A glimpse behind the scenes of social entrepreneurship: APPEL

APPEL

“We don’t sell products, we offer hope,” Darmen Ellayah

The Association Pour Personnes En Larmes, or APPEL, was established in 2006 with the goal of assisting society’s most vulnerable persons, mainly the homeless and those recovering from addiction. In order to help these people rebuild their self-esteem and learn how to reintegrate into society and once again become regular citizens, APPEL established the first Residential Rehabilitation Centre in Mauritius in 2013. In addition, ARCH Cafe is mostly managed by beneficiaries who have graduated from the rehabilitation programme and have successfully reintegrated into the mainstream.

Selected to participate in Trampoline’s Impact Accelerator Programme in January 2022, APPEL was co-founded by Darmen Ellayah, the current President. As the programme is drawing to an end, it is interesting to see how the team has evolved during these months. Discover Darmen’s insight, a few weeks away from the end of the programme. 

Trampoline’s Impact Accelerator Programme is nearing completion. Was your journey what you expected so far?

Disruption from the coronavirus has significantly impacted the ARCH Cafe as a startup social entrepreneurship model. After facing two lockdowns, we encountered financial difficulties and faced issues of losing the support of our sponsors/ funders. We had to take urgent remedial measures but we didn’t know the strategy to get out of this challenging situation. When we approached Trampoline, we had two distinct objectives; to upgrade our existing training center into an MQA Approved Social Training Center, giving us the possibility to grant MQA certification to trainees; and secondly, to position our cafeteria as a successful Social Entrepreneurship Model, capable of employing more beneficiaries, enabling them to reintegrate into a new life. During the programme, we re-evaluated these objectives and turned our focus to boosting the ARCH Cafe. 

How did the Impact Accelerator Programme help you?

We had no idea how to make the Cafe sustainable. The Impact Accelerator Program, however, provided us with many insights to guide us through this process. We have picked up a ton of new knowledge and abilities. We have set KPIs to enable the team to make smart business decisions about the direction of all current and future activities. We learned about capacity building, which gave us the ability to carry out our goal more successfully both now and in the future, improving our capacity to have a positive impact on people’s lives and communities.

We discovered how to rearrange our ideas such that we have very clear and distinct goals. This is how we decided to put all our focus on the Cafe and add another dimension to this activity by launching a catering service for corporate events. Just like the Cafe, the employees are people who benefited from our rehabilitation programme. Our aim is to provide business organisations conducting small to medium events with high-quality meals at a reasonable cost. By doing so, we are not only selling food products but giving these people their self-respect, dignity, and life back. They are gaining recognition for their work, and they are proud to know that their products are appreciated during these events. Our customers are not just purchasing food; they are also helping to improve someone’s life and restore his/her sense of worth.

How did your mentors and advisors help in the journey?

We always felt that we could count on Trampoline, the mentors, and the advisors working with us. Their assistance and support have truly changed the game for us. With the help of these different experts, we have learned and acquired new skills. Of course, we had to do the work, and we still need to keep going. But they gave us a clear vision and guided us in the right direction. We have not reached all our objectives yet, as we are still working on our communication tools and so on, but we are clearly on the right path. 

How is your new project different from what you started with?

Our initial project of boosting our cafeteria is still ongoing but with a whole new dimension thanks to our catering services. This allows us to employ more people who were previously unemployed and generate more income. Although our training centre is still open, our current priority is growing and sustaining our catering business.

What would you say to young social entrepreneurs who also want to launch their enterprise?

Social enterprises are still not well established in Mauritius. People don’t know much about the whole concept, and it is not fully supported by the system. However, if you have a clear vision of your objective, paired with unlimited passion and perseverance, then anything is possible. Those who are willing to start this adventure must remember that success is a journey, not a destination. There will be obstacles along the way, but there will also be hope and help. Never give up, especially if you can bring a positive change to someone and the society at large.

 

 

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