September 9, 2020
Martina Hušková '05
Entrepreneurship for the Greater Good by current student Lea Tran
Growing up the daughter of an entrepreneur, it is no surprise that Martina Hušková has become a visionary in the business world herself. Inspired by her father’s determination and work ethic, Martina developed an industrious and risk-taking attitude. She credits her father’s success with affording her the opportunity to access a quality education.
Earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2005, Martina began her career as an office manager for a large international corporation. She soon learned that the monotony of the daily 9-to-5 grind and the inability to make meaningful decisions was not something she enjoyed. So when she got an offer to become an office manager for a real estate company, Martina did not hesitate to take advantage of that opportunity. She remained in her new position for about five months before deciding that she needed, and desired, a complete change—starting a venture of her own and being her own boss.
Joining efforts with a Canadian photographer, Martina started her very first business, a photography firm focusing on making employee headshots and event photos for corporate clients. Unfortunately, when the 2008 economic crisis hit, she realized there was not enough demand for her services. As a result, she closed down the business and spent a year in New Zealand, working in a restaurant, volunteering at a local film festival, and even taking pictures at a wedding in Samoa.
Once she returned to the Czech Republic, Martina met an energetic Slovak woman at a birthday party of a mutual friend. Their conversation about entrepreneurship soon led to a business idea: a fashion company working with high-quality local designers. Not long after their talk, the two women opened their first shop close to the Old Town Square. Seven months later, they set up another one in Železná Street. Apart from having physical stores, they incorporated an e-shop and a fashion portal, mapping the local fashion scene in their business, which was rather revolutionary at that time. After three successful years, Martina felt she needed another change, so she went backpacking to Mexico to clear her head. During her three-week trip, she volunteered to save turtles with an environmental group. “I found my Zen in Mexico,” Martina recalled. This experience, and the peace she uncovered through the acts of service with the environmental group, led her to a new business idea and career path.
Thanks to her trip to Mexico, Martina realized that it was not extraordinary for people in their twenties and thirties to volunteer while traveling, but there was no company in Prague facilitating the process. Voluntair, Martina’s favorite project so far, grew out of this market need for a company that would connect travelers with local volunteer organizations. Initially, she was running the business with her close friend. After going their separate ways, Martina is the sole owner. Her target market is mainly young professionals who are ready for a new and unconventional experience, but she has worked with many clients, including mothers with children. Although the market for her services is not enormous in the Czech Republic, the demand is growing and Martina is continuously adding new volunteering projects to her portfolio. When selling the volunteering projects, she stresses that although you are unlikely to change the world in three weeks, you will undoubtedly transform your perspective and attitude. The vast majority of her clients return with a huge smile on their face, expressing gratitude for the unforgettable and life-changing experience abroad, which Martina enabled. Although she enjoys her other work as a consultant and it supports her financially, Voluntair remains to be her most fulfilling endeavor.
Apart from featuring stories from happy Voluntair clients, the website, www.voluntair.cz, showcases current volunteering projects from more than 45 countries. The projects are either related to working with people, building infrastructure, or addressing environmental issues. Notable examples of currently offered projects involve: teaching English on Koh Samui, renovating Banteay Chhmar temple complex in Cambodia, or taking care of elephants in Thailand. Regardless of the purpose of your trip, all projects allow you to get involved with the local community and immerse yourself in the local culture, something rarely experienced while on vacation. Additionally, the partner organization in the destination country takes care of all the logistics and assures the safety of the participants. Given the plethora of possibilities, the process of choosing the right project can be overwhelming. In that case, you can contact Martina directly. She will help you pick the best project suiting your preferences and budget for free.
Martina is currently hoping to grow her Voluntair client base and is looking forward to new challenges and experiences once she embarks on yet another exciting adventure.