Building Serbian SME awareness and ability to access available financial tools and resources

Serbia’s stringent monetary and fiscal policies in the past decade have yielded notable macroeconomic results, attracting significant foreign investments and driving GDP growth. However, this has reinforced a bank-focused system, limiting microfinance options and non-IT capital market access, particularly for women and youth-led SMEs. To address this, the Big Small Businesses project is actively creating a support system to enhance SMEs’ use of financial products, with a primary focus on underserved areas.

This effort’s goal is twofold: 1) to educate as many SMEs as possible about all existing sources of finance in Serbia and 2) to advise investment-ready SMEs, support their applications, and increase their likelihood of receiving investment financing from banks, State funds, and other institutions. The Project assistance targets SMEs from food and machinery sectors in less developed and underdeveloped regions.

From March to September 2023, the Project facilitated technical assistance with six local consultants to 24 SMEs, four of them women owned. They provided awareness-raising sessions on all available sources of finance and tailored one-on-one strategic finance planning with beneficiaries, which enabled them to receive approvals for external financing for investment projects totaling $11.9 million, out of which $2.3 million was related to the green economy.

One of the successful examples of beneficiaries is the Jakešević family, which has three farms, two of which are owned by women. Agricultural farm Jakešević produces quince in an area of 5.3 ha and walnut in an area of 12.8 ha in the territory of Žabalj, one of the less developed regions in Serbia. Jakešević Farm intends to market harvested quinces in a larger volume, delivering fresh produce to buyers, considering that they can achieve a higher price. For that to happen, they needed an investment to purchase an irrigation system, a power sprayer, and a tractor to improve production.

Another successful example is Inmold, the leading Serbian company in the construction of automated injection molding machines and tools and in plastic injection molding. It is a family business founded in 2013 with headquarters in Požega, a city in western Serbia. The company is export-oriented, and its biggest buyers are companies from Germany, France, Canada, United Arab Emirates, etc. Inmold decided to invest in equipment for the production of plastic packaging tools and equipment for the production of plastic packaging.