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”.


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