“Collecting, promoting and selling products, arts and crafts with a distinctive local character"
Mirjana Bužanin, founder of the Špajza Society and the local product store Darovi Vipavske (Gifts of Vipavska) in Vipavski Križ, is also an active promoter of the Vipava Valley at tourism conventions all across Europe.
Which is your role and duties in Špajza Society? Which previous experience are you bringing in and which new competences are you hoping to acquire thanks to INNO-WISEs?
As the manager of Špajza Society I brought new life into Vipavski Križ, the picturesque splendidly restored medieval town in the Vipava Valley. Having started collecting local products and crafts with Špajza Society, I opened a small store, Darovi Vipavske (Gifts of Vipavska) which, in the span of a few months became a highly popular tourist point. Local products and crafts thus got their dedicated showcase while the hamlet received some much-desired tourist offer.
The idea of the store simply sprang up, like it's often the case, and carries positive social impacts. At the time I was feeling ready for a career change, though I didn't have anything specific in mind. Our society, which at the outset included two of my friends, started collecting products, arts and crafts with a distinctive local character, out of enthusiasm. Our first forays into entrepreneurship were a little bumpy. We tried setting up a web store for the products, applying to a co-financing tender, but we weren't experienced enough and didn't get selected. Then, on fortunate coincidence, I heard Vipavski Križ was looking to accommodate such an offer, and the story began moving faster than I'd ever dreamed. In the spring we were already furnishing the shelves of our little store with dozens of local wines and other products, memorabilia, art pieces. We also offer wine tastings and basic tourist information. Our first tourist season was a delightful success. Trough INNO-WISEs project we hope to obtain competences needed for managing social entrepreneurship.
Which can be aspects that can help your WISE to grow profitability?
The essential factor was the clarity and focus of the project. A year prior to opening the Gifts of Vipavska store, our society had literally combed through the local offer of products, foods, arts and crafts, forming connections with many local producers, while at the same time learning from their experience and exploring what the tourists who visit these parts are actually looking for. Another major reason was our complete dedication, dare I say love for what we do; and the same is true for everyone we work with. Their wines and memorabilia are made with love, we present them with affection, and the emotions resonate with the visitors.
Who are your suppliers? Is there room to further expand the offer of the Špajza Society?
I wouldn't really call the people we work with suppliers. We are deeply connected, we select the assortment together and make tweaks where necessary, which in my mind makes us partners creating a constantly changing offer. Now, locals can know placing their product on our shelf will make it available to rising numbers of visitors. I personally believe we've accomplished something beneficial for the local community, by providing new opportunities. That's also why we're participating in the project INNO-WISEs, which presents our story to a broader circle and gives feedback and partner information on the opportunities for social entrepreneurship and new skills. Our assortment of genuine local products will continue to grow, and I do believe Gifts of Vipavska can serve as an encouragement to anyone planning on manufacturing local products, while also providing new ways to include vulnerable population groups.
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