Gracias. Because dreams are to be fulfilled in life…
I believe that it is always convenient to dream big, because as the saying goes “dreaming big or dreaming small costs the same”. But what specifically is dreaming big? For me, this question represents putting into action ideas or desires that we have in life and that allow us to achieve some objective that we pursue, even when it is difficult or seems impossible to achieve.
This is how this dream that began back in 2016, upon my return from a trip that I undertook for more than a year around the world, was formulated. The one that took me through more than 40 countries, thousands of kilometers, hundreds of stories and experiences that made me discover new horizons, cultures, societies and worlds that opened up for me at every step. I came back with a backpack full of rewarding experiences and with a lot of learning that I received from all the people with whom I had the opportunity to share. I also carried out solidarity and volunteer actions in Africa and India, which added to the expansion of social commitment that I had formed through collaborations in NGOs in Argentina.
Upon my return and feeling gratitude as the predominant emotion of the whole experience, I came up with the idea of looking for a method or means by which I could continue to exponentiate that social commitment that had already been triggered in me to help others, but in a way that is disruptive, sustainable and scalable over time. And so it was, through studying different ventures, legal provisions and methodologies both globally and nationally, I decided to start this dream that today is a reality and is called Gracias.
When I began to think about the idea of implementing a business model in Argentina where the basis was to set up a social enterprise that would donate 100% of its profits to a foundation, which would then use those funds to meet urgent needs, the idea seemed more utopian than real. The adversities, difficulties, time and resources that took me more than 2 years to build this business model in Argentina, only increased the desire to bet on something unique.
The idea remained firm and the desire to transform realities even more so. Back in 2018, it was our turn to start putting together the Gracias team. where, in addition to my sister, other people joined us and collaborated in bringing this idea to life and developing us in a market that was hard hit by the economic situation at that time. But sometimes the important thing to make these dreams come true is to move forward in small steps and enjoy the road as we go along. And so it was with effort and sacrifice, and with a team that vibrated with the purpose we had, we began to approach clients, generating commercial proposals and giving life to a commercial experience where the ultimate goal was to accompany people who today are going through situations of vulnerability and who have some unsatisfied universal basic right.
Our mission was always clear from the beginning:
To be a bridge between those who have a need and those who wish to contribute to eradicate poverty in Argentina.
And to carry it out, we presented ourselves as an offer to the market by marketing consumer products of quality and impact, which allow users to be part of the change, and through their choice to join in being transformers of this unjust reality in which many people live in our country.
Developing an SME in Argentina is, in itself, a huge challenge. Developing a social enterprise that donates 100% of profits to social impact projects sounded like a miracle back then. But our faith was intact and the early feedback from our customers made us thirsty for more.
So were the first two years of great organic growth through partnerships with our customers, the support of the people who accompanied us with their purchase or dissemination of our message, of the suppliers that accompanied us from the beginning and of the educational institutions that invited us to their auditoriums to spread the word to many generations that there was another way of doing business, in which sectors of the economy that decided to bet on disruptive business models could join. As we have always shared our vision, of the entire value chain of the social enterprise we created, the only link that left its participation for social impacts was the shareholder. All other actors give and receive what they deserve and in the right measure. This means that after paying all our costs, we donate 100% of our profit to the Grupo Gracias Foundation. which distributes the funds to different social projects aimed at eradicating poverty in Argentina.. With the funds, we develop programs in partnership with organizations that work to address basic human needs such as access to safe water, child nutrition and health protection.
Beyond the growth and development of the business, like any start-up company, the operational cost of starting up, producing and managing the business makes the first years challenging to make the company profitable. I honestly did not know how long it would take us to be able to give positive profitability or earnings and cover the losses of the first fiscal years, especially in the economic context in which we had started and with a pandemic that hit us for two years.
At the same time and with the same sacrifice, it took us almost 3 years to obtain all the requirements and approvals from the necessary governmental agencies to establish the Foundation with which we were going to carry out the social projects. The stones on the road only revalidated why we were playing this game, why we wanted to generate different things, but above all why we wanted to help the people. Because it is precisely in a country where shortages and obstacles are at hand every day, where people with lack of resources or in vulnerable situations are the most punished and forgotten. It is precisely in a punished economy, with situations of corruption or increasing poverty as Argentina has been suffering in the last decades, where this type of commitments are more than necessary to give voice to all those people who claim to have their basic mandatory rights covered, and which unfortunately do not have them.
In addition to this, our responsibility to provide sustainable solutions from the Foundation in terms of rights such as Access to Safe Water, Child Nutrition and Health Protection, proposed us another challenge which was to cover the costs of impacts that can last over time, that covers the need permanently and that does not generate an expense to the impacted families.
We started developing and building ferrocement cisterns for families in Gran Chacho Argentino, where there was no infrastructure developed to obtain drinking water and where this solution appeared to be the only viable one to supply an entire family. Construction and development costs were increasing due to inflation and the scalability of impacting many people was becoming more challenging. We started contributing with projects from donations and the contributions we made as founding partners in the Foundation, to begin our social mission and to transform the reality of people who opened their doors to work together.
How many times I was overcome with the thought and feeling of uncertainty when I asked myself, “Can we validate the business model? Is it possible to run a business that sustains social impact solutions on a permanent basis? How to deal with an unfavorable economic context and two years of pandemic? Many times I felt doubts about how to move forward with everything, and sometimes even frustration. But I knew that these setbacks are part of becoming a walker and of life itself.
And so came the end of 2020, with more doubts than certainties, with more blows than support. But with an enormous desire that we put into everything to make our dream come true.
When we closed the financial statements of Grupo Gracias SRL this year, I knew that there was a slight hope that we had done well due to some large commercial agreements we had developed earlier in the year and an improvement in the cost of products that we achieved by reconfiguring the suppliers we had.
And almost unintentionally, the dream became reality.
The economic result of 2020 for the financial statements of the social enterprise, not only showed a profit that covered the operating losses of the first two and a half years of formation, but the resulting operating profit after taxes and legal reserve of $187,160. This amount was entirely allocated in 2021 for the construction of 2 cisterns in the town of San José del Boquerón, Chaco, which allowed 4 families to have access to safe water, covering the right of more than 20 people.
Today, with great pride, passion, happiness and above all GRATITUDE, I want to thank all those people who made this dream come true. With a lot of commitment and respect for what we have achieved, but also with a lot of enthusiasm for everything we have left. Today Thank you. is no longer a dream as it is no longer something of mine, but a means with which we have an enormous possibility to demonstrate that there is a new way of doing business, that there is a bridge for all those people who want to help and above all, to give space and voice to many people who are waiting to satisfy their basic social rights.
Thank you for reading this brief story about how a dream (small for some, huge for others) became possible. And now that it is a reality, we can expand it as much as we can.
“Lots of little people, in little places, doing little things, can change the world.” Eduardo Galeano
President Grupo Gracias SRL – Fundación Grupo Gracias.