Hundred and forty workers at Minex's production facilities in Vranje and Vladicin Han annually produce parts for 150,000-200,000 pairs of shoes for women, men and children. After making footwear parts for famous Italian companies for fifteen years, people at Vranje-based Minex have decided that it is the right time for them to launch their own brand. Guided by rich experience in work on state-of-the-arts marchines, they believe that men's shoes made in their factories can find their way to buyers in Serbia, as well as to those in Russia and Poland.
- Our aim is to complete the men's footwear production process in the following period. We should soon find a foreign partner to co-invest in the production. We have enough experience and capacity to create our own brand that would develop with time – Zoran Stoilkovic, owner of Minex, says in a talk with eKapija.
Minex has already presented its collection of men's shoes at trade fairs, and that footwear is now available in stores in Belgrade, Nis, Pancevo, etc.
Shoe makers from Vranje were famous all around the world when Kostana had 2,000 workers and produced 30,000 pairs of shoes a day.
- After Kostana fell apart, ten companies were formed, each employing between 100 and 150 workers. In addition, there are another fifty companies or so in our region, with ten workers each. Shoe makers in the Pcinj region employ about 2,000 workers. After acting individually for a while, we have formed an association with a great support of the USAID. Fourteen companies have formed the cluster Kostana Shoes Vranje, so that we now act together – Stoilkovic points out.
Our interlocutor announces the cluster's participation in trade fairs in Russia and Italy, adding that they have made a number of contacts at the fair in Dusseldorf.
- Operations through a cluster will make us more competitive. Many companies at the fair in Germany were interested in working with our association. We are close to that market and can compete with companies from the Far East. Our aim is to get a contract from German partners because a cooperation with them promises security and higher prices, and it seems to me that we can meet their requirements.
Fifteen years of successful operations with Italians
After working for 14 years as a manager at Kostana, Zoran Stoilkovic decided in 1997 to start its own business and hire 20 workers for start.
- Since I was short of money, I did not start the production of footwear because it would have required an investment not only in the production, but also in the brand development. Therefore, we first made parts for children's footwear for the company Kiko and then worked for Carmens for two or three years afterwards.
When Minex increased the number of workers to 80 in 2002, they have entered into an agreement with the famous Italian company Nero Giardini.
- We've been making shoe uppers for that company for ten years. When a crisis came in 2008, we had to discontinue production. The company was out of work for two months because Nero Giardini stopped placing orders, thus creating huge expenditures for our company. Then I came to an idea to either introduce the third shift or open a new factory to work for another buyer because a cooperation with two partners would increase our chances to stay in the business. I learned from a talk with the mayor of Vladicin Han that there were many unemploed persons in that municipality and decided to open a factory there. Since we are an export-oriented company, we received incentives from the Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SIEPA) for hiring 50 workers.
Minex invested EUR 350,000 in the factory in Vladicin Han. At the start of the production in March 2011, they were making footwear parts for domestic buyers only, while the production of shoe uppers for the Italian brand Moschino commenced as early as April.
- Han does not have enough experts in this field, so that we had to send people of other professions to a six-month training. Moschino is highly demanding, so that the first five or six months of work for them was quite difficult, but we managed to finish the season without some problems with deadlines and quality - says our interlocutor.
Now they produce shoe uppers for Moschino in one season and then for Naturino in the next season.
Stoilkovic explains that footwear cannot be marked "made in Italy" if bottom parts are made outside that country.
- Anything that is part of the sole must be made in Italy, which is why we produce only uppers, for which we get all raw materials from Italy – says Stoilkovic.
The two factories of Minex daily produce between 600 and 700 pairs of shoes for children, women and men, that is, shoe uppers.
If you decide to buy Moschino shoes, remember that it is most likely that their "better half" was made in the south of Serbia.