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article imageCroatia's only female boat builder, 17, shines at DHMB 2014 Special

By Paul Bradbury     Apr 29, 2014 in World
Split - At just 17, Zorana Nevescanin is the youngest small boat builder in Croatia, as well as the only female. And very successful.
She is pretty, forthright, charming and talented, and at just 17, Croatia's only female small boat builder Zorana Nevescanin was celebrating a successful DHMB 2014 event on April 27, 2014, which resulted not only in boat sales but also a live television appearance on the national news.
Croatia has a rich shipbuilding tradition, but while there is state support for the larger shipyards which are encountering tough times due to increased competition and the economic crisis, there is no support whatsoever for the smaller boat builders. Despite this lack of support, the industry is thriving, with international sales of small Croatian-made boats finding their way to clients as far away as Cameroon and Bangladesh.
Ven 590
Ven 590
Nevescanin is one of a growing trend of young people who are continuing the family maritime tradition and starting careers in the small boat building industry, but she is the only female. Digital Journal caught up with her on the final day of yet another successful Days of Croatian Small Boat Building fair (DHMB) at Le Meridien Lav in Split.
You are 17, female and a boat builder in Croatia, which is unique. How did it happen?
My father has been building boats for 35 years. We have a family business and my Mum is also involved. He was the first to make and sell a boat, and seeing him working, well I just wanted to help. I developed a love for boat making from the age of 14-15, and that is why I am doing this today.
The VEN 501 K Vira  part of Zorana s range
The VEN 501 K Vira, part of Zorana's range
What do your friends at school think?
People think I am too young to settle into this and that I should live a little first, but I wanted to do it this way and have absolutely no regrets.
What do your fellow male boat builders think of a young female colleague?
They probably do have their opinions about someone in their industry being a female and the youngest, but their opinions do not come directly to my ears. I am sure they are saying things, but it is better for them that I do not hear them...
What are the biggest problems facing small boat builders in Croatia?
Without a doubt, the biggest problem is the lack of support from the state. We receive no assistance whatsoever, but the costs and taxes are only increasing. There are plenty of practical problems of course, but if you have the will and the desire, you can fix them. But we can do nothing about the lack of state support.
You will be 18 in a few weeks, and so are very young to be in this industry, but you are not the only one.
This is true. There are several younger boat builders now, which is a great thing. I think the reasons are that people need to find a job and are looking back to their family traditions. There is a strong maritime tradition here, and their family ties may not necessarily have been to building boats, but to the sea in general. In my case, I was very proud of my father's work, and so it was natural that I would follow him.
At just 17  Zorana Nevescanin is not only the only female small boat builder in Croatia  but also th...
At just 17, Zorana Nevescanin is not only the only female small boat builder in Croatia, but also the youngest. She is among a number of small Croatian boat builders who survive despite no State support.
You have had a great trade fair, including the quickest sale of the opening day.
Yes, I can hardly believe it! We were on the luxury Navilux yacht for the opening ceremony. Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang and someone ordered a boat from me. We met and signed the contract. Yesterday I sold a second boat. I honestly did not expect to sell anything, we were here to support this great fair and also meet contacts, colleagues and suppliers.
How important is DHMB as a fair to small boat builders such as yourself?
It is a very important part of our calendar, and it is not necessarily about selling boats, more networking and strengthening ties with other boat builders. This can be a very lonely profession, and DHMB gives us a chance to come together, exchange ideas and then cooperate. In the first year, there was not so much friendship, but things warmed up in the second, and got warmer still in the following year. This has resulted in strong links and business cooperation between boat builders, as a direct result of the initiative of this fair. The fair is very important for us to meet clients and suppliers, but just as important to cement friendships and cooperation with other boat builders.
The 6th Days of Croatian Small Boat Building took place at exclusive Hotel Meridien Lav in Split.
The 6th Days of Croatian Small Boat Building took place at exclusive Hotel Meridien Lav in Split.
You are almost 18. What are your plans?
Firstly to finish my schooling, that is very important. I would like to open a couple of nautical shops in the city, and I want to remain living in Croatia. I want a normal decent life, with no great expectations or ambitions.
There seems to be a lot of family tradition in the small boat building community.
That is very true. Father and son. Father and son. In my case, it was father and daughter. But I am not the only woman in our business. My aunt works with us, and my Mum is always around helping. In my opinion, family businesses have a better chance of surviving. They may not make the biggest profits or be the biggest businesses, but in a family business, you have to come home at night, rather than quitting a job if you are unhappy, and you are working for the family prosperity.
Do you think your example will be an inspiration to other women to start building boats?
I don't know, but I hope so. We will see in the future.
Despite government assistance for the shipbuilding industry  the small boat builders do not receive ...
Despite government assistance for the shipbuilding industry, the small boat builders do not receive any state support whatsoever.
During the interview, Zorana's aunt and mother were also at the stand. I asked her mother Blaza what she thought of it all.
"When she told me she was going to follow her father into the boat building business, I was surprised but very happy and proud. It was strange to see her in this male business, but she loves it so much, and I am very proud of her. And to see her success on television was a joy."
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