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Learning with...

14/02/2011 (dd/mm/yyyy) | Barcelona


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The ESADE Alumni Business Angels Club recently held a session on social entrepreneurship as part of the "Learning with..." cycle of talks. The event presented different cases in which entrepreneurs prioritise social outreach in their companies, whilst also shaping an economically sustainable business model.

First to take the stage was Alfred Vernis (Lic&MBA 88), Executive Director of the ESADE Business School University Programmes Division and Senior Researcher at the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation. Vernis emphasised that even though interest in launching social projects is a mainstay of the ESADE Alumni Business Angels Club, in Spain there is still no real entrepreneurial output, unlike in other countries such as the United States.

Next to speak was Pere Coll (Lic&MBA 74), Board Member of the ESADE Alumni Business Angels Club. He said that within the sector of social entrepreneurs "things are done out-of-the-box and which may interest several collectives", and this was one reason why it would be interesting to hear about two business models whose main aim is linked to social outreach.

The first of them, Teixidors, SCCL, is a textile company set up by Juan Ruiz and Marta Ribas in 1983. The company employs people with learning difficulties, who use hand-operated looms as a therapeutic tool and produce high-quality materials at the same time. The idea arose after Marta Ribas, a social worker, saw the need to interest the mentally-handicapped patients at her then workplace, the Pedro Mata Psychiatric Home in Reus. "The desire to give these people a trade was the catalyst for the Teixidors project", said Ms. Ribas.

Ruiz explained that the beginnings were not exactly smooth sailing and that luck had always played in their favour. Their initial project took shape first in Vitoria and then in Cabra (Córdoba), but they decided to return to Terrassa to form a company with very specific characteristics. Teixidors progressively met targets in an orderly way and according to the situation at each given moment. Marta Ribas also expressed her gratitude for the help that many people have given altruistically throughout the years and ended her talk by saying, "for us it is important that people who know so much, as is your case, believe in our project".

Following this, Jordi Fernández, Founding Partner of Olokuti, SL, gave the audience an overview of his company, which sells fair trade products through its website and stores in Barcelona. "We believed that fair trade could be a catalyst for positive change", he explained, this being one of the reasons that encouraged him and five other partners to launch the project. General and social trends, as well as individual awareness, helped Fernández create an economically sustainable business model which could benefit from the features of existing products. However, during the six years that Olokuti has been operating, the company has experienced moments of great difficulty. "Doing what we like doing, believing in something, but it being economically viable is not always possible", stressed Fernández. The creator of Olokuti ended his talk by describing the company's financially-focussed business model as a guide for the audience members, who were then able to relate with the guest speakers during an open-floor discussion.





The ESADE Alumni Business Angels Club, as part of the Learning with... cycle, cordially invites you to a session on social entrepreneurship, which will take place on 14th February at 7.30pm.

There are many types of entrepreneurs. The so-called social entrepreneur aims for social change by employing people at risk of social exclusion and prioritising the individual over other factors. The company Teixidors, SCCL, which produces quality hand-made textile products and won the 2008 National Crafts Award, is a prime example of this.

Other entrepreneurs hope to achieve social change by promoting fair trade and green-friendly products for consumers wanting a more sustainable world. One such company is Olokuti, SL, the first concept store in Spain to offer sustainable products – over 10,000 in total – online and in its own stores. 

During the session, processes of social change will be discussed: Should they be led by private initiatives? How can a private company promote social change and also be profitable? What advantages and difficulties does this type of entrepreneurship have compared to others?

Alfred Vernis (Lic&MBA 88), Executive Director of the ESADE University and Senior Researcher at the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation

Juan Ruíz and Marta Ribas, Founders of Teixidors, SCCL.

Jordi Fernández, Founding Partner of Olokuti, S.L.

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