Interview with Emília Tomljenović, founder of the artisan bakery KRUH and graduate (not only) of our Authentic Leadership programs

Martina Veiglova
Interview with Martina Veiglova-Mamuti, a graduate of the Journey to Self program and the founder of SportStudyUSA
7. September 2023

Dear Milka, thank you for accepting our invitation and deciding to share your story. We are glad that we had the opportunity to be part of your journey.

When we first met in the Authentic Leadership program in 2016, you were in the leadership of a successful family company specializing in construction materials. What journey led you to the establishment of the artisan bakery Kruh?

Since completing the AL program, my journey to the artisan bakery took several years. I had made a fundamental decision – I left the family company, dedicated time to myself, slowed down, and observed both myself and the market. The concept of this project was outlined by my husband, who had been following the trend of artisan bakeries and who remains an important part of Kruh to this day. I became interested in this topic, visited bakeries in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, did online research, met up with people, and consulted. I had completed a retraining course in baking, passed the trade exam, and worked several night shifts. Gradually, my enthusiasm for this craft was growing, along with my vision for the business. I wanted to create a company where both my colleagues and I would feel good and which would bring added value to society.

Why a bakery? Did you consider other forms of business?

In the past, I've been involved in various projects – I arranged flowers, led pilates classes, at times I envisioned myself as a coffee shop owner, and even considered a stroller rental service. However, only the bakery encapsulated much of what I wanted for my project – a focus on production, a creative environment, community, dailiness, and economic purpose.

In a short time, Kruh has become a legend in Bratislava. Do you perceive it the same way? What do you attribute this success to?

From the preparatory phase, we have been working with the company Calder Design Community, which created our corporate identity.

The task was to create a business for bread lovers, a place where neighbours could meet. And that's what we've been sticking to ever since. I feel like we don't cling to success, but rather to mutual satisfaction, cooperation, and quality – and from that, success has emerged. The whole project is based on authentic relationships and humility. In collaboration with the LeadIN center, we have defined our corporate values, goals, and visions, and we continue to actively work on the authentic growth of the company and the improvement of our processes and products.

What do you enjoy most about managing a bakery and what helps you overcome the challenges that come your way?

What I enjoy most is creating and maintaining an environment of abundance in every aspect. It's amazing to see the process of creating a new product all the way to its launch on the market and the subsequent feedback from our customers. I enjoy forming new partnerships. As for the challenges, I embrace them as opportunities and overcome them with the help of quality relationships and time.

I admire how you've been working on your personal growth for years and that you also give this opportunity to your team. I'm very pleased and grateful that our paths have been intertwined for several years now. Which things that you've learned in our programs and individual sessions do you utilize the most in your life?

I draw from the programs and our meetings, and I also revisit them. They have helped me accept myself, with the Star talent profile, as a great enthusiast and advocate. At the same time, I have learned to surround myself with other complementing talent profiles that my position requires. I'm learning to respect them, to listen to them. The program has helped me rid myself of various stereotypes, and I've also met interesting ladies there. It was definitely one of the best investments in myself.

You have a fast-paced lifestyle, what is the source of your motivation to keep going? What drives you forward?

My work is my passion. My husband is Croatian and I've always been fascinated by the fact that when a Croatian wants to ask about your job, in translation they say: "What are you entertaining yourself with?" I'm somewhat like that too. Work has to excite me, enrich me, and move me forward personally and socially.

I perceive you as a woman who enjoys new challenges and needs inspiration, which requires a lot of time and energy. How do you maintain balance in your life?

I live by what I do. Therefore, I perceive some work-related matters as natural. Over time I realized that I need to spend quality time with my daughters and husband, as well as get enough sleep and exercise. But I still lack meet-ups with friends.

What are your plans, goals, and visions for the future?

At Kruh, we feel that our bakery brings joy, satisfaction, and inspiration. We are considering what steps to take next to reach an even larger number of customers. I love the excitement in the preparation and creation phase of a project, the implementation of processes, and the definition of structure. I dare to lead the expansion of the business. What I do not see myself in is the long-term leadership of the company.

Think of three people who have inspired you in life and try to explain why.

I've realised that I look up to everyday heroes. I admire people who have a vision and pursue it despite all the "no, it can't be done, it's not possible" standing in their way. This includes my husband, father, and my colleagues. I seek out female entrepreneurs and support small projects. I enthusiastically listen to my beautician, hairdresser, or joyful customer who shares her story with us. I love this energy and draw from it. I consider myself a very perceptive person. I'm at a point where a polite bin worker can inspire me. This nourishes me. As for inspiration in finding self-love, it's Evka Štefánková from LeadIN center. The process of being with love and in love with oneself and others is one of the most challenging ones for me. So definitely, Evka.

What would you say to your 18-year-old self if you could meet her now?

You know, I'm now fulfilling the dreams that I've been carrying with me since childhood. They didn't have a clear name like "artisan bakery," but there was a desire for community, enthusiasm, creation... So I would definitely tell my younger self: "Listen to yourself, support yourself, and do it with love".

We often discuss with clients the meaning of their lives, could you tell us what is the purpose of yours?

To create happy and conscious partnerships. To be my own support.

– 17 april 2024 –