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The Englishman Aiming to ‘Open’ Up Opportunities in Croatia

panoreelThere is at least one industry in Croatia that is not in any danger of going bust anytime soon – the beer industry. Whilst Croatians don’t mind a drop of the amber liquid, those beer bottles need opening, and an expat Englishman has come up with a handcrafted solution…

Wanting a change of scene from the normal daily grind in the UK, Steve Henderson packed up over two years ago and headed for Donja Batina, a tiny rural village nestled high in the rolling hills of Zagorje, Croatia. A photographer and designer by trade and with not a lot of employment opportunities in the hills of Zagorje, Henderson has decided to start his own business.

From his studio and basement workshop, he has been busy designing and creating an exclusive product for the Croatian market – a luxury beechwood beer bottle opener.

The product is created from seasoned beechwood planks sourced from his traditional brick barn. It has been designed to be very tactile, with a modern smooth finish, but very secure in the hand. It features gentle curves on the main wood component faces and the familiar rounded edges found on modern mobile devices. From selecting the initial beechwood planks to completion of the product takes many hours. Henderson uses a combination of powered and simple hand tools to achieve the best possible result from the elegant design.

“Exclusively for clients in the Croatian market, I am delivering this product without first asking for any payment,” says Henderson, who hopes to create a positive story about Croatia with his business.

“Of course delivering a product without first asking for payment is an extremely risky strategy to me personally. But I have decided to emphasize this aspect (using the hashtags on social media and advertising clients/customers on special web page). The aim is to create a positive story about Croatia; how a little business can begin and grow through mutual trust… It is very ethical and sustainable; source wood is metres from the workshop and when that depletes, I shall use local certified sources. My dream would be to see the business grow, produce other products and accessories and employ local crafts people that can both contribute to design and production,” he told Croatia Week.

So how has the move from the hustle and bustle of the UK to a tiny rural village in Zagorje been?

“Well the little village here is totally different from almost any existence in the UK. Families are living off the land and rearing their own animals, driving around on tractors and dependent on drinking water from the local well, (myself included). There is actually no mains supply here either, so rainwater is harvested for all other needs except drinking.. So it is even basic living by Croatian standards,” Steve said, adding that there are both positives and negatives with life in Donja Batina.

“The positive differences are summer weather, scenery and lovely nature on my doorstep, lack of congestion on the roads. And of course the beautiful coast that I hope to visit again someday. The negatives are the economy, bureaucracy, inefficient administration and systems, lack of drive towards progress.”

So how can people interested in picking up their own beer bottle opener go about it?

“It is so simple to order by filling in the form at www.panoreel.com. No payment until you receive.. Each bottle opener is individually handcrafted and is a real pleasure to use. It is very tactile and you will find yourself picking it up just to hold. Your only problem is to find a bottle of beer to open!”

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