Butteria: A small business of great taste
From a small workshop in Donji Vakuf, domestic products made from natural ingredients are being sent off across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Pistachio, cashew, pumpkin seeds, hazelnut, almond and peanut butter of the brand Butteria are products of the 24-year-old Hamida Begović. From a small workshop in Donji Vakuf these domestic products made from natural ingredients are being sent off across Bosnia and Herzegovina, from Čapljina and Trebinje, to Banja Luka and Sarajevo.
The company Bonsai was registered in 2020 and now stands as a success story of this young entrepreneur who worked on rebrandingand presenting new products under the name „Butteria“ in the past several months. New name, new design and new products are the result of financial and mentor support through the programme “BizUp” which is being implemented by Foundation 787 and UN Women as a part of the project „Economic empowerment of women – rebuilding better”, which is being financed by the United Kingdom government.
As a graduated professor of Arabic language without a job in her profession, Hamida dedicated her time to producing spreads from highly nutritional nuts, drupe and seeds, which are being ordered by those who want to eat healthy or vegan, but other customers as well. She makes her products with a machine with a stone mill, originally made for making chocolate, which was supposed to be its initial purpose. Together with her husband she wanted to make homemade chocolate but they eventually gave up due to the high prices of ingredients. Instead, she makes products rarely found in Bosnia and Herzegovina today.
„I especially love Bosnian coffee and it is my biggest pleasure to have it with a piece of chocolate. I think that was the biggest reason to start with chocolate, but also to offer others a healthy option. We found chocolate molds and the machine came from India through a friend, but we never bought all the ingredients. We bumped into several obstacles and in the end, we gave up“, Hamida recalls. „The machine stood there for about half a year until we tried to make peanut butter.“
„Since 2019 we experimented and then we gave some to our friends to try out, simply to see the reactions – they were delighted. Great – let’s sell that! Let’s buy the jars and all the rest. We had a few friends who tend to eat healthy,“ she recalls, adding that after peanut, she decided to try other nuts and seeds that contain a certain level of natural fats which, due to long processing, turn to a liquid spread.
„The longer the processing, the more liquid, better, it gets. Everything needs to be chopped up first, then put in the machine to make this spread. It really turns it into a nice butter. We called it the process of ‘butterisation’, even though there is no word like that. It is not just grinding. That is why: ‘butterisation’,” Hamida explains.
Registering the business
After a year of experimenting and preparing of new products, two years ago, with the financial help of Foundation Mozaik, Hamida registered as a small company in Donji Vakuf, a small town in central Bosnia where she, a Sarajevan, and her husband, Travnik-born, moved due to his work as a graduate mechanical engineer. They registered the business and renovated a storage room in the rented house they live in, turning it into a workshop and equipping it for production. Afterwards, Hamida got a self-employment subsidy from the Federation BiH employment bureau. Both programmes enabled her to be employed and, by selling what she produces, earn a monthly salary.
„It is not a big amount of money, but it is enough for me. Just so that I can work, so I can come to my workshop and work. I am not a type of person to work in a company for eight hours and come home tired,” she says, explaining what is the most important to her: „I still have time to spend with my child, which is my priority. I can dedicate my time to him.“
Aside from a few customers, Donji Vakuf is not a market large enough for her butter-spreads. Her first bigger buyers were people she met in Sarajevo, where she and her husband looked around to see whether there are similar products in the shops and sections with healthy food.
„We saw there is nothing similar, but while we were preparing everything in the beginning, there were already a few domestic peanut butters and one hazelnut butter. That shook us a little bit, in the sense of will we make it, but many shops opened their doors to us. The first of them was Kašahana,“ Hamida recalls, adding that her products, which are passing all legally required quality control tests every month, can be ordered via Facebook and Instagram or be found in a few shops in Sarajevo, Mostar and Tuzla.
As she was already in contact with Selma Mezetović Međić, the owner of Kašahana, Sarajevan snack bar which offers porridge and other meals made from healthy ingredients that contain no refined sugars, Hamida got a recommendation from her to apply for the programme BizUp at Foundation 787.
„Aside of the financial help which was really helpful to me – I bought ingredients for new butters and a new machine right at the time when one stopped working – mentorship that I had was especially useful,” Hamida says, adding that in the beginning it was unusual that her mentor was Vladimir Grabovac, the owner of Biona, a company with products similar to hers, which she used to see as competition. She soon realised that was a good decision.
„He came to Donji Vakuf and talked about his experiences and the first point of our work was for me to read books. I did not get anything served on a plate, but my mentor gave me a task of reading different books and he tried to help me to discover myself, to find my ‘why’ which leads me”, Hamida recalls. „Then we tried to think of new names, which would reflect the ‘why’ and my butters.”
Both the mentor and the designer Ana Lukenda helped her to come up with the name Butteria and replace Bonsai – a name quickly thought of when the company was registering. This was also a symbolic name, after a tree that she and her husband have. The tree came a long way and it was damaged during traveling, but still survived, blossomed and lives in their home. Like the skills in shaping this tree, Hamida says she is careful in making the butters.
„That is how I make the butters – I handpick every fruit and it is like a special technique of making the butter. Large companies which make butters have special machines, and make 50 kg of butter in a few hours. I do everything manually. First I have to bake everything, and, for example, manually peel the hazelnut, after which I bake it, and when it gets cold, I bake it again to kill bacteria. Afterwards, I chop it and put it in the machine. It is not so simple, to just put into a blender and that is it,“ she explains, adding that for the cashew butter nothing else is added and it takes about o 6-7 hours of work of the stone mill.
Even though she is happy to see the work develop, she says that it is not easy to make it being a young entrepreneur and a woman taking care of a one-year-old son during the day.
„I would like for the business to grow so I can hire someone to work with me. Now I try to grab some time and work when the baby falls asleep, and I also finish other obligations”, Hamida says, adding that she thinks it is harder for women to achieve everything, both private and work tasks.
Even though she had and still has support from her family, she says that her experiences showed her that the society is not aware that women can run businesses on their own and that she senses that the general perception is that a safe job is a job in a company.
„When I started this, people used to ask me ‘Why are you doing this?’ First, the product I was making was unusual, and why was I initiating something here on my own, how am I going to do it, also while having a baby. But I thought, ‘I will make it’,” she says, emphasising how she was encouraged by her family to do what she loves, and that her example inspired a colleague to start her own business, by opening a cafeteria in Donji Vakuf.
„Whenever I am asked what it’s like, I say: 'Extremely hard, but if you want to, you’re going to make it',“ Hamida says. „I work an unsafe job, where one does not know what will happen, but for me there is some charm in this insecurity. Will I sell it? So, I tell myself ‘Come on, put more effort in it, call that shop, call another one’, and I fight. I think there is a greater feeling of fulfilment when you succeed that way.“
This article was made possible within the project “Women Economic Empowerment in Bosnia and Herzegovina – Rebuilding Better” which is implemented by UN Women in BiH with financial support of United Kingdom government.