Guest post from Laura Hanna, communications director at Texas Wesleyan University:
Students in Rod Erakovich's global management class got a truly international perspective on the shoe business Monday morning. Erakovich had invited the owners of a shoe company based in Serbia to speak with his students. (left to right, Jasminka Aleksic, Dusan Sipovac, Slavko Aleksic, and Rod Erakovich) Slavko Aleksic, owner of Alter Footwear, and his wife, Jasminka, executive coordinator, told the students about their company and took questions. The Aleksics are seeking to expand their business into the U.S. market, and Erakovich will work with his students during the semester to prepare relevant information for them.
Erakovich has traveled to Eastern Europe several times to work with public administration centers, beginning as a doctoral student at UTA, helping the new democracies structure the administrative part of government. Erakovich became friends with Dusan Sipovac, director for the Center for Public Administration at the University of Kragujevac in Serbia, who later introduced him to the Aleksics.
Sipovac is accompanying the Aleksics on their trip to Texas, and acted as translator during the class. The Wesleyan students asked questions about their marketing plans, market entry strategy, expansion plans in China, and market demographics, among other topics.
The Aleksics began Alter in 1994, as Serbia and the rest of Eastern Europe was emerging from Communist rule. They have grown the company since that initial retail store into a shoe company that has 15 of its own stores within Serbia and 400 partners that sell their shoes, which are designed in part by Jasminka Aleksic. Alter has 60 employees at its headquarters in Čačak, Serbia, and factories around the world (3 in Serbia, 17 in China, 1 in Italy). In 2007, they sold nearly half a million pairs of shoes. The typical shoe company in Serbia produces - not sells, produces - 50,000 to 60,000 pairs annually, Slavko Aleksic said.
While in Texas, the Aleksics and Sipovac will meet with professors at UTA, brand developers, marketing consultants, and store owners. They will return to Texas Wesleyan on Wednesday for lunch with the dean of the Texas Wesleyan School of Business, Hector Quintanilla, and to speak with Erakovich's graduate class, public policy and community relations.