Silvan Cosmetics – The Natural, Handcrafted Cosmetics Packed In Eco-packaging With Seeds Of Wildflowers In It

  • Published on:
    September 3, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    9 minutes
Meet Croatia's Female Entrepreneurs: Jelena Bikić and Silvan Cosmetics

From the very beginning, Jelena Bikić, envisioned a brand that will not only promote high-quality skincare routine, but that will also be “a cosmetics with a story”. Silvan’s mission is not only to provide customers with high-quality skincare products, but also to welcome them into a remarkable story, told through our biodegradable packaging embedded with a colorful variety of wildflower seeds. The packaging designs are inspired by the prehistoric tribal art of the Illyrian people, whose god of wild nature, forests and pastures was called Silvan.

Who’s Jelena? 

Jelena Bikić(29) one of the extraordinary ambitious women from Croatia graduated from the University of Humanities and Social Sciences with a dual Master’s degree – in Art History and in English Language and Literature. Jelena Bikić( worked as an English teacher for a couple of years – first as a trainee teacher in a primary school and afterwards as on online English teacher with kids from China. It proved somewhat hard to find a long-term job in Croatia at the time so Jelena decided it’s a perfect opportunity for her to try to create her own business, and Jelena decided to create this business out of what was at the time her hobby – soap making. 

The Silvan story

The story is told through the design and through the very nature of our package.  The package is made of biodegradable paper in which seeds of different types of meadow flowers are incorporated. You can plant the whole package. The idea was to bring a touch of nature to the corner of everybody’s home. Silvan is primarily focused on promoting a sustainable, zero waste and eco-friendly way of life, but there is also a symbolism hidden within the design that tells a story of rich cultural heritage going back to prehistoric times. The very name of the brand – Silvan, was inspired by the ancient deity that was celebrated as a protector of wild nature, forests and pastures. It was a very nice link in which Jelena and her team found great inspiration for their work. Also, motifs of the geometric prehistoric art of the Illyrians were an inspiration for motifs on the packages of BLACK & PURE and SEA NYMPH soap, while the package of MILK AND HONEY OF MOUNT MOSOR soap represents the modern processing of traditional motifs of folk costumes.

What inspired you to start Silvan Cosmetics?

The beginning was rather spectacular. My boyfriend and I were watching the Apprentice (British version with Lord Sugar). The contestants were given the task to create their own cosmetic product and sell it. We were fascinated by the idea – that people who knew nothing about cosmetics an hour ago were now making their own products and thinking about how to sell it. We talked for hours that night and the most bizarre idea has come to our minds – we could do that. We were always very creative so the soap making process appealed to us. We started with YouTube tutorials and after several days we order everything we need to make our first soap. Fast forward a year into the future from that point – we decided: This is it, we could do this for a living! Let’s start a business.  

This story in the background of our brand emerged as a result of my unique educational background (Master’s in Art History + necessary prequalification in order to run my own soap making business which had more to do with chemistry). I wanted to create my own future faced with the difficulty of finding a job in the field and since I always enjoyed approaching things form a different perspective – I decided to put my Art History degree to good use by making soaps or rather by telling this unique story of our heritage. 

How did you learn to make these 100% natural handmade cosmetics?

It all started as a hobby. When I decided to make a business out of it first I had to do some research in order to find out what it takes to run a business like that in my country. There were several requirements, most important of which were: I had to have an appropriate education in the field and I had to have a proper place for manufacturing. It took me a year and a half to get everything done: necessary prequalification and adaptation of a space where production would be happening. We didn’t start from a garage but we did start form my father’s tool room. It was an only room in our family house that had a separate entrance (which was one of the legal requirements) so my father got eviction notice and we started with the big transformation. The whole family and a bunch of friends helped: tearing down the old walls, building the new ones – what was once unsightly tool room it is now a proper laboratory in which the Vogue-recognized brand is created. 

Turning that into a business, have you always been entrepreneurial? 

I would say so. I believe you need to take chances – and risk it in order for great things to happen. Of course these risks need to be calculated as precisely as possible but the bottom line is – happiness follows the brave. 

What are your Silvan Cosmetics goals currently?

Right now we are focused on the internationalization of our business. We currently have a few partners abroad and we are looking to expand our presence – first in Europe and then, hopefully worldwide. Exposure in Vogue contributed a great deal to this goal.  

Obviously, the packaging of Silvan Cosmetics makes your brand unique, but how does it work? 

It’s a packaging made out of seed paper which is a special kind of biodegradable paper with seeds in it. The idea is to plant the whole packaging: the paper disintegrates as you water it and the seeds grow into beautiful meadow flowers. It was a cherry on top of our brand’s story since the Silvan was god of wild nature. 

How do you get unstuck creatively, creating all these beautiful products?

The nature is always the answer for me. When I feel stressed out, I find it crucial to spend some time in the nature – preferably by the sea. I resets me. 

Describe your customers!

Our costumer is person who is aware of the challenges the world is facing right now, and who understands that the only answer is focusing on the sustainable development. We promote that idea with our packaging. At the same time we offer a refined esthetics through the visual identity of our packing so our customer is also a person who appreciate that aspect. The niche we are going for is best described as eco-luxe.  

Tell us about your proudest achievement? 

We had an eventful year so far:

  • Silvan has been featured in British Vogue 3 months in a row – both online and in paper edition. Recognition of our brand on such a scale is indeed an honor and an achievement. Vogue is considered by many “the fashion Bible” – the most important and influential magazine brand in the world, an authority on latest trends! Its readership is more than 4million people 
  • We’ll be featured in Tatler next month (Tatler is a British magazine published by Condé Nast Publications focusing on fashion and lifestyle, as well as coverage of high society and politics. It is targeted towards the British upper-middle class and upper class, and those interested in society events);
  • We have collaborated with the Australian education platform Waste Free Planet (more than 250k followers on Instagram); there was an article about Silvan in the first edition of their online sustainability magazine; 
  • We appeared on the cover of the most read newspaper in Croatia (Slobodna Dalmacija)
  • There was a TV coverage about Silvan (as a part of the most watched national daily TV news)

What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/ disagree with? Why?

I abide by several “rules” and the two most important ones are Know your numbers and Build relationships. Both of these are form Lord Sugar’s “playbook”: “If you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know how well the business is doing or why, and you can’t lead the change/strategy it needs to be a success. It’s as simple as that.” “Never be so sure of yourself that you think you don’t need anyone else. Treat others with respect and when the time comes, that relationship will have a positive impact on your business.” 

I couldn’t agree with these sentences more. Lord Sugar’s words describe what I would call – the ultimate entrepreneur: the one that’s knowledgeable, skilled, prudent and always down to earth and respectful toward others. 

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