MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT Franchise pioneer in Croatia Andrija Čolak: ‘We can create another form of tourism from the franchise industry’

10 Apr

The new show Vision of Croatia, which is filmed in Zagreb and broadcast in North America, hosted Andrija Čolak, a man who, in addition to his entrepreneurial spirit, is characterized by fearlessness, an insatiable thirst for development, but also incredible self-discipline, which – as it will turn out – was key to success.

“The most important thing about success is learning to survive defeat. You have to learn to tolerate it, but never accept it,” – American basketball player Reggie Jackson once said. And as if once upon a time, back in the early 2000s, during his studies in Canada, he was heard by the pioneer of the franchise industry in Croatia, co-founder of the popular Surf’n’Fries – Andrija Čolak.

Čolak is a living example of how the trial and error method is of exceptional, if not crucial, importance in entrepreneurship. Čolak first opened a fried potato shop in Rijeka together with Denis Polić in innovative and original packaging. Over time, the Surf’n’Fries franchise expanded to more than 50 outlets in more than twenty countries around the world. Ultimately, he turned all his experiences into an additional business and became a mentor to new franchisors with a consulting company, and his Colak Franchise Consulting Group designed dozens of franchise systems for domestic companies.

‘Studying in Canada was like coming out of a cave’

In a new show broadcast on Croatian Radio New York, with host Barbara Grgić, Čolak recalled his student days in Canada, which, as he claims, were a collision of worlds for him.

“It was one of the best moves in my life. The knowledge and experience I got there was like Socrates coming out of the cave, where few could understand me when I returned home. I concluded that perhaps it is best to show everything by my own example. After arriving in Croatia, I opened my first real estate company. Back then, no one even mentioned terms like ‘start up’, and it was just a start up. In five years, the company had 12 employees, and in 2008 we were acquired and we were good enough to be bought by a foreign corporation,” recounts Čolak, emphasizing that a young man has complete freedom in life if he follows in the footsteps of entrepreneurship.

“In Croatia, we already learn the culture of cheating in elementary school”

For all this, of course, it is necessary to make radical changes starting with education itself.

“I think that one of the biggest things that Croatia needs to work on is the education system. We miss a lot of opportunities. The first thing they taught me in Canada was how to think academically. It’s about the fact that if you claim something, you must have facts behind it, that is, you must be supported by arguments. We need to change the culture of cheating. We are taught how to copy right from elementary school. In Canada, a colleague from China was kicked out of college because she didn’t put a footnote in her essay. My theory is that when we learn to cheat through school, then this is later reflected in the rest of our lives. We start to think that this is normal and that this is our modus operandi. It’s great when you’re resourceful, but not when you’re shooting yourself in the foot. The curriculum in Croatia is too extensive, so we have people who have a format, i.e. a diploma, but no content, i.e. something to offer an employer. I know what I’m about to say will be unpopular, but – when something is free, that’s when people appreciate it the least. When you pay for something, you appreciate it much more.

Of course, he also pointed out concrete steps that should be introduced into the education system.

“Sales is a key element in everything. We are financially illiterate. We go through life not knowing how the tax system and bank interest work. We should become financially literate as much as possible. If we put those two steps into education, we will realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch. It is still believed that some things fall from the sky”, says Čolak and concludes that he would not have been aware of anything if he had not left Croatia at one point.

“Nothing teaches you better than failure”

Every entrepreneurial story, including Čolak’s, is also built on failure.

“We opened a bar in Beşiktaş, Istanbul, making a banal mistake. We opened a shop where you couldn’t go in and sit down in a neighborhood where it is considered very rude to walk and eat,” recounts Čolak and claims that people in Croatia would rather seek false security in a state-owned company than try to do something on their own because there is a possibility of failure.

“Nothing teaches you better than failure. It is even desirable to experience it. The point is to learn to bounce back from failure. And if you failed five times, you will succeed the sixth, just learn to deal with it”.

During his guest appearance, he explained how the franchise works, the process of entering the franchise industry, the rules and principles of work, and also why we should act locally but think globally.

“Whoever manages to put things in order in Croatia has a very good chance internationally. Croatia is a small market and is ideal for pilot projects. However, at least Europe should be of interest to all of us. You have to think about how someone in Spain, England, or Scandinavia will perceive you. Don’t force some local things because it goes very hard. From the franchise industry, we can create another form of tourism in Croatia, if we continue to develop in that direction,” says Čolak.

‘It is not necessary to work with the state to be profitable’

Finally, he revealed his vision of Croatia.

“In Croatia, we have to work more on individualism. We must understand that not everything can depend on the government and the state. We need to encourage critical thinking because a lot of good comes out of it. I am for reducing taxes and bureaucracy. Digitization needs to go forward. We have a lot of corruption and nepotism. We need to create a lot more people who will use their knowledge and abilities to do anything – which will result in better incomes than the state, bureaucratic salary”, he said, adding that he thinks Croatia is currently heading in that direction.

“As long as we have a state that will encourage everyone to have the same chance to succeed, it will be better. I know that this element of “party card” rules today. I believe that’s true if you’re aiming for government jobs. I believe that one should look outside the context that you will do business with the state, but that you will do business in the market where no party card plays a role, where it is completely irrelevant, and in that way, one part of the parasitic system within the state will be smoothed out. It is not necessary to work with the state to be profitable, we have the whole of Europe and the world. In ten years, I would like to see Croatia as one of the superpowers in Europe in terms of the number of franchise concepts that have come out of Croatia”, concludes Čolak in “Vision of Croatia”.

Host: Barbara Grgić

Creative and production of Vision of Croatia: Prilika Group

For: Croatian Radio New York

Link to the YouTube video of the show:

LinkedIn page:

Facebook page:

About Croatian Radio New York

Croatian Radio New York is a popular radio station that has been operating since 1969, and the first show was broadcast on February 22, 1969, in North America. In the meantime, the show “Voice of Free Croatia” was broadcast more than 2,800 times, and many generations of Croats in New York and the surrounding area who produced media content are responsible for all of it and are still producing it today. Every Saturday you can listen to the program live from the studio in Astoria, the neighborhood in New York with probably the largest number of Croats.

About the show “Vision of Croatia”

The vision of Croatia is a new program of Croatian Radio New York in which we will talk with individuals and visionaries who have shown through their activities and successes that the country with four million inhabitants really has something to show the whole world.

You can listen to the shows we create in Zagreb with sound at, and watch recordings of the show on the Facebook page Vizija Hrvatska, the YouTube channel Vizija Hrvatska and the LinkedIn page Vizija Hrvatska.