Friday, 19th April, 2024
Friday, 19th April, 2024
From tourism to virus-era deliveries

Barcelona women reinvent bike business

BARCELONA, Dec 22:  When the coronavirus slammed Spain in March, Ariadna Serra realised that 2020 and beyond looked dreadful for the cycling tours for foreign students company she co-founded ten years ago, reports Reuters.

So Serra, 41, and five of her female co-workers explored new opportunities over virtual drinks. They decided to follow their passion for cycling to fund a delivery company using bikes in Barcelona, aiming to benefit from the online shopping boom prompted by the pandemic.

Les Mercedes, as the company is called, was founded in July by the six women and is run by five of them, aged 35 to 45 from Spain, France and Argentina. It is organised as a cooperative and describes itself as “ethical, sustainable and inclusive.”

“It’s not only a delivery company. We want to go a bit further,” said Serra at the company’s headquarters in Barcelona’s old town.

It seeks to promote a more women-oriented and climate-friendly city, offer good jobs, encourage responsible shopping and support the struggling tourism-dependent local economy, she said.

Above all, it intends to be an “alternative model” to delivery giants, such as Amazon and Glovo, she said. Both have lost rulings in recent months in Spain over labour conditions and the rights of so-called gig economy workers.

Amazon’s impact on local shops is at the forefront of a political
debate in Barcelona and the municipality is mulling a tax on big
online shopping platforms. Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau has called on
residents to boycott Amazon during the Christmas season and shop
locally.

“Shops and bars are the culture of our neighbourhoods. What we want
is to join forces with them so that they can remain there and adapt to
the changes,” Serra said.

Les Mercedes has around 50 core customers, mainly groceries, wine and
flower shops as well as neighbourhood shopping associations which have
launched their own online marketplaces.

“We bring gender perspective to a sector that is very masculine,” said
Marie Dufouleur, 42, another company founder.

Remembering the tough start from scratch when the women had to use
their savings, she said: “I think no-one thought we would do it so
quickly and so well.” She said the year would end with money in their
bank accounts.

Serra said of 2020: “It has taken our job away but given us another.
Despite everything, we are pretty happy.”

“In 2021, I think we will still be here, we will keep fighting.”

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