[:en]Jenny Garratt with Rocking Ur Teens: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Rocking Ur Teens was established in February 2015 as a social enterprise which operates in education, youth and social mobility sectors. It offers inspiring conferences that expose teens to corporate environments, apprentices, graduates and interns, giving them a practical insight into the world of work. They create relationships between young people and corporate organisations to develop pipelines of diverse talent that are accessible, providing socially mobile speakers who share stories and act as role models. Rocking Ur Teens is important for communities because it helps support young people make that important and often challenging transition between childhood and young adulthood by providing advice, guidance and inspiration and offering insights into the world of employment. It increases aspirations and helps teenagers to get on track for success through inviting them to workshops and conferences. They explore challenging issues such as the development of self-esteem and mental health awareness through speakers that have experienced it. Rocking Ur Teens also help dispel career and employment myths, including ‘science is not for girls’ and engage audiences with inspirational speakers such who are leaders in Science, technology, Engineering and Maths industries. The teens benefit because they increase their self-confidence, have gone on to mentor others and been introduced to careers that they haven’t heard of before. They break down barriers between those from culturally diverse backgrounds and continue to bring together a national and international audience. They also introduce teens to social action at an early age to illustrate how they can make a difference in their local and global community. At a recent conference, a young man made a commitment to meet his head teacher and arrange to hold an school assembly on mental health and young people, as he had suffered from depression himself.

Rocking Ur Teens is well supported through volunteers, students and teachers. They encourage others to attend the events and be a part of the Rocking Ur Teens movement. The Rocking Ur Teen co-founder Sandy, along with Jenny Garett and the board members, bring a range of expertise including leadership skills, business planning and strategy which all contribute to the development of the business. The biggest challenge has been time and resources and meeting the demands for their services. They are clear that as a social enterprise they should not only breakeven, but need to begin to make some profit to be sustainable. They also ask for small contributions to the services they provide. Jenny’s advice is that social businesses need to learn about the big priorities that are impacting young people and create innovative solutions. The most important resources for their business have been the people, particularly the volunteers, board members and speakers who are crucial for the business to function effectively. They have been sponsored by corporates and are looking forward to accessing funding in the future. Rocking Ur Teens would like to expand their partnerships with schools, corporates and organisations based in Europe to increase the exposure and diversity that students who attend their conferences experience. Although they use social media and their work has been featured in the media, their prestigious and high-quality speakers and ambassadors also spread the word about what they do.

 

For more information: www.rockingurteens.com[:]

[:en]Erinç Yurter with Taze&Kuru Food Inc: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora [:]

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Erinc has been the managing partner, together with her husband, of Taze&Kuru Food Inc since 2009. Taze&Kuru, which means Fresh&Dried in Turkish, is a company specializing in the production of healthy snacks, mainly made from dried fruit grown in Turkey. Erinc’s story is inspiring. A mother of three, she studied towards a BA and a Masters in Sociology, and always wanted to turn her passion for environmentally-friendly food production and manufacturing into a private business. Prior to opening up her company with her husband, she was the producer of a TV program about the everyday lives of ambassadors, and then vice-director of a private school in Ankara, where she also taught English and philosophy. “My company started as a hobby, which I luckily share with my husband. We both recognized the importance of food production for the development of our country, which we want to contribute to. But we want to play our part in sustainable production as well.”, she explains in her office in Ankara while we taste a delicious portion of dried fruit she offers us. As a woman and manager of a big incorporation, Erinc had to overcome some obstacles, some of which are still present today. In particular, she has to confront herself with a professional environment- that of agricultural production and food retail- mostly made of men and largely structured around a male-driven culture. “I often use my initials to sign emails I exchange with clients, and nobody ever thinks I am woman. They all assume I am a man.”, Erinc says.

She also feels that many clients and partners do not value her professional worth enough, and that she is often considered only as “the wife of the manager”, in the margin. Her hope is that the Turkish government will implement more maternity support schemes to encourage women who want to work in the private sector or open up their own businesses, like she did. She considers herself lucky however because she received considerable financial support from the Agricultural Ministry. In addition, Erinc has found in ANGIKAD (see page for infos and contact details) a precious source of support. “When we are all together and support each other, we find a space where we are represented for our value. Men sometimes think they own the world, but at ANGIKAD each and every woman is given voice and is listened.”, she explains.

