By: Michelle Zapata
PIZXA. Rights and Copyright: PIXZA
Alejandro was living and studying in New York when in a random chit chat with one of his closest friends came up with the idea of making a blue corn pizza. And we are not talking here about blue corn as a topping on top of the cheese, but as the principal ingredient of the pizza dough. Sounds crazy, right? But it is beyond amazing and delicious!
Both Alejandro and his friend were missing so much their mexican food while in New York, that they came up with this crazy idea; but why blue corn? you may ask. Well, a little culinary culture fact about mexican cuisine that you may have heard of, is that basically, corn is the Mexican gold. In Mexico, there are 64 types of corn, and most of its typical dishes involve corn in them. Just to name one, blue corn is the ruler of the capital city: Mexico City, where Alejandro has spent most of his life.
This crazy idea turned out years later to be one of the most successful social enterprises in Mexico, and Alejandro was just 28 years old when he founded Pixza.
Alejandro Souza. Photography by: Marcus Yam for LOS ANGELES TIMES
Pixza is the first 100% blue corn mexican pizza ever, with 100% mexican ingredients and 100% social impact!
But where exactly does the social impact model of Pixza takes place?
Well, in the beginning, Alejandro thought of this blue corn pizza as perhaps an innovative Mexican dish that could bring back mexican culture, while engaging with small blue corn farmers and local producers; but he always knew that was not enough.
He decided then that for every 5 pizzas sold, one pizza would be given away to young adults in a social abandonment profile. Young adults with a "social abandonment" profile are aged 17-27 and have the following six main characteristics:
Abandoned by their family
No formal education
History of drug abuse
Migrants and/or refugees
Huitlacoche PIXZA (Fungus grown on corn). facebook:PIXZA
The consumer plays an important role in this process. While eating at Pixza, if you’re lucky enough to be the 5th pizza buyer, the waitress will give you a piece of paper on slice shape to write a message for the person who will be receiving the pizza.
Even though feeding people and promoting the consumption of small blue corn farmers sounds amazing, the social impact path of Pixza does not end here.
Their goal is to give real life opportunities to youth previously living in streets conditions in a social abandonment profile; youth that before Pixza were exposed to drugs, criminal activities, lack of education and most of the times had no family. So, while Alejandro was getting closer to this vulnerable but amazing and promising youth, he came up with something called The Route of Change: a multidimensional empowerment program that drives them to achieve 4 objectives in 18 months:
Ensure and maintain formal employment and professional development at Pixza
Establish and implement a personal and professional life plan
Move out of the shelter and into their own apartment
Take ongoing practical and professional courses
Pixza is employing people that before this opportunity, were living on the streets, giving them a real life opportunity developing their talents and re-inserting them in society.
Pixza has already changed the lives of at least 50 young people with a formal job, transforming completely their lives by believing in them and unleashing their potential. 50 youth who were living on the streets, exposed to violence, drugs and crime are now formally employed in one of the coolest companies in Mexico!
Right now they have 3 Pixza locations in Mexico City but their dream and plan to grow is to have one in every state of Mexico to keep on employing vulnerable people around the country!
Augusto with his signed job offer at PIXZA. facebook:PIXZA
However, this dream comes with certain challenges. As Alejandro stated, since this is not “just a pizzeria”, the model cannot be easily replicated. To run a new Pixza restaurant in any other state, this person will need to be capable of understanding the local youth on the streets’ problems to truly catalyze their potential. If this part of the social enterprise is achieved, then the success of the business will come organically.
Pixza is an example of what happens when you just listen to people. Designing an innovative solution to a social problem needs a human centered design process, needs the people who are suffering from that problem at the center of the solution.
Following Pixza’s example, the best advice to all the young changemakers reading this would be: listen to people and their problems. They have the solution, you just have to help them break it down.
When you enter Pixza, you can immediately smell, see, and feel mexican culture by its colours, shapes, ingredients, and flavours. Its warm people and the solidarity culture all over the place confirms this is a truly mexican initiative.
When you are eating at Pixza, you cannot help but count and imagine the pizzas that are being sold each minute, hour and day while transforming that into the number of people that this little mexican pizza is changing.
If any of you reading this right now, ever come to Mexico, this is THE place to go!