Between 13 and 18 May the Slovenian organization N.K.L. hosted a forum on social entrepreneurship in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The initiative is part of the DIVE 3: Zero to One> 1 to N project, where the Bread Houses Network is a partner.Visits were organized in various socially oriented businesses, as the tour started at the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. We were surprised to find out that there is a separate Directorate for Entrepreneurship and Technology. It aims to support the international competitiveness of Slovenian enterprises by developing policies and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation. There are about 260 companies registered as social enterprises in Slovenia, most benefiting from the Ministry’s financial assistance and membership programs. It supports startups, SE, educational laboratories and access to employment through tax refunds, public auctions, and more. Also, the ministry has helped to provide a space free of rent, left from a bankrupted store, to one of these companies- Preoblikovanje, which produces wood-based furniture for zero carbon footprint. They employ 8 people, 5 of them from vulnerable groups.
Some organizations, however, do not feel that support. Judo Club Sokol teaches about 60 disabled people by offering them special classes. Funding is a problem, as more Paralympic disciplines have been subsidized than the special Olympics. They receive approximately EUR 1,000 a year of funding from the ministry.
The following visits filled us with enthusiasm and optimism. Two of the companies recycle used items and clothes and sell them. Smet-Umet makes bags, toys, and other items as they like to focus on the amount of rubbish that is produced and how it can be transformed into useful and beautiful things. Drustvo verjamem vate sells donated clothes and second-hand toys, and recycles them to make new clothes, which they also sell. They have employed 7 people, some of them with special needs. They also have a day center with a café where people with special needs can create and learn basic skills. Stara roba -Nova roba is also a second-hand shop that sells various donated goods in good condition. They hire former drug addicts and / or homeless, helping them with social inclusion. They have started with an EU grant but are now 100% self-sustainable as they can pay salaries and rent.
School and university students are the focus of next businesses. Makerlab is part of the University of Ljubljana and is a place where students can develop their own projects with expensive equipment such as 3D printers. They have social entrepreneurship in the form of FabLabs, which has them throughout Slovenia, so that young people in remote areas can also access technological training. They are funded by the university and through small membership fees. Zavod 404 is the first youth center in Slovenia for technology and research. It aims to provide young people with the opportunity to acquire technical skills and interest in entrepreneurship and research. They organize frequent workshops for students and their teachers in the field of electrical engineering, woodwork and others.
As you can see, Slovenia’s social entrepreneurship environment is favorable, and regardless of whether they have the support of state institutions or not, people’s striving to contribute to the environment and to support people in need is a sufficient impetus for creating a meaningful business model.