Food for Thought
A sustainable company selling high quality meals that create meaningful jobs for women with culinary skills, in need of employment.
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The competition is only open to people between 18-34 years-old and resident in UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. Does this apply to you
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Tell us about your personal background. Why are you passionate about this issue? Making an idea a reality takes innovation, dedication and strong leadership. Do you have the necessary entrepreneurial skills to realize your vision?
My experience within the field of social entrepreneurship started with my previous role as regional manager for an American company based in Guatemala, offering education to the local community. The experience became an introduction to how sustainable businesses can have a positive impact on the quality of life in poor communities and complex environments. My role was to plan for and execute the launch of a new regional office, as the company was expanding. This came with a full responsibility for daily operations of a language academy, management of administrative and teaching staff and responsibility for sales, marketing and development of new services and concepts based on client needs and local conditions. After managing the regional office during two years we had grown an operation with over 20 staff members and 200 students, under my leadership. With this experience of running a start up business I founded Food for Thought during 2011. I have also initiated and executed numerous projects throughout my professional life.
I believe I have the entrepreneurial skills, long term thinking, endurance and creativity needed to create a team and achieve a positive impact on the challenge I want to approach through my business idea. I also realize I will learn a lot on this journey.
I also believe my diverse background have equipped me with many of the tools I will need to realize my vision. I am a former board member and Program Director of Social Entrepreneurship Forum (SE Forum), a Swedish based NGO supporting social entrepreneurs in Sweden. I have a Masters degree in Political Science from Uppsala University and a broad experience from working with both private and public organizations such as 4C Strategies, Brottsförebyggande rådet (Brå) and Folkuniversitetet. My primary areas of interest are education, employment, entrepreneurship, integration and community development.
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Food for Thought
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La necesidad: ¿Cuál es el problema que tratas de solucionar?
The current unemployment rate in Sweden is 7,8%. Many of the people behind this number are immigrant women whose level of education, swedish skills, network and experience of the Swedish - or any labour market is very limited. This problem does not only affect these women; their financial and social well being but also has a negative impact on their children. Recent reports from Save the Children Sweden shows that poverty among children in Sweden continues to grow (http://www.rb.se/vartarbete/isverige/barnfattigdom/Pages/default.aspx) and that immigrated children and children living in suburbian areas are especially vulnerable. Food for Though is currently aimed at citizens living in one of these suburbs; Botkyrka municipality south of Stockholm, where the problem is extensive.
La solución: ¿Cuál es tu solución? Sé específico.
The solution that Food for Thought presents is to create jobs, instead of searching for them. In my previous work where I meet many of these women I saw that despite their difficulties to enter the labour market they have great - but informal culinary skills. These skills builds a foundation for creating meaningful jobs through selling high quality and authentic food based on their own recipes. By doing so we can create a market driven, financially sustainable business where jobs are created through the profit being reinvested in the operations. The initial approach and sales channel will be catering services. The long term plan is to expand to other business areas such as school kitchens etc. There are also plans to implement scale up models such as (social) franchising as a part of an expansion strategy.
This solution means a natural empowerment process through the active participation in the overall process of transforming the initiatve towards becoming a functional business.
El Modelo: Muéstranos a través de un ejemplo específico cómo tu solución hace una diferencia, incluye tus actividades primarias
Making money and ”saving the world” is sometimes seen as a taboo. In this case the moneymaking is crucial as a mean to reach the social goal. If we don't make money from selling food, no jobs can be created and the target group will keep living in poverty. The stronger our business becomes, the more jobs we can create. I also want to illustrate how the model connects to empowerment by using a catering job as example. Influencing a menu through creating and executing recipes that someone (a client) is willing to pay is a fundamental empowerment tool. The clients payment is a direct approval of your skills; the food you just made is at the quality that someone will pay a market price to enjoy it. The meeting between our co-workers (the women) and different clients is crucial - and should not be underestimated. I have seen this happen through the catering jobs we have had so far, and the result is very obvious; it gives financial independence to these women and builds confidence. With this confidence being gradually build up people also become more receptive to changes, new learning opportunities and challenges.
El mercado: ¿Quiénes son tus pares y competidores? Identifica a otros que también estén trabajando para dar respuesta a las necesidades que tú abordas y en qué te diferencias de ellos. ¿Cuáles son los desafíos que estos jugadores podrían representar para tu éxito o crecimiento?
