In the latest edition Business Planet we visit Syros in the Cyclades Island group in Greece. The country is now six years into a recession with a record unemployment rate of 27.6 percent. To survive the crisis a group of women have come together and formed an anti-crisis cooperative. Everyday 20 women, most of whom have no particular qualification, prepare traditional Greek dishes for sale in a downtown restaurant.
Since 2000, the money made by the cooperative has restored a local monastery and installed kitchens in it.
The turnover of 400,000 euros a years has been hit slightly by the financial crisis, but the jobs are intact.
Anna Darzenta, the president of the To Kastri cooperative, says: “as a result of the crisis, many of our members came to work in the cooperative, because their husbands had lost their jobs. Here the wages are about 20 percent higher than in the private sector.”
To deal with the problems, the cooperative outlined a business strategy and continues to attract a large number of clients, Anna continues: “the cooperative has adapted to the situation. We have reduced our prices and introduced a loyalty system and offer small gifts to our clients.”
As Business Planet reporter, Serge Rombi points out “one in four businesses created in the EU is a social enterprise.”
The European Confederation of Cooperatives represents close to 50,000 companies employing 1.4 million people, with a turnover of 50 billion euros a year. In difficult times social entrepreneurship is vital.
The keys to success? Anna Darzenta from the To Kastri cooperative revels her secrets: “love what you do, focus on quality and don’t give up at the first hurdle.”