We had the good fortune of connecting with Emina Pelja and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emina, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
My entire background stems from the Balkans, a region in Eastern Europe that has gone through its fair share of struggles within the past twenty years. The majority of my family is from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and my parents came to the United States as refugees of war in 1994. They didn’t know any English, had nothing but the clothes on their backs, but they were determined to create a better life for themselves in a brand new country. Not many people can say that their parents survived genocide, but it’s something that I’ll never forget. The importance of hard work and perseverance was instilled in me at a very young age — everything that I did, whether it be school or sports, I did to make my parents proud. In any immigrant kid, there will always be this underlying guilt to prove yourself, to show that your parents didn’t go through all of those struggles to get here for nothing. While I grew up speaking Bosnian (it was actually my first language) and partaking in all kinds of cultural traditions, it was not until recently that I decided to continue carrying on my parents’ legacy by starting this clothing brand.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Balkan Bred is an apparel brand dedicated to preserving the Balkan culture by connecting the diaspora worldwide through clothing and storytelling. Our mission is to make sure that every nationality from the region is represented in one way or another — our Coordinates Collection is probably the most popular collection, we currently have over 100 cities to choose from on our website. We want everyone to have a little piece of home wherever they go, so no matter how big or how small your hometown is, we’ll print it on a shirt. We pride ourselves in being inclusive, which can be a hard pill to swallow for some, given all of the deep-rooted history in the region, but if we don’t begin to move forward, then we run the risk of paving a bumpy road for future generations. There have definitely been a number of challenges, but nothing’s impossible without a little bit of research and trial and error. Making mistakes is completely inevitable and the moment I realized that I was able to accomplish so much more. As time goes on, you learn how to take calculated risks and instead of being upset when something doesn’t work out, your mindset starts to shift toward, “How can I make this better? What’s the next step to reaching a solution?” Whenever I start to get inside my own head about something, I always remind myself of this: business is actually really simple. You’re just solving a problem for someone by providing them with a solution. That’s it. Don’t overcomplicate it.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh gosh, it seems like there’s something new opening up every single weekend in Atlanta. I could probably write an entire month itinerary with all of the amazing spots we have, but I’ll try to keep it short for the sake of this post. For brunch, I’d definitely start with a hot chicken biscuit at Cultivate off of Howell Mill, or if you’re in East Atlanta, Muchacho is also one of my favorites (you gotta try the breakfast tacos). Jackson Street Bridge may seem a bit overrated as it’s basically where every Atlanta photographer’s journey starts, but it’s a must for a nice cityscape view of the city. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, grabbing ice cream from Jeni’s is a must. We also have a ton of markets and food halls here, PCM is the biggest, but don’t sleep on Krog Street or Sweet Auburn. Midnight cravings are the best at Intermezzo, where there’s literally every kind of cake to choose from. As for outdoor activities, I’ve been doing outdoor yoga at Old Fourth Ward park for the past four years (now on hold because of COVID), but it’s a great little spot next to the Belt Line. If it’s nice weather, I’d say grab a bike and ride through Piedmont Park. OH, and United. You HAVE to go to an Atlanta United Game. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to my dad, Zlatan, who passed away unexpectedly almost three years ago. I remember starting my business in March of 2018 and then getting a call only two months later that he’d had a heart attack while playing soccer. While it would have been easy to throw all of this away (especially in the beginning), I chose to channel my grief into this business because I knew that he would’ve wanted me to keep going. After sharing his story with the world, I’ve been amazed at how much vulnerability can have an impact on connecting people all around the world.
Other: Podcast: https://anchor.fm/balkanbred
Minela Sejdin Benjamin Selimotic Ajla Ahmetovic