Interview with Croatia’s Progressive Woman Entrepreneur
“Do you know what was your problem? You were always ahead of the organization.”
These words from a former boss speak to Maja Jelisic Cooper’s progressive thinking and approach to business, which is what has helped make her so successful. After a decade of thriving in her various roles for one of the biggest European magazine publishing companies (Sanoma Magazines) and the leading independent ISP in Croatia (Iskon Internet), Maja broke off on her own to become an entrepreneur.
Originally from Croatia, Maja’s first entrepreneurial strike was starting Mobitel Media Ltd., a mobile marketing company. The company quickly became the regional leader, offering services that blended current and upcoming tech trends including SMS concepts, Bluetooth location-based marketing, selling music from the region via iTunes and additionally providing niche cloud computing services. She is currently a board member and co-founder.
But today, Maja spends her energy as CEO, co-founder and major shareholder of Televizija Classicum Ltd., the company which launched 24/7 IPTV & cable TV channel called Klasik TV. Klasik TV’s movies and series are produced in the region of former Yugoslavia (similar to Turner Classics or MGM) are distributed to almost 600,000 households in six countries growing quickly.
Because of Maja’s proven track record of business results and strong focus on achieving ambitious goals, we were honored to connect with her and have her answer a few questions about her entrepreneurial journey and how she has been so successful.
Why did you become an entrepreneur? What was it that motivated you?
MJC: I had various roles in management (from production & distribution director, marketing director, National Geographic Croatia Project Director) at a publishing company and had gained very valuable experience and contacts. Several years after I decided to become an entrepreneur and had left, I met with my former boss for a lunch during which he told me: “Maja, do you know what was your problem? You were always ahead of the organization.”
This surprising, but flattering line, very much sums up the reasons I decided to start my own company. When you work in a corporate structured company, at some point, corporate politics can become more important than your work and results. A lot of your own ideas and initiatives do not get recognized and supported, so then you decide to go and do things on your own.
Tell us about one of your biggest breakthroughs – a triumph or struggle that was a pivotal moment in your entrepreneurial journey.
MJC: When I started Klasik TV cable & IPTV channel, the biggest challenge was to get in front of the first large tv operator in order to make the business case for my channel. It took us one year from the first meeting until the agreed upon deal with T-Com, and then the launch on Max TV.
When it finally happened, and my Klasik TV concept was proved successful (ranked by viewers as one of the top 15 channels among 170+, after only two years of existence!), it paved the way for building up the business and expansion not only in Croatia, but also in the region of former Yugoslavia and world-wide targeting diaspora from the region.
What are your current business goals?
MJC: The business goal is to double the current number of households (currently Klasik TV is being distributed to almost 600,000 households) and build up advertising revenue in 2013. We have many ideas for new business expansion once we reach our 2013 goals, including further international expansion, internet/iptv expansion, and moving into production and content creation.
As we embark on this New Year, what advice would you give to other women on how to set goals in their career or business?
MJC: When setting your goals, you should keep in mind that your goals should be realistic and doable, but at the same time ambitious enough to get you where you would like to be.
It is important that you can quantify your goals and measure the results. For example, if you would like to increase your revenue, you should set a percentage or dollar goal and time by which you would like to do so (e.g. you would like to increase your revenue by 30% by the end of 2013) . You can do the same thing for cutting costs or expansion (e.g. expansion to xy markets).
I try to set my goals using “SMART” principle: making my goals Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic and Time defined. Creating a budget and each month checking projected and actual figures makes your goals very measurable and forces you to keep a close eye on your progress. This also enables you to make adjustments as needed and keep pushing yourself and your team to achieve those goals.
A big thanks to our friends at Women in Adria – the first business brand for women entrepreneurs and corporate women in South-Eastern Europe – who connected us to Maja, one of their members.