Meet Sofija Daceva

Sofija Daceva from North Macedonia is far from a newbie in the manufacturing industry and the entrepreneur business. On the contrary – she presented her second endeavour in the RIS Leaders competition and made it to the finals.

Sofija’s journey to her second successful startup

Sofija loves working in the manufacturing industry because it is a very dynamic environment. For her, there are so many possibilities to work on innovative solutions and to contribute to a better world. Workdays are versatile, interesting and unpredictable: One day one moves a single step forward, another one has a Eureka moment.

The products you create are real and tangible, you can look at them and know precisely what their impact is. For me it was very exciting to see how my product moved from an idea stage […] to an actual product that is now ready to be placed on the shelf. I can actually look at it today and say “I made that” and this makes me very happy.

Sofija Daceva, Founder WISE
Sofija DacevaSofija Daceva

Sofija is entrepreneur through and through, so it is not a surprise that she got a Master´s degree in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In her first start-up, which it is still running, she and her team developed an innovative food-tech process for increasing the freezing point of wine to 0℃, to solve the challenge of the two different freezing points of wine and ice cream. The result: wine ice cream.

RIS LEADERS competition 2022

Sofija (third from left) presented her second successful start-up, called WISE.

Her second startup, WISE Group Ltd., is just gaining traction. WISE aims to transform the supply chain of wineries into a circular economy in order to reduce waste. Therefore, they produce an additive made from grape pomace.

A fateful travel to a winery

One of the travels for her wine ice cream business took Sofija to a winery in North Macedonia. Upon her visit, she was astounded to see giant piles of a darkish substance – grape pomace, the remains of the pressed grapes. Grape pomace is a mixture of grape skins and seeds, which is usually treated as a waste product from the wine production. Since winery’s cannot use the pomace, they dispose of it unused.

Sofija’s curiosity was piqued. She asked herself whether it could be used in the wine ice cream and took a sample. But everything turned out completely different when she found out that the grape pomace contains lots of fibre, vitamins and antioxidants – very healthy characteristics.

With their innovative technological process, Sofija and her team found a way to extract the remaining nutrients out of the grape pomace. The result is a grape pomace additive: WISE additive.

Sofija Daceva - laboratory

From wine ice cream (left) to grape pomace additive (middle) – Sofija is entrepreneur through and through

Turning waste into nutrients

This additive helps food manufacturers easily adding a natural source of dietary fibre, vitamins and antioxidants to their product while keeping costs for ingredients low. Moreover, it is a natural food colour. At the same time the winery reduces waste generated by wine and moves one step further to a circular supply chain.

“Although this company is still in R&D phase, I am very passionate about it, mainly because of the positive environmental and social impact that it contributes towards the society and our planet”, says Sofija.

WISE is gaining traction

For Sofija, the most exciting aspect of her work is the amount of grape pomace they recycle from wineries: In 2021, they used more than 15,000 kg of grape pomace for their multifunctional grape pomace additive.

“By doing this we not only help wineries in the process of transforming their conventional supply chains into circular, but also contribute to food manufacturers to create more clean label products for their customers”, says Sofija.

Their next envisaged milestone is to double the number of grape pomace processed in 2023 and to continue R&D activities in the dairy and confectionary industry. There is still a lot to come!

Sofija (second from right) and the other five RIS LEADERS finalists.

“Give your career in manufacturing a chance, as you can make a change”

The manufacturing industry is still dominated by men. When people hear about manufacturing, they often have heavy-duty workmen doing repetitive and unchallenging line-work in mind. But today, robots and machines can most of this work. So, the manufacturing industry is much more than doing hard physical work: Knowledge work, problem-solving, innovation, product development and much more, contributing towards society and environment.

I would strongly encourage women to give it a chance! As women we enjoy the challenges of using our problem-solving skills on a regular basis.

Sofija Daceva, Founder WISE

Sofijas experience is that women approach problems in a different way than men, which brings new perspectives to the manufacturing industry. Furthermore, she says that if there were more women in manufacturing, this would not only contribute towards gender equality within the industry, but also improve the whole world by bringing an increased number of ideas and stronger solutions.

Apply now for LEADERS 2023!

Are you a woman innovator? And do you have a solution that addresses manufacturing-related challenges? Then take a look at the LEADERS 2023 Call. It’s open to applications now – you can submit your application until 18 July 2023.

All information about the RIS LEADERS Call 2023

About the LEADERS competition

The aim of our Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS) is to boost innovation in the manufacturing industry, especially drawing attention to women entrepreneurs to support their work. This is what the “LEADERS – Women Innovators in Manufacturing” competition is about. It took place in November 2022 for the second time. For the final round a jury chose six innovative women professionals from all submissions. Their projects play a leading role in developing solutions addressing manufacturing-related challenges with strong financial, environmental, or societal impact.

What is the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS)?

More information about the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme (RIS)

Get to know all winners of LEADERS 2022!