Bring light to the shadows!
With SHADES TOURS, Perrine Schober manages to combine her marketing strengths with her passion for social issues into an extraordinary and impactful business endeavor!
After her comprehensive education in tourism and work experience in international development assistance, it was a personality test that led Perrine Schober´s way to her own social tourism business. “First, I think I was looking to apply for a job, where I could bring my strengths in sales and marketing together with my enthusiasm for social engagement,” she recollects the time when she came across a concept of working with homeless people that already existed in a few other European cities. “I quickly realized that I wanted to implement something like that in Vienna, even though I never wanted to start my own business!” she explains laughingly.
With a strategic approach, she tried not to listen to concerned family members and friends, learned everything there was about the concept and reached out to other already existing NGOs and social workers in Vienna. They recognized Perrine´s unique gift for both, business and social issues, and encouraged her to pursue her vision to build SHADES TOURS, a social tourism business that offers tours through the city with a very important difference: all tour guides are homeless people who show you the otherwise hidden world of homelessness and poverty in Vienna.
Since SHADES TOURS started two years ago, Perrine learned that even the worst situations hold something positive. “The first time a guide didn´t show up for a scheduled tour (something that only happened three times), I was horrified, but filled in as a tour guide myself. It turned out that the participants were excited to talk to the founder of SHADES TOURS.
The tours provide information, education as well as an important contribution to removing taboos and prejudices around what it means to be homeless. As it is very important for the social business not to be voyeuristic, the tours manage to give an informative glimpse into Austrians social system and the so-called shadow of society. Depending on the tour, the guides provide insights on different aspects of life on the streets – places to sleep, what to do when you are homeless and sick, or how the social system in Austria works, to name just a few. Besides tours for groups of individuals, SHADES TOURS can also be booked by companies and schools.
“The feedback we get from participants is overwhelming! People who go on a tour because they want to do something charitable for homeless people are regularly surprised by how much they get back.”
The improvement of the situation for the guides is, of course, another big and important focal point
. “SHADES TOURS is a bridge between homelessness and the job market!” It is a refined cycle of recruiting homeless people to become guides, offering them a regular employment and emphasizing on their strengths to help them get back their confidence as well as finding a way back into the job market, and thus being able to recruit new guides.
“Two guides are already working in our back office,” Perrine says proudly, ”Another guide is still working with us while we finance her training to become a regular tourist guide.” Her team consists now of eight people, but there is no shortage of visions for future expanding.
Often, the tours remind participants of their own resources and many are encouraged to find ways – other than money – to support the cause. “It´s wonderful to see how a tour can open minds! And I really believe that everyone has some kind of resources to contribute to a better future!”
I am a very curious person.
I love my city because well, there is a saying in French that roughly goes like this, “You have to travel the whole world to arrive at yourself”. After leaving Vienna and traveling a lot, I chose Vienna again.
The best work-related decision I ever took was to look at and experience different industries in different cultures and to take these impressions to create something of my own.
Everyone can live more sustainably, simply by asking themselves in which kind of world and society they want to live.
Every city should try to unify society.