Social Enterprise Babale founded by the Georgian Down Syndrome Association aims at supporting employment and professional education of people with Down syndrome. This itself will contribute to economic empowerment and independet life of people with Down syndrome. Babale unites two spaces – creative workshop where young people with Down syndrome are educated using a special methodology, get employed, and make products; and the saloon where the products are exhibited and sold. At Babale, they hold workshops for all interested people, including students and tourists, where they create various souvenirs with help of Babale staff, including people with Down syndrome. This promotes the natural development of an inclusive environment.
Babale was founded in 2015 by the parents’ association with grant funding and operated as a non-commercial, non-profit legal entity. Since 2018 Babale became the LTD of the Georgian Down Syndrome Association (GDSA) which is also a non-commercial organization. The 100% owner of the social enterprise is the GDSA itself.
12 employees – 2 of them have Down syndrome and 4 of them are parents
56 people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities went under the pre-vocational training
About 60 children and adolescents with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities engaged in various social services developed and piloted by the association
Plans for the future: expanding business, training and employment of more people with Down syndrome
There are made both decorative and applied items of wood, ceramics and textiles at Babale: wooden chests, stationery, bags, accessories, various figures, holiday items, such as Christmas trees, angels and other practical or decorative items.
In 2020 and 2021, Babale created and developed two new product lines which were inspired by the drawings of children with Down Syndrome and details from the Georgian National Heritage. They also designed Babale’s Socks – 17 designs have been created in this line. These products have been placed on American and British Amazon. Babale Kitchen series including tablecloth, apron, pot holders and napkins has 8 different designs. Sales will start in the spring of 2022. Babale’s products are sold in the Babale Shop/Saloon, via British and American Amazon, via online shop www.babale.ge, Facebook and various exhibitions/street markets.
Before 2020 and Covid-19 pandemic there were 17 people employed including 5 young persons with disabilities and 6 parents of children with disabilities at Babale. At this moment Babale employees 12 people – 2 of them have Down syndrome and 4 of them are parents. Only two of the employees are men – one is a young man with Down syndrome.
56 people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities went under the pre-vocational training in Babale. Profit of the SE is reinvested for further development of the enterprise or for provision more services to children/people with Down syndrome. The enterprise is self-sustaining – its revenues cover all expenses.
As a business, it has a good growth potential. Babale has set a precedent when the proceeds of production are used for achievement of the NGO mission (Georgian Down Syndrome Association) and will guarantee the financial independence of the organization in the future. In 2018-2019, through the GDSA campaign #Lotsofsocks, with the funds mobilized by “Babale” the foundation was laid to 1. creation of development program 7+ for children and adolescents with Down syndrome; 2. piloting music therapy service using Nordoff-Robbins methodology for children with disabilities. There were engaged about 60 children and adolescents with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities in both of the programs. Babale became the Social Enterprise of the year in 2019.
Babale’s nearest development plan is to purchase own land in the suburb of Tbilisi, where various workshops will be built for almost all Babale production lines. The current space also serves as a showroom and is insufficient for further development. It is planned to create various workshops of wood processing, ceramics, sewing, fabric printing, and artistic processing united in one space. Such an arrangement will enable Babale not to outsource certain works, e.g. manufacturing wooden products, sewing a large number of products, etc., but produce them in own workshops. This will lead to training and employment of more people with Down syndrome. The pandemic has shown that having small workshops in the open space are being effective now and will be needed in the future for the smooth running of the production process. It will be possible to ventilate the spaces frequently, isolate the working personnel from each other, use the outdoor yard and keep the distance.