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Piloting a wafer-making enterprise A grassroots initiative of local women

The former mining settlement, Szúcs-Bagólyuk, is located in Northern Hungary. It is a highly isolated settlement: its Roma habitants are not only excluded from Hungarian society in general, but even from the daily life of the neighbouring Szúcs. In 2016, Autonomia Foundation and Katona József Theatre launched a joint project to break the vicious cycle of segregation.

In the beginning they faced a complex set of problems as the community was devastated by high unemployment rate, health problems, poor housing conditions, apathy and hopelessness. Autonomia Foundation and Katona Jozsef Theatre’s project offered a multifaceted response to the multifaceted issue. It combined different activities to engage the whole community such as drama education for children, financial literacy education for mothers and community events for all inhabitants.

As the core of the community grew stonger, local inhabitants initiated a social enterprise to tackle one of the most important local problems, unemployment. Four women, together with Autonomia’s staff, were involved in the initial planning and decided to set up a enterprise which would produce a traditional local snack- a thin sweet wafer called ‘Molnárkalács’.

Naturally, in the planning stages the unsolved questions and associated risks of such an endeavour became apparent. As such, Badur Foundation together with Erste Foundation supported a small-scale pilot in order to test the wafer-making technology, develop new recipes and validate the market for the product.

During the six months of the pilot, many open questions could be resolved: the production site was renovated and equipped; a local team was formed and the recipe was finalised; and two tasting sessions were arranged in Budapest in order to gather feedback from potential customers. The initial responses are rather positive, and the team is optimistic that the market demand will be sustained ensuring the long-term viability of the business.

If successful, the enterprise will generat supplementary income for between four and six local women. In addition, the social enterprise will set an example - that with initial support, it is possible to operate an economically sustainable entrepreneurial activity offering a positive identity to a disadvantaged and stigmatized settlement and community.