Interview with Marija Burgieva-Co-Founder of O-Krug and our RISE and shine star image

Interview with Marija Burgieva-Co-Founder of O-Krug and our RISE and shine star

Being young and bold is something that ARNO specifically targets in the outreach programs. In a country were people have predominant mindset of “this can’t be done here” surprises come with double worth and serve as encouragement to everyone- especially to youngsters who need motivation, support and belief in their ideas.  ARNO is the local incubator that for the second year (since 2019) implements  the RISE project (Regional Incubator for Social Entrepreneurs). The RISE project serves as a space, as a platform that brings lot of knowledge, young people and partners together.  One can simply not be amazed by the RISERs that are developing their ideas within programs for ideation and incubation, and moreover one can not not be impressed by the ambitions and “no quit attitude” these young people have. This is the case of Marija and her team. The team of ARNO witnessed their growth and how they absorbed the learning points. This team of young people managed to reach to the regional competition “Balkan Green Ideas” and to come back home with an financial award. ARNO runs the national competition for 7 times in a row, and can’t hold the feelings of proudness. Read the interview with Marija Burgieva below.

ARNO: Marija, congrats for the award, seems like you and your team made it and you are now with one foot in the world of social business. What is now your definition for the circular revolution? What is your green idea and who is O-Krug? How would you describe your team and motivation? What drives you forward?

MB: The circular revolution was created for us to have somewhat of a North Star on our journey. The idea was for us to succeed and serve as a role model to create a ripple effect and initiate circular thinking as a way to ensure sustainability. So, our first initiative – O-Krug, uses this circular model and upcycles orange peel waste and converts it into a line of products like orange essential oil and a natural air freshener, while also fighting for lowering the youth unemployability rate, with a focus to employ marginalized youth. To further practice the circular design, our final waste will be transported to a composting site of another circular social business Mamaorgana, creating the basis of a circular social business network. The team behind O-Krug is a group of young people who want to be a part of the solution instead of the problem, having Marija, Marko and Matea as the 3 musketeers surrounded by a growing army of volunteers and supporters. In our everyday lives we are highly aware and conscious of our waste footprint, and this is exactly what drives us every day to lower it in every way possible, providing innovative solutions to these local and global problems.

ARNO: Why orange peel? Why switching to natural air fresheners and aromatic oils? Can you explain to all the people reading this about the benefits of your products?

MB: The idea for O-Krug was born on a Sunday afternoon in our city park in Skopje, where we saw crates and crates filled with citrus waste from the fresh orange juice drank that day. Living in a family where food waste is the word of the day, every day, I became aware of the harm these peels do when left untreated, while hiding potential waiting to be squeezed out. The natural oil from the peels is the purest form of essential oil, having therapeutic and antibacterial properties, while the natural air freshener which is a hydrolate of the oil and distilled water, is a natural and safe alternative for the toxic chemical fresheners on the marke, without leaving a co2 footprint.

ARNO: Tell us a bit more about the process: how did it all start? What were the milestones, the biggest learning? How did you benefit from the programs for ideation? What did RISE mean to you?

MB: Our journey started with the idea generation process back in 2020, following up with the process of educating ourselves and accelerating the idea into a real sustainable business model. The programs for ideation set the core for what we have built today. And we have RISE to thank for that, because without the call for application, the idea for O-Krug might have never been put into motion in practice. RISE provided us with the basis for our business, and even though we didn’t journey on to regionals, having the basis helped us develop an awarded business model. Today, we have secured a facility for our offices and production site, registered a legal entity, and won the competitions: Social Impact Award and Balkan Green Ideas, awarding us the seeding fund to start production and put the theory into practice.

 

Adrian Delaby, GROUPE SOS PULSE (RISE Project Coordinator), Marija Burgieva (O-krug), Irina Janevska (ARNO)

 

ARNO: Marija you came back home with an award from the Balkan Green Ideas Competition. How is this award important to you and close to your heart? What does it mean for the future of O-Krug?

MB: The awards, as I mentioned, are crucial at this point of our journey as it will help us secure our much needed equipment and cover the basic expenses to start production and sales. This means that in the near future O-Krug will produce the first batch of oils, and start selling our products and start generating income, getting us closer and closer to a fully functioning sustainable business.

ARNO: How is your idea both social and green business? Where did you find the inspiration to put accent both of the social and environmental mission? Is it something authentic? Is it personal?MB: O-Krug is a social business as it is a business that will employ young people, focusing on young people from marginalized categories as well as bettering the wellbeing of the community and giving back. It is a green business as it is a circular business that will convert bio waste that if left untreated will pollute the air by releasing greenhouse gases and the soil by releasing toxic oils that harm the soil and plant life. The inspiration to have a merge of social and green comes first of all from the family business Mamaorgna, which is also a circular social startup, as well as its personal. Coming from a single parent family, I, myself am a marginalized young person having first hand experience of the lesser opportunities for marginalized youth, and as of the green point, living in a household where composting, recycling, upcycling and reuse are core values, you can not not think green and search for green innovative solutions to everyday environmental problems.

 

Ivona Krstevska, Testimonial

 

ARNO: Tell us something funny, story or anecdote from all this time of ideation.

MB: So, I have a story about Murphy’s law. The biggest opportunity O-Krug could ever have, up to this point, was winning the regional Balkan Green Ideas, as it would mean enough funds to start actually working. So in order to ensure we present ourselves in the best light possible, we put effort and invested time, money, and kitchen equipment to produce a batch of prototypes to give to the jury and participants to experience and smell. So, 2 weeks of effort and feeling drunk from breathing in alcohol fumes, we had it ready and off to Serbia. We reached the hotel and due to the oil being in the fresh state it had to be kept at high temperatures, so the hotel room’s radiator was the best option. The following day I had an economics exam, so I left the place where the competition was held, to go to the hotel and be quizzed online. As we walked into the hotel we talked about how we hate the artificial and chemical smells of the hotel fresheners, and you could say the walls had ears. So we walk into our rooms and my next door neighbour says “oh the beds are made, the maid must have been here”, and I choke. I knew, in my gut, that something had happened to my oil. So I immediately run to the radiator and see that the oil is gone. With 15 mins to spare, I grab my friend and run to the reception to look for the oil. We find out that it is impossible to get it back as the maid poured the oil down the drain, and with it my effort and hope. So I was stressed, had my exam, so I was even more stressed, had a restless night and the day of the competition came. I pitched and everything went well, and still believed that we could send the message of our mission even though we didn’t have the prototype. And we did. And we won.

ARNO: Tell something to the young people, an advice or a motivational boost, something that comes directly from the heart of a 20 years old future social entrepreneur.

MB: Let the words that you are young and know nothing go. Let the pessimism that comes with the idea that you come from an underdeveloped country go. Let the idea that you cannot make a change go. Just let all negative things go. And soak up all of the knowledge and experience, accept all criticism and work on yourself, your wellbeing and your development, as you are the creator of your fate. Be optimistic and do what makes YOU happy, and if making yourself happy also results in bettering the community, all the more reason to start the change.

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