How a unique idea of a young lady from North Macedonia turned out to be a full success.
I am a 27-year-old female entrepreneur and founder of three companies two in North Macedonia and one in United Kingdom. My companies specialize in development of innovative technological processes in the food and beverage industry, which will bring added values to targeted customers and have positive environmental impact.
My first company Matryoshka was founded 5 years ago and specializes in production of wine ice-cream (we named it WICE). Although the idea of combining wine and ice-cream seems attractive, the process is highly complex. The main reason is because of the difference in the freezing points, namely the freezing point of wine can reach up to -18℃, while ice-cream freezes at 0℃.
I got obsessed with the idea of creating wine ice-cream when I was at my final year at university in London. Back then I was doing my bachelor’s degree in Finance and Entrepreneurship and I already had a job offer in the finance sector. However, I’ve always been passionate about the food industry and creating new products so when I got to the idea about wine ice-cream, I googled it and realized that there was nothing similar available on the market. The only wine ice-cream developed until then was “infused” wine ice-cream where the taste and smell of the wine are kept inside the ice-cream but most of the alcohol content has actually evaporated.
I believed that if I manage to develop an ice-cream that actually maintains the alcohol content inside, it will have the potential to disrupt the ice-cream industry, and create new form of wine consumption. In 2017 I pursued my MSc at The University of Warwick, with specialization in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It was there where I managed to validate proof of concept and soon enough, we were testing the ice-cream around campus and winning competitions.
After my Master’s degree I decided to move back to N. Macedonia and build the production line here. In 2018 I managed to win my first grant from Fund of Innovations and Technological Development that represented the stepping stone for getting WICE to pre-commercialization stage. At this point we made one cup of 180ml WICE that could have equivalent effect as drinking a glass of wine. Since 2018 the start-up ecosystem in North Macedonia started to strongly develop. There were many new opportunities for SMEs, among which accelerators that offered investment. In 2020 I got my first round of investment from X-Factor Accelerator that helped me to build a full manufacturing line for wine ice-cream production. In the same year I opened a subsidiary company in the UK, as a result of getting interest from large supermarket chain for selling WICE in England. We also expect to start selling WICE in Tinex in February 2022.
My other company, WISE Group, was founded by accident and I never planned for this product to reach this far. In 2019 I was visiting one local winery in N. Macedonia and discovered the grape pomace. I was shocked to see the large amounts of grape pomace that are being thrown in landfills. I took a small sample in order to place it in the wine ice-cream. After getting the results I realized that the grape pomace is very rich in antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins – all very beneficial for humans’ health. Few months later we developed the multifunctional grape pomace additive. This additive has the role of dietary fiber, antioxidant and natural food coloring ingredient and is planned to be sold to food manufacturers. At the moment these food manufacturers use three different additives in order to get these characteristics in their final product, while the WISE additive will represent a single product with 3 functionalities, offered at cost-effective price.
Our goal for next year is to reach commercialization phase of both products and moreover become an international brand, while at the same time maintain sustainable development, as we only have one planet and everyone should take their part in protecting it.
Sofija Daceva, CEO of “Matryoshka”