For more information: https://www.tazekuru.com[:]

[:en]Anna Polońska and Tie ART: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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She founded a start-up promoting various forms of art. She deals with painting, computer graphics (including creating illustrations, posters and covers) and designing a unique ‘Tie ART’ fashion accessories that are an original idea for a new form of women’s ties. The idea of launching a startup was born out of passion and determination. Most of the activities focus on promoting accessories ‘Tie ART’, which is a result of her passion for art and creative approach to fashion. The ties are sewn by hand in single copies on the basis of traditional neckties. They attract attention with carefully selected elements, such as decorative stones, crystals or pearls, and the shape resembles bows, shells or flowers. Presenting them on the website or during fashion and business events (conferences, galas), she complements them with paintings and graphic designs. Her aim is to combine art with fashion and business. There are so many areas she wants to penetrate. She creates high-quality, unique products for those who value individuality, craftsmanship and ecology. “Art should accompany us every day, inspire us and influence our well-being and experience the world. It can also be treated as a kind of social manifesto against mass production of poor quality clothing from chain stores.”, she adds. There are no two identical copies of Tie. Among her clients are also people who ask her to re-design their tie on ‘Tie ART’, and thanks to this, old accessories gain a “new look”. It is an ecological approach to fashion. In harmony with the spirit of “slow fashion”. Instead of buying a lot of clothes, it’s enough to have some interesting additions to the outfit that will diversify the style. Her business goal is to create a strong brand, to promote creativity and – in the future – to open a gallery-boutique that would bring together designers from various fields and be a place of meetings and cultural events.

Her clients are often entrepreneurs who also run companies or operate in a business environment. Thanks to this, she has a contact with specialists from various industries, she can exchange experiences and mutually promote her activities and establish co-operation. “Developing your own business is constant learning and expanding competencies.” she states. Setting up a startup was a “jump into deep water”. She had to acquire a lot of new skills in a short time, starting co-operation with other companies and learning to recognize the needs and expectations of clients. She is trying to support foundations which organize charity auctions by communicating them her work. For her, this is the best method of supporting their activities, because the income obtained from it is much higher than the amount that she would be able to transfer in cash. She would like to create an artistic and business place where not only her work but also other artists’ would be available. The events organized there would be an opportunity to meet experts from various fields and promote culture. Art should not have “borders”; – that’s why she came up with her actions and the innovative “Tie ART” accessories. She would like to promote her ties in other parts of the world.

 

For more information: www.annapolonska.com/sklep/[:]

[:en]Anna Kołodziej, Zumba instructor: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Conducting sporting activities involving the combination of dance and fitness for children (Zumba Kids and Zumba Kids Junior) and for adults (Zumba Fitness) – including elderly people and pregnant women (Zumba Gold). It all started by chance. Anna did not have any experience, she only went to Zumba Fitness classes. The hotel, where she was working as a manager, was sold and the entire crew was released. Anna decided to make use of her Zumba Fitness instructor’s license. For about a month, she organized classes for trial and received positive feedback. Later on she received EU funding to set up a company. She rented a gym and started teaching classes on her own. She feels that the community supports her business. It promotes her as a person and her company. Thanks to that, she established cooperation with new educational and cultural institutions (schools, kindergartens, cultural centers) and fitness clubs. For her, social activities are a form of advertising – it pays off. As the biggest challenges that affected her business in terms of learning and adapting, she points out Zumba marathons, which she runs with other instructors or during which she participates.

Her message to others: “It is worth continuing to use professional accounting services and, occasionally, legal services, e.g. setting up a business and signing cooperation agreements. Do not be afraid of starting a business, you can suspend or close your business in case the idea of a company turns out to be unsuccessful. You can also change the business profile. Working at home gives me the opportunity to freely use my time (the biggest plus in my opinion), but remember that if you have a business, there is no paid vacation (the biggest minus in my opinion). She doesn’t have plans of expanding her business, currently, the company absorbs all her time for work. Her future plans include reducing the number of classes with adults, while increasing those with children.

 

For more information: www.zumba.com/en-US/profile/annakolodziej/257035[:]

[:en]Aleksandra Korzeniak with Ak-art art&garden: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Aleksandra’s business is a combination of profession and passion – she is a landscape architect. She both designs gardens and works on artistic activities such as painting clothes, porcelain, and interior decoration items. Seemingly these unconnected areas intermingle and bind together. Her company combines natural and artistic areas. She started the activity shortly after graduation, but before that, she worked as a subcontractor in a company owned by a friend who recommended her to the clients and their friends in the field of garden design. She would place herself in the environmental protection, landscape architecture and artistic handicrafts sectors. She runs the business as a sole proprietorship and does not have other employees. For her it is extremely important to make sure that she meets the expectations of her customers and that her work brings joy to the others. From the feedback she got from her clients, Polish or foreign, she found out that her products are mostly chosen for various special occasions like weddings and celebrations.

