Myrtillo Social Co-operative Enterprise

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Myrtillo Social Co-operative Enterprise: Including the Excluded

Athens, GreeceGreece
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

As a contribution to overcoming social exclusion in Greece, the Social Co-operative Enterprise Myrtillo founded a Cafeteria / Bakery / Arts Centre in Neo Iraklio. 10 individuals with disability work here and another 24 are receiving training with a view to integration in the labour market.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if the socially excluded in Greece could find a dignified place in society and in the labour market, and, what is more, set up their own se
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our aim is to create a competitive enterprise which will enable vulnerable individuals to prove that they can work creatively and on equal terms in a modern environment, and not hidden in ‘special’ facilities where they are simply ‘kept occupied’. In response to the dependency of NGOs on outside income, fear of difference and dismissive undervaluing of the abilities of the vulnerable, Myrtillo places a dynamic enterprise in their hands.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The cafeteria aims to proclaim its innovative character and social mission in every way possible: • Through its architecture / lay-out • Through the quality of its products and services • Through its artistic events emphasising simplicity, good taste, and inclusiveness so as to transform the cultural identity of the area • Through its training programmes / therapy sessions with emphasis on creativity and uniqueness • Through the professionalism and courtesy of its staff, self-assessment and readiness to adopt innovations for the benefit of the business • Through hiring of staff on the basis of current labour law, with respect for the rights of all, and without employment offered to the vulnerable being a concession but a right.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Testimonies: Even though I've 2 degrees, all my applications for work were rejected. At Myrtillo I now have a salary and insurance and I cope perfectly. (Maria T, deaf, 29) For the first time a have a proper job. (Nikos S, learning difficulties, 28) I work at the bar and I look after the shop as if it were my own. (Kostas, deaf, 29) Our life has changed. The family was suffering from depression. Now Amilia has found herself. With her Asperger syndrome she works systematically. (Vaso K, mother) It’s the only shop where the staff become your friends and shower you with good wishes. A Tzavela, journalist) I was stopped on the road by people in a car asking me if I know where to find Myrtillo! (P. Vlasopoulos, Mayor of N Iraklio)

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Applications for work or training are increasing. As of May 2014 we have 10 employees and 24 trainees. Training includes practical skills and seminars (e.g. music & drama). These take place in the shop during working hours and customers can listen in. Visitors feel part of the project and benefit from it. In the past 6 months about 30 events have been organized, book presentations, story-telling, exhibitions, musical evenings, discussions. With its presence and work Myrtillo has already begun to change social attitudes in the area and more widely. Public interest in our work comes from the whole of Attica and from other cities. We have many offers for volunteer help, especially from educated young people between 25 and 40 (students, professionals, artists). We have started co-operating with organizations and educational establishments, as well as with local schools and associations

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Because of the resonance of M’s work we have initiated cooperation with other bodies. The Ministry of Adminstrative Reform has proposed that alongside a network of enterprises that will offer work to our trainees we create a chain of Myrtillos in other towns as a kind of social franchising under our supervision. We see the immediate need for a 2nd Myrtillo (the Municipality of Athens is interested) if our aim of ‘integration’ is to be expanded. The problem is to establish support mechanisms. The project has begun to develop more than we could have imagined when we started our little shop!

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We are basically self supporting through the sale of products and services. Most capital costs have been met through donations. We seek constant innovation to widen our customer base. The Cafeteria is being extended into the public square to increase income. We also aim to have live music every weekend, increased productivity in the bakery, public relations to keep us in the public eye and participation in ESPA competitions for extra funding.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are Workshops in Athens for young people with Learning Difficulties (Margarita Ergastiri and others). Myrtillo differs as a) a normal competitive enterprise in a commercial, public area b) our employees are properly paid and insured c) they gain knowledge and experience to open enterprises of their own in the future d) our products and services are visible to the public e) it is not an NGO but largely self-sustaining and not dependent on significant outside funding. We are in communication with 3 NGOs and 5 Social Enterprises with related aims.

Founding Story

The inspiration came from the Engine Shed ( in Edinburgh where my son was a trainee. I started to think how to adapt this concept to a Greek setting. The obstacles were not so much practical as the Greek bureaucratic mentality, shame culture, resistance to change and difficulty in cooperation. Only a very dynamic project could break through barriers and so I decided to make it very Greek: live events, noise and activity so that it would have the ‘street cred’ to give confidence to the vulnerable young people working there. Its opening hours would be to 1.00 am when Scottish people are sound asleep in their beds. Above all, I wanted to give initiative to the employees so that one day the enterprise would be their own!


The Myrtillo Social Co-op Enterprise has 25 members in admin roles. None work in the shop or receive remuneration. Most are professionals, 10 are parents of children with disability. The team has a legal advisor, a business advisor, 2 special teachers, 2 therapists, a general manager and an events organiser. We need 2 further trainers. Our trainees contribute to local Volunteer Programmes as part of their social integration.


Chrissy Pirounaki's picture

This is a great idea for both workers and customers. Promotes ethos.