Before being welcomed in the Amazonas family, I spent one semester researching and writing my thesis on social economy in Croatia. If you’re asking yourself “what even is social economy?”, let me tell you: you are absolutely not alone. This term is still quite uncommon and oftentimes confused with something that has to do with volunteering, government social welfare, or extreme left-wing ideals. In fact, there is no common definition. Although the European Union recently started working on some plans to expand the concept and practice of social economy in all countries, each Member State has their own definition, or none of it. In Croatia, social economy is still a new born and is commonly called “društveno poduzetništvo”.
Social economy is all about business. It regards any economic activity where the main goal is not profit but rather impacting society in a positive way. A social business, indeed, needs to make profit; otherwise it would not survive; however, part of it is reinvested into activities beneficial to humans, animals, or the environment. The business works for a social goal. In order for you to understand better what I am talking about, here are some practical examples you may have heard of:
- Klub Močvara, a club that supports its platform URK which focuses on culture, education, and development
- OAZA Joyful Kitchen, a restaurant that finances the activities of its charity
- Felloz, a start up working to help charities collect more donations
- Humana Nova, transforming used clothes into new products and employing people with disabilities
- Hedona, making chocolate go local and employing people with disabilities
- Miret, producing long-lasting shoes with minimal environmental impact
- BIZkoshnica, a coworking space promoting social economy
- Brlog Pivovara, a beer factory putting social responsibility as its priority
Steps towards entrepreneurship
As you can see, there are already quite a few social businesses in Croatia. However, more are needed if we want to create a truly socially and environmentally conscious society. I conducted a small study on about 90 young Croatian people. It turned out that more two thirds of them would like to have a social enterprise if they had to open any kind of business. This means that young people are ready to face the challenge of having an “uncommon” business that is still unrecognised in many countries.
Reading about the ideas behind social businesses, their success, and appreciation by the people inspires me a lot. If you feel the same way, but do not know where to start with building your own enterprise or even how to take the first steps towards entrepreneurship, you might want to check out an amazing opportunity offered by the European Union.
Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is a program financed by the European Commission. It allows young people to spend from 1 to 6 months abroad learning about entrepreneurship. The only conditions for participating are:
- That you are residing in one of the participating countries, which are more than just EU countries
- That you are a new entrepreneur with less than 3 years of experience, or
- That you are not an entrepreneur yet, but are willing to become one
Throughout your experience abroad you will be engaged in a practical internship in an established enterprise or start-up. You will learn about business-making. You will have the chance to closely follow knowledgeable entrepreneurs and to co-operate with them. They are ready to answer all of your questions and help you as much as they can in your own journey. You will receive financial help throughout the whole experience, enough to cover basic living costs.
Even though the application process may seem long and difficult at first, you can always ask for help from your local contact centre. They are an organization supporting future entrepreneurs and reviewing each application. They also make sure that you are paired with a business that adapts to your entrepreneurial idea, with something that sparks your interest. Moreover, you are easily guided through the process on the website and you can come back to it at any time – there is no time limit in which you have to finish it, and you can apply at any time in the year.
Ready for a new adventure? You can start your application even now!