One in four new businesses in Europe is what is known as a social entreprise. They provide opportunities for the most destitute and vulnerable in society to get a job or some training. But as well as playing a social role, these companies are also aiming for profit and competitiveness. Business Planet visited one such business in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana.
Dobrovita Plus was founded in 1996 by Šent, one of the country’s largest NGOs, the founder of six other social entreprises nationwide.
The company offers a broad range of services, from landscape gardening to cleaning.
It employs 42 people, half of whom suffer from a disability and says the workforce is highly driven and resilient.
“I always try and go beyond my limits at work. If I can do it, anyone can,” said employee Kemal Posedi.
Another of the company’s strengths is its ability to diversify in order to meet market requirements and boost competitiveness. It recently added the services of land surveyors.
“Bringing in land surveyors opens up our business to a higher market range, which gives us added value,” said Igor Pavel, Dubrovita Plus’ General Manager.
The company’s turnover reached 750,000 euros in 2012 and growth is steady. “We’re planning on hiring an extra four to six people this year, and we’re expecting a rise in turnover of 10 to 15 percent,” Igor Pavel told euronews.
The European Social Fund plays an active role in financing social enterprises, which account for 11 millions jobs across Europe.
Dubrovita Plus is one of them: it received 300,000 euros from the European Social Fund.
Nataša Goršek Mencin is the Head of Representation of the European Commission in Ljubljana. She explained the aim of the Fund is to help social entreprises start up and grow.
“You invest in some start-ups, and then, when you remove your financing, the entity should be sustainable and continue its business,” she told us.
In Slovenia, the Fund has helped some 26 social enterprises since 2009, with proven results.
“It has given training to some 270 people and jobs to around 90 people in Slovenia,” said Nataša Goršek Mencin.
For Igor Pavel the keys to success for a social enterprise are simple: “You have to be competitive, innovative and flexible, but you also have to be respectful of human beings and the environment.”