Two weeks ago we participated in an Erasmus+ Social Enterprise Exchange programme. We visited a number of great social enterprises, and now I’d like to tell you all about one that really struck a chord with me.
Coming from a fashion background (I studied Fashion Buying and Merchandising) this was one of the most interesting and memorable business models of the trip, and one that I have never come across before.
We travelled an hour and a half north of Barcelona to a small town called Llagostera. Upon arrival, we found ourselves outside a Massimo Dutti fashion store, and my first impression was: why are we here, this surely isn’t a social enterprise?
We then learnt that this Massimo Dutti store was part of a Social Enterprise group called Moltacte, that work within the Textiles Sector. ‘Moltacte’ is a Catalan word that means ‘To Nurture, to look after, to care for’. There are several chain stores that Moltacte operate, managed and staffed in a unique way.
Moltacte are a group that provide employment to people with mental disorders. Over half of the staff at each Moltacte store suffer from severe mental disorders, and as such are deemed unfit to work by many workplaces. Without the structure, responsibility and sense of achievement that work brings to our lives, their condition often worsens.
Ana Artázcoz, the highly professional director of Moltacte, told us all about her business: Why she set it up, how it works, and the profound impact it has on the socially excluded. Moltacte provide stable and quality employment for these excluded people. In addition to finding clothes and fashion accessories at discounted prices, the customer is also involved in a sustainable social project. Each worker has regular contact with a psychologist who works closely with everyone in the stores.
My experience in Massimo Dutti was extremely positive with great customer service. If I had not been told about Moltacte, I would never have assumed that a percentage of the staff had a mental disorder.
I’ll now round up their mission and impact.
The Moltacte mission
The creation of jobs to improve lives of those with mental health disorders, and to reintegrate them back into wider society.
The Moltacte Social Impact
Employment and social integration of people with severe mental disorders.
Breaking prejudices and opening a wider market
Many people who suffer with a mental illness are often isolated from the outside world and are sometimes even afraid to come out of their homes. Moltacte’s model gives these people’s lives structure, reason and a sense of achievement each day.
Combating the stigma of mental illness in society: their excellent customer service retail team is comprised of 29 people, 20 of which are people with a mental disorder.
Moltacte are doing great things to combat social exclusion in Barcelona. They are providing a way back into society for many ostracized people.
What really struck me about Moltacte was their professionalism and their reserve about what they were doing: The standard of the Massimo Dutti store we visited was impeccable, with nothing that revealed it to be different to any other store. This approach to social enterprise was something new to me, and I think it’s one that we can learn a lot from.