“The Picnic Cat” started as a project conducted by Seoul Youth Factory for Alternative Culture, an institution that provides adolescents the opportunities to experience various occupations. Its goal is to pave an alternative path for adolescents who did not receive conventional college education to economically support themselves.
Two years after its first initiation in May 2011, The Picnic Cat has now become a social enterprise comprising of eight members, four adults and four “young adolescents,” those between the ages 18 and 24 who have not entered university, dropped out or those from caring facilities.
One distinguishing characteristic of the enterprise is that it ultimately seeks the development and maturation of both the teenagers and adults. The representative Director Park Jin-sook emphasizes the importance of the presence of adults.
“I have seen many cases in which young adolescents who start their own companies fail,” Park said. “Although the title CEO may seem grand for young adolescents, they face serious obstacles when they compete in a market full of adults most of whom have obtained more knowledge and experience. With such rationale, I thought it was more beneficial for young starters to start off with adults.”
The team of eight pack lunch boxes, filled with various side dishes and rice they cook every day. The boxes are sold at price that ranges from 1,500 won to 8,000 won and are delivered to all regions in Seoul.
Since the members go grocery shopping and cook on the very day the boxes are delivered, reservation is obligatory. Since only orders of more than 10 lunch packs are accepted, those who have large meetings usually order. Five to six orders, or 50 to 60 lunch boxes, are prepared per day.
Other services include catering service in the form of a buffet and another in the form of school lunch provided to customers who come directly to the stores. The group has already formed permanent customers who order lunch boxes and catering service and come to the store on the weekdays and weekends.
“Since our disposable lunch boxes are convenient, those who have large meetings with many number of people order our lunch boxes,” Hong Se-jung, director, said.
The members experienced hardships during the process of preparing and delivering food. There were even times when the food went to waste.
“During the enterprise’s initial stage, we made many mistakes,” Park said. “We once made hundreds of lunch boxes staying up all night but the food went to waste because the event was canceled due to severe weather.”
Through such hardships, the members have matured. Although it has only been approximately three years since its initiation, Park observes that the participating adolescents have shown positive changes. Those who have hated the question asking their dream are now finding their genuine interests.
The store’s policy that emphasizes maintaining the balance between life and work has played a part in such change. The group sets working hours to six hours a day and encourages the participants to seek for other interest during the rest of the time.
The Picnic Cat seeks to expand and develop its business both physically and spiritually.
“We plan to expand our business next year by expanding the size of our store and increasing the number of young adolescents,” Hong said. “We are also planning to go to Japan for a training session offered by a Japanese adolescent organization.”