The story behind Moja Soba is not your typical business chronicle because it’s also my life story. My name is Hana Juric and I am a Croatian visual artist. I grew up in Belisce, a small town in the region of Slavonija, where there’s not much happening culturally, but the beautiful nature, many rivers and forests make up for it. I have been immersed in art since high school, where I studied to become a sculpture designer. I continued my art education in the city of Osijek and in 2014 I completed my Master’s degree in Education in Fine Arts. The Education part of my degree title was of no interest to me so instead of teaching I moved across the world to Canada and started working night shifts at a bakery. It’s a funny story which didn’t last for too long, but I continued to find different day jobs over the years, as well as travel the world in search of inspiration. Doing so I never quit creating art. It was not an easy existence but crucial in following my path as an artist. I have seen so many independent art galleries and artists’ run centers which I couldn’t find back home in Croatia and it was a bittersweet experience. Inspiring but at the same time frustrating, it made me painfully aware of the shortcomings of the Croatian cultural landscape.
I was living in Lisbon, Portugal with my long-term partner when she got a great business opportunity which involved moving back to Croatia. We moved to Zadar, on the Adriatic Sea, and I won’t lie – it was a struggle for me. Again, beautiful nature, but not much happening culturally. Zadar is quite notorious for the lack of cultural infrastructure and for the corruption of that little part that actually exists. It wasn’t easy, but I continued to create art. Zadar became my base and I started to enjoy my creative bubble. Time passed by and I quit looking outside for inspiration. In 2019, we moved to Austria for a while. We were living in Graz and right under our apartment there was a beautiful gallery walk. Small spaces, designer outlets and completely different, exciting art styles. It was a wake-up call for me and I realized I needed to become much more proactive in my own environment.
“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Summer of 2019 was a time for action. I made a definite decision – instead of waiting for somebody else to do it, I was going to start my own art gallery in Zadar! It was not just an art gallery in my mind – it was everything I was not getting from the city I was living in. I have already decided on a name – the direct translation of “Moja Soba” is My Room, and it was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s classic A Room Of One’s Own.
It may all sound very romantic and it was nice to fantasize, but here come some hard facts –
I have no formal education in business and except for being an avid fan of Shark Tank, I had no idea what I was doing. But I was so motivated to learn that I made it all work in one single month. I haven’t slept at all – but I managed to write a business plan that got me a really nice grant for small businesses. The grant was sufficient to financially get me through the whole year, and that was simply amazing. I dealt with an unbelievable amount of Croatian paperwork and survived. I managed to find a very small but cute space in the center of the city and with a little help of my friends, we made it work.
It was so silly, I remember ordering brown paper bags with the gallery logo, and the moment they arrived was the moment I realized it was all real.
It is not easy, being a full-time artist and running a business. It’s really all about time management and discipline, but I will write about that in another post. Here I want to say something about my business plans. Moja Soba is a commercial art gallery and a concept store. The focus is on developing artist products and creating artists-designer collaborations. I’m selling my own works but intend to feature many local artists as well. I would also like to inspire and help educate other local artists to start their own businesses. Zadar is perfect for this type of venue – it’s a tourist city and it’s hungry for some contemporary art! Everything in Moja Soba is produced locally and that is one of the backbone ideas of my business. It is a slow-paced production – and quality is always above quantity. I’m trying not to set my prices too crazy, but they also have to make sense and allow me to further grow my business.
Moja Soba celebrated its first birthday in June. It was an amazing year and everything you can wish for in the first year of business. I met amazing people and created so many plans, but unfortunately the whole COVID-19 situation kicked in. This is not the part where I cry about it because I really managed to adapt and remain standing on my own two feet. The physical place of the gallery is temporarily closed but I haven’t lost my business, not legally and not permanently. I have created new plans, and while I’m preparing to re-open Moja Soba gallery space, let’s hang out here!
Don’t hesitate to say hello or ask me anything! I will feature many exciting stories, recommendations and artists profiles and I can’t wait to share it all with you on my blog.