La revista ‘Yorokobu’ ha publicado en su último número un artículo sobre La Exclusiva, empresa alojada en El Hueco. Y nos ha gustado tanto que lo hemos traducido al inglés (el original, aquí).
Do not abandon the “pueblo”: I will do your shopping
There was a common scene in many villages in Soria where there was no local store or shop that could offer first-hand products to its inhabitants. Because of this, once a week, the businessmen and women from the region’s larger urban centres would get into their vans and cars to sell to the local people; bread, meat and the soap that they wash with. A horn announced their arrival.
But, when the villages slowly started to depopulate and to age, this peculiar form of trade ceased to be profitable. Today, there are no horns which gather the local people to the main square to buy bread.
Soria is one of the Spanish provinces with the highest amount of depopulation. The majority of the inhabitants from the small villages, burdened by their geographical location, have moved to larger towns or to other provinces in search of a new future. With the objective of facing this exodus and to ease the loss of provisions that met these small populations, two years ago a social logistics enterprise “La Exclusiva” was born.
The name is a small tribute to the bus that went around the highland zone in Soria many years ago. You can imagine the link with the capital through which the people and the city exchanged not only travellers, but also public documents and goods. “All the Sorian people knew what La Exclusiva was and when we presented it, the name seemed friendly and familiar to them”, explained Victoria Tortosa, manager, administrator and responsible for human resources and strategy within the logistics company.
As well as Victoria and her partner Hugo Francés, who serves as distributor, seller and head of sales, three other people make up the team.
It is located in the Sorian capital, in the El Hueco offices, a coworking space, social entrepreneurship and incubator of ideas which was launched in 2012 by the NGO Cives Mundi, for which Tortosa worked. Before dedicating 100% of her company to social logistics, the director managed international cooperation projects for Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.
La Exclusiva’s focus is to provide a service to the locals and to the small village shops that are still open. In this way, “they give us the order. They save their trip to Soria and we make the most of advertising. But we only deliver to the shop: if there is a shop, we do not sell to the locals directly. We know very well how a village shop can suffer”.
The project started to grow when an old French business, a food enterprise that sold its products on-the-go in the Gómara area, had to close because of depopulation, the ageing of the people and, in part, because of the crisis. Its clients were left without their usual supplier and many had to leave their lifetime homes to live with their children or in elderly residences.
“In the end, with great sadness in our hearts, we realised that we could do their shopping in Soria, and deliver it to their houses in an organised way”, explains Victoria Tortosa, the source of everything. The idea was to save on fixed costs and gasoline, so that the deal would not involve an added cost to its clients.
The idea was set and a business plan and area study were launched. They planned five weekly routes (one per day) to cover each of the 24 villages. In total, 200 kilometres per route would serve 1,000 families. They found a provider who was willing to take on some of the costs and, moreover, adjusted to the objective that this new enterprise had: to cover the basic necessities of the provincial villages’ inhabitants and allow the population to continue living there. The chosen provider was the hypermarket E. Leclerc, also located in the Sorian capital, “due to being a Sorian shop who sold all the area’s products and who supported the province’s social initiatives”, declared the manager of La Exclusiva. Quickly they won the support of this establishment.
“The hypermarket is who sells the products. In each food-shop they add their corresponding ticket and La Exclusiva invoices them a percentage from the total amount of sales. Through this method, the client gains because they have their needs covered without an added cost; the provider gains because it has clients who would otherwise be unable to shop with them; and La Exclusiva makes it possible for the basic needs of the province’s inhabitants to be covered within the service”, comments Tortosa, describing the workings of the business.
And so they started, two years ago. In this last year they have added more services based on requests from their clients, mainly the elderly, providing: textiles, domestic appliances, a bookshop, dry cleaning, housing rehabilitation, press, a pharmacy… In order to put La Exclusiva on the map, they have resorted to conventional advertising (posters, leaflets, business cards…) but they recognised that the most credible way of advertising was direct contact with the people. Some appearances in local media and, above all, mouth to mouth contact has contributed to them being well known.
Our reason for being is to help solve a social problem that so far has not been solved
La Exclusiva is a limited society which functions without any type of governmental grant and which is based on significant work and dreams. “Every day we contacted the Administration in order to ask for help: the Delegation of Soria, mayors, etc.”, but without any success. “It’s a shame, the way I see it”, Tortosa complains. However, they are very satisfied with the workings of their enterprise. “Our reason for being is to help solve a social problem that so far has not been solved. We have generated a social impact that we have already started to measure. Such as how our customer’s food habits have improved, their security, their tranquillity and that of their relatives. We already have customers that have decided to stay in their villages. We even have customers that have decided to come back to their original residence that they decided to leave when they got lonely”.
But now they want to grow, adding routes and increasing the coverage of their services. “The aim has always been to get to the last corner of the province, so that no one will be forced to leave their home because they cannot do something so simple such as the weekly shopping”, Tortosa claims. They visit 120 villages now, but the idea is to increase this to 120 more, enhancing the services and covering the entire province. In order to do that they need a new truck which they use for the deliveries.
For this reason they have launched a crowd-funding campaign on the website Lánzanos, through which they will seek to get the €30,000 that they need. They aim to divide the truck into 10×10cm, 20×20cm or 50×50cm little square spaces, proportional to the size of the donation, where the sponsors can place their photo or logo. The back doors will be allocated to whoever donates €2,310.
Various provinces have already shown their interest in the business model, not just from Castilla y León. “We got calls from some areas in Sevilla, Cáceres, Córdoba, Aragón, Galicia…”. However La Exclusiva’s creators’ intention is to strengthen its enterprise firstly in Soria and after that there will be time to expand elsewhere.
“It is a pity that a juridical form which conforms with the definition of social entrepreneurship does not exist”, complains Tortosa. “In other countries it has already been developed and I hope it will come here soon”.