As the owner and director of company “D Express”, which represents a leader in courier services in Serbia, Ljiljana Karaklajić is the only female owner of a courier service in Europe, and she currently employs 1,105 workers and boasts more than 19,000 registered clients. Although many doubted the potential of this work, Ljiljana showed the opposite to be the case, and this is the most common disrupting principle when it comes to female entrepreneurship – doubts and a lack of support from the community
I’ve been connected to postal services since my teenage days when I attended the PTT school. As a young woman at the beginning of my career, it meant a lot to me that I took my first steps in business at public enterprise PTT Srbija specifically. Alongside learning and progressing, I advanced to managerial posts of big post offices and there spent the first 20 years of my career.
After so many years, the time came to take a risk and transition to the private sector, where – together with the then owners of the company to which I’d moved to work for – I became a pioneer in express parcel deliveries, as the director of the first private postal operator. Many then doubted the profitability of the courier service and asked me why I needed that, but I didn’t give it a second thought.
Of the five workers we then had, myself included, over five years we grew into a successful company with just over 500 employees. A planned sequence of circumstances led to this company being sold to a foreign company, and I decided – encouraged by the initiative of the employees – to take the greatest risk in my career to date. I left my managerial position in what was by then a foreign company and in 2009 set up my courier delivery service – Daily Express. The great world crisis was then at its peak, so again many asked me “where are you going now?”. I was given a wind in my sails by the 165 workers who joined me in this new business venture.
As we approach the tenth anniversary of our operations, I can’t help but look back at how much we’ve achieved in the meantime – D Express today boasts over 1,100 employees, has services covering the territory of Serbia and is taking its first steps on the international market
As we approach the tenth anniversary of our operations, I can’t help but look back at how much we’ve achieved in the meantime – D Express today boasts over 1,100 employees, has services covering the territory of Serbia and is taking its first steps on the international market. We’re the owners of a modern logistics centre with an automatic sorter for shipments that no other courier service in this part of the Balkans has, and when it comes to IT infrastructure we can be the envy of great world players. We have over 600 of our own vehicles and serve more than 20,000 customers. I’m grateful to my employees, who accompany me on this journey and help me to more easily manage what I can freely refer to as ‘the machinery’.
I was declared Entrepreneur of the Year for 2014, in the category of fast-growing enterprises; Woman Dragon of 2012 and Woman Dragon Above Dragons, which I received recently and which is particularly dear to me, because I was declared the best of the best among fantastic women entrepreneurs. There is also the award for the top logistics project of 2017, awarded by the Serbian Logistics Association, and the ‘Planeta Biznis’ recognition, awarded for my significant contribution to the development of entrepreneurship in Serbia. There were also others, and they really brought me unexpected satisfaction and a sense of pride.
I have great plans for the future and even higher expectations, and that compels me towards advancement. And when I’m asked what my advice would be for those launching a private business, I advise them to have great expectations of themselves and not to pay attention to those who fear for them.