Amra and Goran Čurak are a young married couple who are ‘hiding’ behind the successful story of the Čurak Ranch in Travnik. They say that the main ingredient of all their products is love, as they really love what they do.
When they discovered that Amra is allergic to gluten, they realized that the availability of gluten-free foods at our stores and markets is very small. While this was so after some research into their needs, and considering their situation they decided to give gluten-free food a try. Starting to consume gluten-free cuisine was seen as a new adventure and a business opportunity for them. It was also a logical step as they had been successfully growing and processing organic fruits and vegetables for some time, as well as producing finger food cookies.
“The day I came home with the paper stating my diagnosis and a shocked expression on my face, I thought I would never be able to eat anything nice and tasty again. Everything I made from the new flour over the next few months was useless, like a lump of stone; slightly soaked with my tears, but not enough to soften it. Today, I make a soft and fragrant fantasy out of gluten-free bread and decide upon the price to sell it at the market. And I enjoy the result of my cooking fight! Cheers and never, never give up! ”, says Amra bravely with a smile on her face.
Čurak Ranch is one of the many successful and inspiring entrepreneurial stories of the Local Employment Partnership (LEP) Travnik. During the past four years, supported by the European Union (EU) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), the LEP Travnik has been actively engaged in encouraging young people to develop businesses of their own.
Amra and Goran acquired the knowledge to enter entrepreneurial waters from attending an ILO training, which is based on the SIYB methodology (Start and Improve Your Business). After successfully presenting their business idea before a commission, they received financial support and one-year of mentoring, and became the first producers of gluten-free organic food in Travnik.
How and why was the Local Partnership Travnik formed?
Amra and Goran’s local community, which is the Travnik municipality, faces specific challenges in the area of employment. To address that the Regional Development Agency for the Central BiH region – REZ Agency, the Employment Service SBK/KSB and the Centre for Youth Education (CEM) in Travnik used the opportunity and ILO methodology toward increasing formal employment. By that initiative, with support from the EU and in co-operation with employers and educated institutions in their area, they established a LEP project ‘Local Employment Partnership Travnik’.
The first phase of the project was to support local employment partnership. This saw the members of local partnerships define their roles and responsibilities in an Agreement and assess the needs of the local labour market. They then applied an approach that proved to be successful in helping to solve the problem of unemployment. After completing the training provided the end users of their project, unemployed people registered with the Public Employment Service, were able to start their own companies or to find a job with other employers, equipped with new skills that made them more competitive in the labour market. In the past four years 32 new businesses of young people in Travnik have received support from the LEP project.
Upon completion of the first phase of the LEP project and despite the EU’s financial support to local partnerships, members of the Partnership in Travnik faced a lack of funds to ensure the implementation of numerous activities that were planned in the period up to 2020.
Thanks to their persistence, strength and mutual support, all members of the LEP worked together to develop new project ideas and apply for funds in order to enable the continuity of their activities. Once again valuable support was provided through the grant program of the EU and the ILO within the EU4Business project.
Motivated by the results so far, especially success stories like that of the Čurak family, the members of the LEP plan to strengthen their own capacity for continuous action, which in future will not be dependent on the support of international donors.
There are now many LEP’s active in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). In the first phase of the LEP project, supported by the European Union in the amount of EUR 4 million, 19 local partnerships provided retraining for almost 1,600 unemployed people. Of those over 500 subsequently found a job. By understanding the good practices of existing partnerships new ideas and adapted mechanisms of action can be opened up in localities where there is still no formal alliance of key actors in the labour market.