and Livno municipality co-financed her bakery—and that’s when the magic began.
With the funding, Vidović registered her business, Slastice (Sweets), built a separate kitchen and pantry with cold storage, and bought all the equipment and supplies she needed but could not afford before.
“Now I’m officially a business owner. My dream has come true: I can work and make a living while making other people’s days a little brighter and sweeter. My desire to become even more successful has grown because I was able to make my dream come true,” said Vidović as she stood next to a display of her creamy creations. “And I would not have been able to do it without this support.”