Among the most popular and innovative works there are painted sneakers and wedding dress. She is very thankful to her friends who promoted her work sharing posts, photos on social media channels and recommended her on various occasions in addition to ordering gifts for their beloveds. As a result, this had a multiplier effect: Aleksandra’s network has been extended worldwide. As for the biggest challenge she points out the face-toface relation with the foreign market. So far she has been working mostly with English and German customers. Still, she has to observe well the products which are most demanded. At this moment, she has no plans to expand the business, instead, quite unusually, she would like to narrow it down. She would like to focus on artistic activity as she hopes to cooperate with someone else in this regard.

 

For more information: akart-garden.blogspot.com/ [:]

[:en]Aissetou Jaiteh Gambia: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Gambia and her co-worker started the African Queens Association in 2013, mainly creating accessories. After four years of designing and tailoring they opened their studio and shop in downtown Palermo. Her entrepreneurial spirit is nourished by the will to break down barriers and in line with this she explains to us how fashion can function as a bridge between people: “If someone wears a dress made of African fabric and sees someone else wearing something similar, they can interact through this common meeting point.”, she tells us in her shop. African Queens was in fact born from Gambia’s will to find a link between the Western culture where she was born and the African culture in which she has her origins. She also felt the need to show how fashion is not restricted to western styles and cuts, but can also include a wider range of cultural expressions. She makes us aware of how African Queens’ clothes can positively influence the dignity of her customers and the diversity in the fashion industry. Gambia designs clothes whilst keeping in mind the different notions of aesthetics and beauty. This provides for a broad set of designs that she can tailor to fit individual customer needs without discriminating between body types, as is common in the commercialized fashion industry. “We would propose something that makes her [the customer] feel more beautiful in the mirror. This is what fashion should do”, she mentions. Gambia and her partners worked from home in the beginning and were able to expand with financial help from a governmental fund for young second-generation migrants. She however points out that this was not enough to cover all costs related to the start up, and that they received a bank loan to acquire sufficient tools and fabrics for the business. Her part time job at Moltivolti, a local restaurant in the historical Ballarò district of Palermo, helped them cover extra expenses. She underlines that keeping the business going has not always been easy and that African Queens’ financial and creative backbone was gradually developed during the four years before they settled into their studio.

When asked whether she would proceed differently today if she were to plan a new business project she replies: “I would change the structure”, meaning she would seek more support for daily administrative and logistical tasks. She would also try to find a more visible location for her business, as the present one lacks in visibility. The fundamental idea of African Queens though she would never revise, because its strong social and cultural aspect has made them well known among their customers and local textile vendors where they buy materials. The strongest advice she would give to someone who wants to start their own entrepreneurial project, is to spend time developing a clear idea. “It’s like a fruit”, she says, “plant the seed and wait for it to mature”.

 

For more information: https://www.africanqueens.it/[:]

[:en]Carmela Dacchille with Edizioni precarie: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Carmela originally started working as an architect in the north of Italy until she decided this was not her dream, and moved to Palermo. After working in a hotel for about two years, she started her adventure with Edizioni Precarie in 2013, which she describes as a long project that is still ongoing. Edizioni Precarie is a project focusing on graphic research, design and artisanal techniques. A lot of the products made in Edizioni Precarie originate for example from a deep research on paper and the different ways in which paper can be used to re-create something. What matters to Carmela though is not simply to create something which is visually beautiful, but most importantly to create objects that derive from a well-thought process of research on the meaning and content. “Edizioni Precarie is centred around three main concepts: Firstly, the technique and visual aspect of what we produce; secondly, the creative research; and finally, the actual production of this research, therefore the translation of this creates something material”, she explains to us in her laboratory at Edizioni Precarie. One of her first priorities was to avoid being caught by the tourism market in her activity. Edizioni Precarie’s laboratory sits right in the historical city centre of Palermo, which especially in recent years, has become a tourist attraction. She always tries to prioritize quality over commercialization, even when this meant selling less. “Of course these are considerations you need to make when you run an independent business like Edizioni Precarie. What will sell more? Will people prefer this over that? However, I always tried to put quality before quantity, and it wasn’t always easy as it meant I had to take many risks in financial terms” she tells me. Carmela thinks that Edizioni Precarie is contributing to local development in different ways. In her opinion, the existence of an autonomous business, born out of “self-entrepreneurship” can be inspiring especially in a city like Palermo, where rates of unemployment are increasing sharply. “You can show people that you could make a living with your creativity. At least I hope I can do that for the local community. For example, there are many abandoned spaces in Palermo which can be re-used and rethought to promote art”, she says.

