Stories of entrepreneurship in Brazilian communities
Small business owners are experiencing life-changing lessons from Airfox’s education partner Novos Lideres Empreendedores
In the summer of 2019, Airfox partnered with Novos Líderes Empreendedores, a Brazilian NGO born in the community of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro. Each year the project holds community entrepreneurship classes for 25- to 40-year-olds to offer them the skills they need to start or improve their business.
Students who take the course partake in weekly classes with discussions and presentations from teachers, experienced entrepreneurs, and community guest speakers. The subjects of the sessions vary, but aim to provide students with a strong base of business skills. Students will cover topics including market research, audience segmentation, branding techniques, and overall lessons on how to turn your interests into a well-run business.
At Airfox, we believe in the importance of supporting small businesses started by real, hardworking community members pursuing their dreams. As part of our efforts to spread financial inclusion around the world we chose to sponsor the 3rd edition of the Novos Lideres course, which runs through January 2020. In the process of working with the organization we’ve gotten to know some of the students and their personal experiences that lead them to wanting to become entrepreneurs.
We hope some of them inspire you, just as they inspired us.
Fabiana: “Giving a voice to community issues”
Our first inspirational story comes from an early Novos Lideres session. Business owner Fabiana joined the class having already established the foundation of her enterprise, but still needing skills and direction to help her stabilize the financial portion of her business plan.
After witnessing major injustices where she lived in Rocinha, Fabiana felt she needed to do something to demand the action of local authorities. In 2010 she started Rocinha em Foco, a Facebook page where she could facilitate conversations surrounding inspiring events and stories from locals.
Fabiana was working full time as a saleswoman when she first created the page and did not have much time to dedicate to a project that wasn’t generating income. When she began experiencing health problems that forced her to take time off from her sales job, she was able to spend more time with her growing community on Rocinha em Foco, creating a strong foundation for what the page is today.
Even as the page grew more popular Fabiana still needed work another job to make money, so she began working in the administration department of the Regional Hall in the Municipality of Rocinha. Her work involved frequent interaction with local residents, where she became more familiar with their diverse issues and needs.
Following her passion for helping people, Fabiana left to pursue building the community on her Facebook page full time. Fabiana decided to open a space for ads on her page, which provided her a small financial return.
Fabiana experienced different challenges and learning curves throughout different stages of her business. At times she struggled to find people or businesses to pay for in-page ads. Fabiana also had a hard time paying the employees she had working on the page with her, and from time to time she picked up additional jobs.
Despite the challenges she faced, she never abandoned the project. Fabiana believed Rocinha em Focus could grow bigger — both to reach more people in her community and to thrive as a business financially.
Novos Líderes Empreendedores provided Fabiana a chance to learn effective ways to make her business growth happen. After taking one of the first installments of the class in 2017, Rocinha em Focus has grown substantially and has permanent clients. While Fabiana still has to learn various business skills, she has successfully established a foundation strong enough to not have to work additional jobs.
After benefiting tremendously from the support and education Novos Lideres provided her, Fabiana is now giving back to the class as well by serving as the course coordinator for the organization. She hopes that she can help change the lives of community members with business goals, just as the class changed hers.
Solange Gomes: “I want to learn how to better serve my customers.”
We have met many inspiring students in the current Novos Lideres class who are putting the skills they have learned to practice in their small businesses.
Solange Gomes, or Sol as she likes to be called, has been running a building supply store with her husband before joining Novos Lideres. Sol says they experienced many difficulties after first opening the business because they lacked knowledge and were not familiar enough with the products and customer needs. Sol knew they weren’t serving and assisting customers effectively, but didn’t know how to overcome the problem so she signed up to participate in the class.
On her first day of class, she said she was nervous, but today she is beginning to put her ideas into practice and feels that her situation is truly changing. “This entrepreneurship project that the NGO Novos Lideres is offering the community is helping us a lot, enabling people to advance, evolve and show that any kind of business can work. It’s been very challenging for me! I want to be able to learn so much more. ”
Jussara: “Today, I truly love what I do.”
Many of the students’ businesses arise from the need to supplement income. This was the case of Jussara, who at 33 began to make personalized items for children’s parties.
Although she didn’t know many crafting techniques at first, Jussara learned to creatively craft decorating for her son’s birthday parties. She developed and improved her skills through practice and by watching different Youtubers’ crafting channels.
Five years later, Jussara has a good foundation for her business, but still wants to improve. The Novos Lideres course came as a great chance to mature her company.
“Today I love what I do and I am learning more from the course, including new techniques and concepts that I hadn’t yet discovered as a business owner. I’m open and excited to learn more!”
The Novos Lideres class continues to hold weekly meetings, each focused on a different business topics or lessons from guest speakers. Students are working to solidify their business plans and will present them to a panel of judges at an entrepreneurship competition in early 2020.