In a time when few understood the need for a logo, Gerton Bejo created Vatra. A welcoming place for young people aspiring to do something different while staying true to themselves. Vatra is always growing professionally and forever the place of the dreamer when it comes to creative strength. Today, Vatra is recognized as a leading agency in the creative industry, not only in Albania but also in the region. And… today, Vatra is 20 years old. It has seen and lived a lot.
But how has this two-decade journey been for its founder, what is expected in the future, and is Vatra ready for more challenges? Z. Bejo provides us with the answers.
20 years ago, you decided to establish a marketing agency. What was your motivation?
35 years ago… I would have said. At that time, I couldn’t exactly define whether it was an agency I wanted or not. But I was sure that I wanted something operating in the creative fields while simultaneously empowering other businesses. Leaving Albania, starting education and a job in London, made this dream more tangible; the expertise and experience of the professionals and lecturers I worked with gave it more meaning. In Albania, quite as much. I think in Albania, it was the right moment and time, not just for me, but for all those who had big desires and the inner strength to pursue them, even if it meant sacrificing themselves. I remember that period when I had to explain to people the function of a logo… It took me a long time, not to establish the agency, but to convince the clients that there was indeed a need for a professional agency. Today, the landscape has completely changed. People are more aware, making it easier to present the work of an agency. However, this doesn’t mean there is not the need for unwavering will or continuous work. This is exemplified by the Digital Department within Vatra. 10 years ago, no one thought of such a thing, but Vatra established it precisely because of our insistence on being a pioneer in developments.
20 years ago, Albania and Tirana were not what we experience today. At the time, Vatra in its beginnings could undoubtedly be considered an innovative start-up. However, as we all know, innovation comes with many challenges. What were your difficulties and can you provide examples of where they translated into your success?
The biggest problem of any start-up is poor management, improper time management, and a lack of communication. In the case of Vatra… In the early days when we had neither chairs nor tables, I used the first computer I bought as a student with a student loan and my savings, and created a website, business cards, and brochures. It’s not that I did not do what I knew how to do; I did what I believed to be necessary as a start-up. This brings me back to my earlier words, that it is important to have passion, focus, and the will to see things through.
How did you manage to navigate this journey and turn the start-up of a young person into a leading marketing agency, present not only in Albania but also in the region?
I can say this: the journey started is still unfinished. There is a lot of work ahead. I have a vision; I know exactly where I want to go. Vatra has not stopped yet; it will expand further in the region. The opening of Pathcode as a derivative in digital marketing, for example, is not incidental. What I have learned so far is that every goal takes time, the right moment.
Why did Pathcode emerge precisely at these moments?
Pathcode should have been born earlier, but as I mentioned earlier, it needed time and the right moment to come to fruition. We could easily provide this service outside the country, but to maintain the quality service that Vatra wanted, we had to keep it ourselves for a bit. I can describe it as the best way to be “traditionally” new…
What are the expectations for this “sprout”?
For it to start enjoying and acquiring the status that Vatra has in its field. If Vatra is known as a company with creativity, has a good name and reputation, this is my duty for Pathcode, too. To make it a leader in its field of expertise.
What is the most fundamental change Vatra has faced?
Changes at Vatra have to do with the evolution of offering relevant services. The other part that has evolved is the creative process. Today, I can say that we have more experience and expertise, and this can also be a change for Vatra. 20 years ago, we only had passion. As it is known, changes come with challenges. The latter presented itself in many ways. A personal obstacle, which I learned how to fight, was convincing myself that Vatra would grow, but knowing that not everyone would accompany it on this journey, except my passion.
Let’s turn back to the past once again. Do you think today’s youth face similar challenges to yours?
Whatever happens, the challenges are the same, if not greater. Information is more accessible, endless even, making life as easy as it is difficult. You need to be able to see and understand this, to always climb one step higher than the competition. Times have changed, but not the difficulties. Everything requires energy, a lot of energy…
Where do start-ups of 20 years ago and those of 2023 come together and where do they differ?
The dividing point is technology. The points where they come together are demand and creativity. 20 years ago, of course, we could not talk about today’s technology…
If Artificial Intelligence had emerged around your beginning, when you laid the foundations of Vatra as a full-fledged marketing agency, do you think things would have gone differently for it?
It doesn’t matter when it opens, this also applies to Vatra, which has just turned 20. What matters is your focus and the light you see at the end of the tunnel. If I had had Artificial Intelligence as a tool in my hands at that time, I wouldn’t have followed the same path, but I know that I would still be here, if not with more experience. Because whatever happens, everything will require a human to guide and direct it.
What is the “secret” behind the longevity of Vatra?
Never compromising on the product and being consistent in the services offered to the client, covering every possible request. It’s not easy to be 20 years old… But I can say for certain: It’s a lot of adrenaline, the energy of which pushes you only forward.