Extraordinary things will happen once you overcome your fears of possible failure
Syzane Aliu, Owner of J.S.C. Magic Ice
A Kosovar company that sells dairy products
Previously: lawyer and teaching ‘the fundamentals of law’
Feeling that she had more to give than working as a lawyer, Syzane Aliu decided to found her own company in 2004. J.S.C. Magic Ice, which deals exclusively with milk processing, started its activities thanks to self-financing and now employs over 80 workers. The quality of the milk is crucial for this mother of four, who insists that the milk delivered by the 280 collaborating farmers is analysed daily. The company provides financial incentives depending on the quality of the product. Here, Syzane tells WEgate how honesty is key to success and describes the daily struggles of mum entrepreneurs.
WEgate: Tell us more about your company
Syzane Aliu: J.S.C Magic Ice was founded in 2004 and deals mainly with dairy products.
From 2004 until 2006, it produced exclusively ice cream exclusively, offering over 30 varieties. Since 2007, it has also produced other dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese and sour cream. Currently, we sell over 50 different ice cream flavours.
We combine local resources and experts with the skills of experts from other regions. We work hard to ensure our products are high quality. The company runs a modern facility that meets the required EU standards.
The competent authorities in Kosovo provided J.S.C. Magic Ice with modern and sophisticated equipment because they were impressed with our professionalism, the quality of our products, and the hygiene standards the factory maintains. The factory covers an area of 5000 square metres, employs 110 workers and collaborates with 315 farmers. And we are not planning to stop there! Our latest product is protein ice cream, which was scheduled for sale at the end of July. It’s the first of its kind in the region.
What or who inspired you to set up your own business?
It’s hard for me to specify exactly what inspired me to start my own company. But I like to take the lead, to be independent and to create something new – entrepreneurship allows me to do all of these things!
After my graduation, I started working as a lawyer and also as a professor teaching a course on ‘the fundamentals of law’ (‘bazat e se drejtes’) to help my community. But I couldn’t use all the energy I had there, and was always looking for something more challenging and more fun to do. I had always hoped that my hard work could help other people by providing them with jobs.
I have adjusted a famous saying by claiming that "behind every successful woman is a successful man"! I am lucky that my husband is on the same wavelength as me, and I have his full support in every decision I take.
Recently, our potential, professionalism and success have been noticed by the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as the European Commission and USAID (the United States Agency for International Development). They have supported our ideas both publicly and financially, which we are very grateful for.
What challenges did you face when you decided to launch your company? Did you have any sort of support from organisations?
When I commit to something, I stick to it no matter what. But challenges are inevitable – you just have to learn how to handle them. The biggest of them all is defying social norms. I feel bad saying that in our society the very first question that pops up when giving birth is: ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ Girls are often seen as weaker than boys. Some still believe that ‘women have to work twice as hard to be half as good and to only get half as much’.
Parents should abide by the motto ‘gender equality between brothers and sisters’. Luckily for me, my parents played a key role in my professional emancipation, as did my siblings. The support of your family and your surroundings are crucial for your success. I am very grateful that I have had this support since the very beginning. And I am fortunate that these traditional beliefs were outdated before my own children were born.
Mothers who start a business have to simultaneously run their families and their companies, which can be challenging and stressful. ‘Mumpreneurs’ have dual responsibilities towards their family and their business and finding time to balance the two is not an easy task for anyone. However, I think I have accomplished this in the best way possible. What lights up my success light are my four ‘sparks’ – my children. I hope they continue their tradition of being the best in class since 1st grade. They have proved their determination with all the hard work, zeal and success achieved up until now.
Entrepreneurship is still often considered a man's territory; what advice would you give young women who want to become an entrepreneur?
Once you decide to work for yourself, you will never go back to work for somebody else. Extraordinary things will happen once you overcome your fears of possible failure. Your success will be achieved on your own terms and rules. Make sure you are building a life you are proud of. Prejudice should be left aside.
Young women should be sincere and respect the people around them, their family and their spouses. They should use their powers of persuasion through their skills, goals and ambitions. If they win this battle, everything else will fall into place. I believe that a nation that relies only on the skills and labour of the men will fall behind in terms of the economy, culture and science.
What is your favourite part of your job?
The part when I present all this hard work and great commitment – from raw materials to the final product. Also, when I make big deals and agreements with large companies. Each of these is a small step towards a bright future.
It's hard to beat a person who never gives up. Great will, persistence and positive thinking will get you everywhere in life.