In September 2011, the idea of HOME enterprises was envisioned; a social enterprise located in the heart of the Amsterdam’s red light district which would provide services to women in prostitution in the form of healthy, nutritious meals delivered straight to the windows where they work, and would give the opportunity for women exiting exploitation to gain skills in cooking and catering.
This idea became a reality in March of this year when the Not For Sale Netherlands team launched HOME soup. A social business of this type had never been done before in Amsterdam and everyone was intrigued to see if it would succeed. With the support of local city officials and other government service providers, HOME soup began selling fresh, nutritious soup to women in prostitution two days each week.
“The first day we sold soup we only four girls bought from us,” said Not For Sale staff member Saskia Wishart, “They were skeptical, but once they tasted the soup, they became very supportive and started sharing ideas about how we can improve!”
A local soup chef from a highly respected soup company in Amsterdam called Soup en Zo joined the team and made fresh with recipes that ranged from Hungarian Goulash to Italian Tomato. As the HOME enterprise began to expand, Not For Sale partnered with a local government shelter that provides service to women who have been victims of human trafficking and in June 2012, HOME offered the first four training internships to survivors of exploitation.
The four women who participated were thrilled to be involved of the making of soup that would be delivered to other women in prostitution. Soup made for the women by the women was the vision of HOME from the start. Toos Heemskerk, Not For Sale Netherlands Director said, “When the girls joined us in the kitchen it was like giving birth to the reality of what we had dreamed up.”
This July HOME completed the pilot phase, and is evaluating the success of the project. “We have been able to count 973 soups that were sold to those working in prostitution,” said Saskia, “Another 237 soups were given away for free to those who were new or who had never tried the soup before. We counted approximately 33 different nationalities, the majority of women coming from Eastern Europe and South America, so you can imagine there are a lot of opinions about what makes good soup. That is the most interesting part, getting to hear from the women about how soup is made in their home countries.”
HOME soup has met its first goal of providing nutritious food to women behind the windows, as well as opportunities for training, so now what is next for HOME? In mid-August HOME will re-open, expanding the menu to include salads, and will begin selling soup in a corporate setting as a catering service. Survivors of exploitation will regularly be trained at HOME, some of who will take part in the selling of soup in companies in order to be exposed to a regular working environment in a safe way.
By the end of 2012, Not For Sale plans to industrialize the soup in partnership with a Dutch soup factory, and soups will be sold through HEMA, a retail chain in the Netherlands. Proceeds from soup sales will go to support Not For Sale, and assist in the creation of new futures for women specifically coming from Eastern Europe.
While Not For Sale in the Netherlands and the HOME enterprise still have a long way to go, it is exciting to acknowledge the success of this social venture so far! Click here to learn more about Not For Sale in the Netherlands.