There are a few number of small initiatives with plans or smaller operations to focus on food and catering services, although in the cases I’ve seen it has been small scale NGO also operating in other areas; sewing and craft work. My advantage is that Food for Thought is strictly focused on services related to food, with a clear belonging in the food industry, using an on-the-job-training model. Several initiatives seems limited by the ability to sell and understand their market. The toughest form of competition is of course the regular food industry itself with potential competitors. Our advantage will be the social innovation and the diversity in our selection and menues (and our use of organic produce). It will be crusial to execute a service at the level needed to compete with others.
Select the stage that best applies to your business
Operando menos de un año
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What is the social impact you have had to date and how you measure it?
So far 3 people are employed on an hourly basis. One of them has despite her 13 years in Sweden never entered the labour market prior to this. Although we cannot yet offer a full time employment the impact is obvious. She has for the first time had her own money - and for the first time ever made use of her skills outside her home, in a setting where she is encouraged to learn Swedish with coworkers, suppliers and clients. The long term impact will be measured by established methods such as (ie. SROI, Socioekonomiskt bokslut, a Swedish method) - with the aim to measure both the society’s and the individual’s gain when moving from living on subsidies to being financially independent. We will also measure the individual improved health, as this is a an interconnected problem.
What barriers might hinder the success of your business? How do you plan to overcome them?
The food industry is known as competitive. The vulnerability and lack of experience within our group requires a structure of manageable and gradually advancing tasks - lead by a professional chef who understands that the group is senior within their cooking, but less independent in other areas; language, food safety regulations, sales. This requires sensitivity to cultural differences, health issues etc. in addition to an overall ability to balance and meet clients expectations. A healthy working environment, resilient structures, innovative solutions - and never compromising on product quality and market demands will be essential.
How does your model address financial, social, and environmental sustainability?
The model aims to address social and financial sustainability among immigrant women with difficulties to enter the labour market through job creation resulting in independence, empowerment and well being, and a local economy where salaries generate growth instead of being an unsustainable stress to the welfare system. A holistic approach built on using organic and locally produced produce, high awareness of food waste and energy efficient transportation's and cooking methods are given parts of the model. Our goals to address financial, social and environmental sustainability are interconnected and all dependent on each other. Financial stability and growth, a successful creation of a brand for Food for Thought as a company is as explained earlier a criteria for the social mission to create safe employments and real jobs, since we want to use the profit to grow and create more jobs. Its is also a very solid empowerment tool. Food consumption is a heavy stress on the environment. By an innovative approach we can contribute to a control of a negative environmental impact from the consumption of a very timeless product that people will always need and demand; food. It is not a matter of if we should consume food; its rather a matter of what, how - and how much we should consume - as well as how healthy the components are. Food for Thought offers authentic, simple, healthy and delicious meals with a clear social purpose.
Awareness & learning
How do you see social entrepreneurship contributing to the improvement of developing countries?
Approximately 50 % of the 100 largest economies are countries, the remaining 50% are corporations. These numbers illustrate the importance and impact that entrepreneurship and the private sector have globally, nationally and locally. When using entrepreneurship's without respect and knowledge for a sustainable world, we see the kinds of environmental and social problems that many developing countries face. When using the methods of business and the mechanism of the market for a sustainable purpose we can use this impact to solve problems. I believe the strongest business ideas (within social entrepreneurship) comes from a true understanding of a problem, where the solution itself is interconnected with the problems. I key to solving many problems (not all) in developing countries - and the inequality we see between poor and rich countries - is the creation of jobs and growth. I believe this is where social entrepreneurship is crucial.
What aspects of your stay in Uganda as part of the competition do you think you will find most challenging and rewarding?
My work is all about people and intercultural meetings; its is at the core of the business I am currently building as well as the products and services we offer. I have spent two years working in Guatemala and althought there are many differences between the ways and challenges in Africa and Centralamerica - I hope to make use of some of my previous experiences living and interacting in a community facing great challenges but also many opportunities. The relationship between food and agriculture is obvious and since I work with food and local farmers in Sweden I am also very keen to explore the methods used among farmers in Uganda. I imagine there is a lot to learn from them that could enrich my work with Food for Thought in Sweden. Many women in my target audince in Sweden have immigrated from African countries, and althought each country is unique, I would hope to develop a better and deeper understanding för my coworkers culture.