Appreciating what I already have

Published: 10.07.2023

Malgorzata Szczepanska: Most people associate your name with a well-known company producing exclusive build-ins, so even though we are not going to talk about Zajc, it is impossible not to ask: how did your business adventure begin?

 Justyna Zajc: It was actually a complete coincidence. My mother needed kitchen furniture, and there was nothing available on the market at the time. So my husband and I decided to fulfil her wish, and we designed and made this kitchen of her dreams. My father was a carpenter and my grandfather was a welder, so we had
access to the necessary tools, plus my husband Mariusz had a special flair for constructing furniture. Of course, at that time we had no experience, no knowledge, no knowledge of design, we only had, or maybe as much as, a lot of good will and a supportive family. That first kitchen gave rise to the next ones and really inspired us to think about creating a business. Then there was the search for our own path, learning the market, the business, positioning, developing our own brand. To get to where I am today, a lot really had to happen along the way.
M.S.: After sixteen years of creating the Zajc brand, can you say that this is your place on earth?
J.Z.: I certainly do. If I hadn't met that particular other half on my path and loved what I do, not only would I not have achieved what I have professionally, but I wouldn't have such a wonderful family, nor would we spend so much time together in the company. In fact, the company is a kind of our second home. Here, like at home, I am surrounded by people I trust implicitly: my husband and my son (the first in the family to have a degree in business). Each of us has a place in the company and is responsible for a specific part of our business. It is only because we all love what we do that we don't feel that we are at work. To wit, this could be summed up by saying that we both at work and at home live by the same principles, values and really only change places depending on the time of day. . Would you believe that even on holiday, new ideas, business inspirations are born in our heads. And it gives us the same fun all the time. As you can see the Zajc company is no ordinary family business. The Zajc company is the Zajc family.
M.S.: Being with each other both at work and at home, you can't avoid conflicts. Do you then go over the so-called edge or, given that it involves people close to you, do you try to get along?
J.Z.: It's true, you can't avoid conflicts, disputes, problems, being with each other 24 hours a day, besides I often go to clashes, but we have learnt very well to separate work from life, although our work is our life. . However, when things go wrong or mistakes come out, we talk about the consequences and learn from them. We don't run away from responsibility, we don't sweep things under the carpet, we deal with everything on a clear basis. We can go to dinner with each other in the evening after a conflicting day at work and not bring up professional issues.

M.S.: Sounds perfect, so is there anything you are never able to forgive?

J.Z.: Betrayal! In a broad sense. My trust has to be earned, but once you've got it, I don't check, I trust boundlessly. On the other hand, if you lose that trust, you no longer have a chance to regain it. I like clear situations, I can't stand falsehood, hypocrisy, hypocrisy even in business. Maybe that's why I have a limited group of people I really trust.
M.S.: There are a lot of emotions in you. Which ones accompany you most often and is there anything you fear in life?
J.Z.: I am always accompanied by love for my family, often curiosity about the world, places, and the joy of meeting people. But there are also moments, situations, when I feel a tangible sense of fear. Fear of losing someone close to me. That is why I hold very close to heart a sentence I once read that happiness is when there is no unhappiness. I try to always keep this in mind, take advantage of each day and enjoy the moments. I want to believe that happiness is simply carried within us.
M.S.: And of course money doesn't make happiness?
J.Z.: The opposite, money makes you happy, you just have to know how to use it properly. Money should never be an end in itself. But with money you are free, independent. You can also do a lot of good with it. After all, with this money I can make others happy.
M.S.: What drives you to action besides your family and your company?
J.Z.: Travelling! Getting to know other cultures, tastes, smells, places. They inspire me and teach me humility. Like the one to Ethiopia, where I met people who had nothing, and even then were willing to share the proverbial handful of rice without expecting anything in return. Such selfless kindness. Traveling has taught me to look at what I have in a different way, and it has also taught me to appreciate it.
M.S.: A successful family, a thriving family business, can you say you feel fulfilled. And what do you think is the secret to this?

J.Z.: The secret? In the ability to be happy. In feeling the support of your family, your friends, in knowing that something will be left of you. Yes, I can already say that I feel fulfilled, although a while ago that answer would have been different. However, if I could turn back time, I would consider whether it would be better to set up a business abroad. Because I know that with my commitment, I would already be in a different place there, much further away. Farther means that at this stage of my life I would already have much more time for myself and my family.
M.S.: Is there a moment when you are able to let go?
J.Z.: When it's about the health and happiness of my family, then I'm really able to do anything, to give, to let go, to fight. Whatever needs to be done, I will do it.
M.S.: So what is Justyna Zajc like in private?
J.Z.: She's a typical Capricorn, stubborn, consistent, striving, but also a professional, demanding much more from herself than from others. You know, I actually have a difficult character, you have to learn to live with me.