EU PRO Programme funded by the European Union and the Republic of Serbia
  • Republic of Serbia

Lebane, 14 May 2021

Nature and its power as recipe for successful business

Bojan Ilić, an entrepreneur from Lebane, tells how the love for plants combined with a good business idea has become a successful business. The family enterprise Deverra Farm, which produces herbal pharmaceuticals, recognised the potential for processing medicinal mountain herbs in southern Serbia, and with the financial support of the European Union, it managed to improve the production process and quality of its products.

Although Bojan graduated in economics, his love for plants and nature of Serbia has existed since childhood. Together with his father, who has extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry, he aspired to start a family business that will deal with the processing of medicinal plants and the production of natural pharmaceutical products. "The idea for this family business existed for 20 years. We had a clear vision and a great desire to provide consumers with products that nature itself prescribes, we just waited for the conditions to start production", says Bojan. Deverra Farm, founded in 2016, is engaged in storage, drying and processing of raw materials for the tea industry, production of spices, pure essential oil, plant extracts, fruit and vegetable extracts.

"We decided to buy an old plant in Lebane, at the foot of Mount Radan, and start the processes for extraction and distillation in Serbia. With the closure of pharmaceutical factories in this part of the country, a large number of professional staff lost their jobs, and for that very reason we wanted to develop this area and employ people, but also to use natural mountain resources. Natural products have become increasingly popular, and our country is rich in medicinal herbs that are excellent for the production of medicinal pharmaceutical products," says Bojan. "In 2018 we applied for the public call of the EU PRO programme offering the EU grants for entrepreneurs and enterprises. We already had a clearly defined business plan and knews what equipment we needed. After  we attended the info-session we were pretty sure that our project meets the requirements and criteria for this type of support.

Thanks to the EU donation, we managed to improve the production process, automatized plant automation and market even higher quality products.  "With the purchase of new laboratory equipment, standardization of quality and far greater precision was achieved, which could not be realised by using old machines. "People often think that automation reduces the number of employees, but that was not the case with us. Since 2018, we have hired ten people, more than we initially planned. That is the best indicator for us that we are on the right path and that we should continue to develop our vision. "

This family business is slowly developing into a serious company that occupies a significant place in the domestic and foreign markets as they have been already exporting to Qatar and Canada. The plan is to employ new workers, continuously invest in equipment while improving quality and expanding the product range.

Deverra Farm, as a socially responsible enterprise, organised workshops to spread knowledge about the storage and proper collection of medicinal herbs among the local population in Lebane. "We would like to see this town revive, people start working and recognize the potential of the medicinal plants they have in their surroundings. "The workshops gathered more than 40 participants who expanded their knowledge during presentations given by faculty professors, and all participants received a brochure with instructions on the proper use of plants. In addition, we donated our products to hospitals, gerontology centres, football clubs and all those we saw as part of our -Deverra Farm story ", Bojan Ilić concludes his story.

The European Union, in cooperation with the Ministry of European Integration, supported over 200 micro and small enterprises and entrepreneurs with more than 4.3 million Euros through the EU PRO programme. The funds were used for the purchase of new equipment that help the enterprises to improve production and competitiveness and create new jobs.

Through the activities of the EU PRO programme, the European Union contributes to the more balanced socio-economic development of Serbia with a total of 25 million Euros. The programme aims to contribute to increasing the competitiveness of micro and small enterprises, improving the business environment and strengthening social cohesion in 99 local self-government units, in two regions: the Region of Šumadija and Western Serbia and the Region of Southern and Eastern Serbia. The activities in the field are implemented by UNOPS.