Laurent Laïk

Groupe La Varappe
Year founded: 

Groupe La Varappe creates jobs in the south of France for people who have been excluded from society.

Focus: Professional Integration, Building, Environment, Renewable Energies
Geographic Area of Impact: France
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 1,000 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 13 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 85%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, France, 2010

Finding a job is a challenge, particularly when one has little or no professional qualifications. The increasing rate of unemployment and its consequences are a huge social and economic challenge for any country, and in France the unemployment rate is between 9 and 10%. Being an unqualified person does not necessarily equate to an inability to work; once employed, unqualified people regain self-esteem and can be productive workers.

Innovation and Activities
When Laurent Laïk took over La Varappe in 1997, the association focused on construction services and developing green spaces. He widened the range of services by creating several companies and investing in areas with a future, such as renewable energies. Today, 85% of Groupe La Varappe’s income comes from the sales of its services, and in 2010 the group paid more than 700 salaries. In 2009 the turnover increased from 25% and the number of integrated employees increased by 19%. More than 65% of the employees who left La Varappe found a steady job with another employer.

Groupe La Varappe is composed of two main organizations. One uses its six agencies based in the south of France to focus on finding temporary employment for people with minimal qualifications. Many succeed in getting short-term contracts as painters, drivers, masons and in other professions.

The other organization focuses on three environmental areas: construction and green spaces, waste, and renewable energies. In renewable energies, the group intends to double its current activity through its work on a new large construction site. It is also developing an environmental self-service for companies and individuals. This activity proposes painting or plumbing services for the home, gardening and installing different types of renewable energy systems.

Since 2010, Groupe La Varappe has created a think tank charged with mapping out projects for the future development of the group, as well as new social programmes at the national level. One project currently under discussion concerns the transformation of shipping containers into low-cost houses for students and poor people. Groupe La Varappe also manages a camp of Romani people in the city of Aubagne.

The Entrepreneur
Trained as an engineer, Laurent Laïk worked for Cuisines Schmidt, a French company that creates kitchens, as a project manager from 1995 to 1997. To start a new career he left this job and discovered the concept of companies providing employment to promote social integration, which he felt offered freedom and possibilities to innovate with people often excluded from society. For this reason he took over La Varappe in the late 1990s. In 2000 he became president of the French national committee of the companies that help with the integration of people excluded from society.