In addition, she feels the presence of other local businesses and initiatives were very important for the development and subsistence of Edizioni Precarie. One of the biggest challenges she faces as an entrepreneur in the art sector is time-management. “Since my business is independent, I have to take care of all the components, from bureaucracy, communication, and marketing, to the actual production and creation phase. My collaborators are precious in this sense, but I would benefit from having more time to create and focus on the artistic aspect of my business.”, she explains. Her advice to future women business owners is to try not to panic when a moment of crisis arises. On the contrary and based on her experience, it is especially during a crisis that the most creativity can derive. “The best moment to start something brave and new could actually be a crisis. Don’t panic, don’t stay alone. Harder the period, stronger the solution.”, she says.

 

For more information: http://edizioniprecarie.it[:]

[:en]Nadia Lodato with “Cotti in Fragranza”: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Before Nadia took on the responsibility of developing the entrepreneurial business project Cotti in Fragranza, she studied international political science and humanitarian aid in Florence and in Rome and participated in several youth work projects abroad. When she returned to Sicily and began working within the penal system, she helped former convicts with social reintegration and entry into the labour market. Even though her jurisprudential competences and youth experience are valuable additions to her current entrepreneurial work, she mentions that she, like most other people, had to learn from scratch how to create a business. Cotti in Fragranza is a baking laboratory for incarcerated youth and former convicts where they produce biscuits, cakes and other oven-baked products. Each employee and participant collaborates on the overall entrepreneurial idea, and the fundamental approach to the daily business is teamwork where everyone’s voice is heard in the production and commercialization process. Nadia tells us that “everyone has the right to speak. Obviously we also have external consultants who do their work and help us conduct market strategies, but our guys do not only produce biscuits manually. They are also absolutely aware of all the aspects of the business”. Helping the incarcerated youth to become independent and develop professional skills can be considered as Nadia’s own entrepreneurial project. This however presents challenges related to balancing business and social work. “It is very difficult because if you want to create a business, you will have to sell a product or a service and have many market competitors”, Nadia tells us and explains that “if you want to pay the guy’s salaries—and pay the chef, me and my co-worker Lucia etc.—you will have to earn, that is have a revenue. So the most important thing is to create a product of excellence and know how to sell it”. Even though it is crucial to succeed economically, Nadia also emphasizes the necessity of communicating the overall social impact of Cotti in Fragranza: “Because the educational aspect and mental health treatment of the guys are just as important as sales, you need to explain the purpose of a social enterprise: providing jobs”. We asked Nadia if she would do something differently if she could start everything again. “I think that mistakes are used to steer things for the better”, she answers. “When you start the team is orientated in one way. But then it gets, say, to a point where you do not achieve the desired results, which is something you could not know beforehand. So I believe mistakes serve to orientate yourself differently”, she elaborates and adds that “if you create the group you create participation, and if it fails: patience! The important thing is that the group decides”. Their non-hierarchical business structure has contributed to Cotti in Fragranza’s success, and Nadia’s advise to someone who would like to become entrepreneurs in the sector of social work, is therefore creating a group where everyone’s ideas and interests are taken into account. “Together we can achieve goals with respect to your own needs, and yours and yours and yours … so creating this group is maybe the only advice I can give to someone who wants to create a business”.

