Crisis as opportunity: helping social businesses survive and grow

The last three years can hardly be described as stable and predictable. These strange times are also influencing the traditional focus of the projects we support at Via Foundation. We are becoming ever more flexible as we look for ways to help ordinary people through these challenging times, whether their difficulties are due to the devastating tornado in South Moravia, the coronavirus pandemic or the war in Ukraine.

In concert with the Abakus Foundation of the Avast company, we designed a program to support particularly vulnerable social businesses (i.e. enterprises that seek to further a social goal while also making money) to help them survive the covid-19 period. A total of 18 social businesses were supported with grants and assistance from mentors and other experts who helped them redirect their strategies, strengthen their marketing or acquire new expertise. The Via Foundation’s team also organized training sessions and peer exchange meetings for social business staff.

All of the supported social businesses considered the support crucial during the difficult covid-19 period. A third of them said that if it had not been for this support, their business would have barely survived.

We find it particularly gratifying that none of the supported social businesses had to cut back their staff and in fact one even hired two new employees. Most of the social businesses employ mentally or otherwise disabled people, which makes the project particularly important for this vulnerable group of people on the labour market.

The Blossoming Garden social business (“Květná Zahrada”) is one of the supported social businesses. The organization provides effective assistance and support to at-risk children and young people who, after reaching adulthood, leave an institutional setting such as a special school, youth care facility or juvenile detention centre, or are in a difficult life situation – without a home, help or support.

Since 2009, Blossoming Garden has run a social business focused on employing socially at-risk and vulnerable young people. There are also accompanying educational, lecturing and awareness-raising activities. The organization is a strong promoter of collaboration between the non-profit sector, local government, businesses and the general public.

We asked the director of Blossoming Garden about his experience in the project.

How was your experience with Via Foundation grant?

The experience was excellent. Some European or regional grant proposals are quite complicated to write and then administer – you’re always looking for what to document, what attachments to add. The Via grant application was simple, clear and transparent. And the whole process was like that.

What made this help crucial during the covid-19 era?

The opportunity to get such a big grant was key overall. Our loss after the pandemic restrictions in 2020 was more than a million crowns ($43,000). In 2021, our numbers were back in the black. Thanks to the grant, we were able to increase our turnover. We doubled the size of our local shop in October 2020 and immediately increased our turnover by almost 40%. The grant enabled us not only to expand the shop but also to buy more goods and provide new services.