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Female Founders Series: Sarka Pelikanova, CEO of CEG

Written by
Gabriela Dittrichova
Published on
June 24, 2021

As a part of our Femme Palette Startup Challenge, we invite successful female founders in the Czech Republic to share their stories about entrepreneurship. First in our series is Sarka Pelikanova, the CEO of Connect Economic Group. She was only 22 when she started her business. The biggest lesson she learned was to never trust your intuition when it comes to hiring. And what advice would she give to new female founders in the Czech Republic?

1. What inspired you to start your own business?

I never thought I would become an entrepreneur, leave alone starting a business at the age of 22. The impulse came when I was trying to help my mom, a leading Czech specialist in financial and tax accounting. I founded a company for my mom to reach her full potential and share her know-how with 17 other colleagues, who now form the Connect Economic Group (CEG) team. Unconsciously, starting CEG also helped me realize my long-term dream - to encourage and support entrepreneurship in the Czech Republic. 

2. What was the biggest lesson you learned with your startup? 

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Even after eight years, I am still learning something new every day. I doubt I will ever reach the point when I’ll think - OK, now I know everything about running a business and leading people. The key to success is the right selection of people. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. As a result, we hired an auditing company, to help us find the right people and ensure that our employees share the same values and are a valuable addition to the CEG team. Recruiting based on intuition and recommendation, the way I used to do it, is not sustainable, potentially even harmful, if you want your company to grow. 

3. How would you comment on the situation of female entrepreneurs in Czechia?

I must admit that for a long time I did not understand why so many people discuss the topic of women in business. I used to think that there is sufficient gender representation and that we have equal opportunities as men. I still think that today, however, I also realized that women have to face multiple challenges. Many times I have been invited to a meeting which was not concerned with the business matters at all and nearly turned into a date. Luckily, I was able to stop it in time and leave graciously. Having spoken to fellow female founders, they experienced something similar.

Furthermore, not once have I witnessed comments from men that women should stay at home and stop engaging in business. Sadly, those myths persist and can sometimes be passed onto younger generations.

"The key to success is the right selection of people. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way."
Sarka_Pelikanova_Femme_Palette_Startup_Challenge

4. In your opinion, what is holding women back when starting a business? 

Based on my own experience, it is the idea of having children. I am now experimenting with the idea of balancing the role of mother with running a business. Taking into account the size of CEG, one cannot take a couple of months / years off. We have over 200 clients, 17 team members, and countless other responsibilities and projects on at the same time. And not everything can be passed onto someone else. I assume many women experience this too. 

But hey, ladies, we can do it all! Let’s follow our dreams, whatever they might be. 

Sarka Pelikanova is the CEO of the Connect Economic Group, a family business that builds on trust, support and quality work. With 17 experts in accounting, taxes and wages, they improve financial literacy and educate the general public throughout the Czech Republic.


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