 

For more information: http://cottiinfragranza.com[:]

[:en]Massimo Milano with Quir: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Massimo and Gino represent much more than founders of a boutique. Massimo originally from Rome, and Gino from Milan, they have been an LGBTI couple for 40 years now, and together they decided to found Quir in Palermo 25 years ago, in the historical district of Ballarò. Quir specializes in the manufacturing of leather products, such as bags, belts, and wallets, handmade by its founders, who are now a symbol not only of a successful entrepreneurial story, but also of sexual freedom and human rights. “Palermo did not use to be as open-minded as today. 25 years ago, when we first moved here from Rome to open up the boutique, you could hardly see any LGBT around. We were the only ones and we had to overcome many cultural and social barriers, in addition to the economic issues of running a new business”, says Massimo inside Quir. She is President of the campaign Palermo Pride, an Advocacy Programme aimed at raising awareness about the rights of LGBTI people, and together with y she founded ARCI gay back in 1981, the very first association in Italy formed to represent the LGBTI community. “Prior to us, there was no formal association in Italy for the LGBTI community. We quickly became a reference point for many people who felt like they were living at the margins of society. Here they could be listened to, and we could all be ourselves”, she explains.
“You have to bear in mind that we started this peaceful battle when no one else in Palermo even knew what not being heterosexual meant. Civil unions between LGBTIs only became legal in 2016 in this country. People come to Quir to buy leather products of course, but there is much more to it than shopping. There is a sense of belonging and community based on these long-term battles”, Massimo proudly tells me. She remembers facing many difficulties with their business at the beginning. 

“For a long time we had practically no clients at all. Only recently we can say that local people here have accepted us into their community. Although I should say that I don’t like the term “accept” because being LGBTI is something natural and in that sense I don’t feel it should need to be accepted.”, she continues. When we ask her what advice she would give to women interested in opening up their own businesses she stresses how things have become much harder today because of high rates of unemployment. In addition, she thinks that women face a double barrier: One due to the general levels of unemployment faced by all young people today and the other due to gender discrimination at work and in society. “You need to be strong and determined, because as a woman you will always need to fight more than men in order to get what you want and what you are entitled to. The one advise I feel like sharing, is to always try to be creative. Creativity is what saved Gino and me, and of course Quir. Only if you are creative, you can truly be free to choose in life.”, she concludes.

 

For more information: www.facebook.com/quir.mg/[:]

[:en]Laura Di Fatta with Sartoria Sociale: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Laura Di Fatta and her co-workers truly are an example of how social work can go hand in hand with entrepreneurial business projects and personal development. They founded the social enterprise Sartoria Sociale in 2012 with the mission of transforming discarded textiles into resources by creating new clothes and items to be revitalized on the market. Sartoria Sociale is however also a project for giving opportunities to people with fewer opportunities who are excluded from the labour market, especially minorities such as migrants, incarcerated and victims of human trafficking. “The first step to restoring a person’s dignity, is to provide work,” Laura points out and talks about the importance of breaking down stereotypes by working with people in difficult life situations. For her and the other social workers at Sartoria Sociale this is closely connected to community development. When new customers enter our premises, they often presuppose that Sartoria Sociale is only a laboratory, but after learning about the tailors’ backgrounds, they understand that buying a product here supports community building and development. The fact they support a social enterprise which is standing up against corruption and blackmailing of local businesses, also makes their customers willing to spend more money on artisanal products because of the added ethical value. Sartoria Sociale takes part in the anti- Mafia movement “Addio Pizzo” which can be translated into “farewell protection money”. Laura explains that “this is a choice of legality, it’s a message. Those who come in here know that we are against these, let’s say, ‘mafia proceedings’, and our clients show a sign of respect for ‘the greater law’”.

Although Sartoria Sociale has become well-known in Palermo for their entrepreneurial, social and artisanal projects, balancing these three aspects can be challenging. An important part of their social work is the time-consuming training of new tailors which affects the productivity level and raises product prices. After spending some time in their shop and studio I however understand what Laura means when she describes the enterprise as a combination of social work, fashion and tailoring with a firm base in entrepreneurial self-development. Satorial Sociale’s philosophy is that everyone who comes to work in the cooperation has an entrepreneur in them. “Working as an entrepreneur is difficult; working as an entrepreneur and being a women is even more difficult,” Laura tells us when we ask her to share her experiences on female entrepreneurship, and while elaborating on the obstacles related to gender, she concludes with a positive note: “The fact that almost all of us are women, our president is a Nigerian women—gives an idea of redemption, social and professional redemption.” One the successes that women who work in Sartoria Sociale are achieving, is the opportunity to feel and act like entrepreneurs by transcending the stereotypical categories related to their gender. When we ask Laura about the advice she would give to women who want to become future entrepreneurs, she stresses the importance of self-confidence and to gather a team of people who share your values and principles. “Make your own work a commitment – this is a fundamental resource.”

 

Sartoria Sociale website: http://sartoriasociale.com[:]