Note from BW of Brazil: It’s always great to see people land on their feet and move on to bigger and better things after being victimized by an anti-black job market. This blog first presented Luanna Teófilo’s ordeal back in October of last year. Her supervisor looked at her braided hairstyle and said: “take that out”. Luanna ended up losing her job over the issue. As we’ve seen in numerous other incidents, black, kinky/curly hair is generally not accepted in Brazil as a whole, and by extension, neither is it accepted in the job market (see here, here and here). But fortunately, Luanna, like many other rising black entrepreneurs, has found a way to parlay her talents into something that involves the Afro-Brazilian community. Black Brazilians hooking up with other black Brazilians and building things together is the ONLY way to eventually overcome a system as brutal as Brazil’s job market.
The BAP Panel wants to increase the black community’s influence on the market
By Luana Dalmolin
Luanna Teófilo, like most blacks, was a victim of racism in the company where she worked. The episode served as motivation to bet on her business.
“Take them out!” ordered the general manager of a leading international corporate communications company. It was September 2016. Luanna Teofillo, 36, worked in the business area of such a company when she was discriminated against by her then chief in front of the entire team. The “them” referred to her braids. That same day, when she returned home, she looked at her wish list and decided it was time to invest in her dream: opening a consumer panel specializing in the Afro-oriented public. A year ago, the BAP Panel (from the expression in English ‘Black American Princess’, which is used to refer to middle-class black women) took its first steps.
The episode had a series of developments that led to Luanna’s dismissal (she was literally escorted out of the company in front of the entire office) and a labor action brought against her by the company. The first hearing took place in July this year and her struggle is to make her case emblematic of institutional racism. At the time, Luanna created a page on Facebook and the hashtag #tiraisso, which she used to talk about her story, as well as gathering reports of discrimination in corporate environments and which was eventually taken down due to a civil action brought by her former boss.
It is a fact that the whole thing ended up boosting Luanna’s desire to strengthen the voice of the black community and increase its influence in the market. Her intention is to bring diversity to research and evangelize the market and says:
“It’s not always useful to do general research. There are codes to communicate with the Afro public”
She cites a few examples of products and services that, according to her assessment, were shipwrecked for not listening to the opinion of its target audience, as is the case of the TV series produced by the Globo TV network, Sexo e as Negas (Sex and the Negresses), was accused of portraying blacks stereotypically and even racist. “This scenario is starting to show signs of change with companies investing in research with a racial slant, such as Airbnb, in which we participate. I see these cases as opportunities to open the dialogue and get closer to these companies,” she says.
Currently, the BAP Panel has a base of 5,000 registrations, aiming to reach 10,000 panelists by December of this year, and has delivered more than 5,000 searches. Its main business partner is a Swedish company called Cint, which provides respondents for surveys of customers such as Airbnb, Netflix, Uber, Nestlé, Asics, Nike, Google, Facebook, Subway among others, Brazilian and international. The average cost for the customer that contracts the Panel is 12 reais per sample.
Subscribers also receive their share (the fee ranges from $0.50 to $2.50 per survey), and when they accumulate $12.50 they can redeem the amount via PayPal or else choose a product or service from an Afro entrepreneur in the BAP Store. This model integrates the “cycle of prosperity” that the business proposes.
UBUNTU: STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIPS TO CREATE A CYCLE OF PROSPERITY
In practice, the panel establishes a bridge between companies that need to better understand their consumer, the people who want to give their opinions and the Afro entrepreneurs. This is the application of the Ubuntu Africanist principle for business. The BAP Panel model was inspired by a solution she developed while working as a panel manager for a consumer panel in Paris, where she lived from 2010 to 2012 and where she did a Master’s degree in Linguistics at the Sorbonne University. It was in this company that she came up with the idea of offering products as rewards to the panelists and, thus, keep the money circulating within the platform itself. With this project, the company received a French government investment for startups and Luanna had the insight of what would become her own business years later.
The BAP Store initiative, which is part of the panel, took shape a little earlier. It was 2013 when on a trip to New York, Luanna realized the size of the black community market and came across products of all kinds. With a stuffed bag, she returned to Brazil, announced the products on a Facebook page, organized bazaars and parties and soon saw the products run out. She perceived a niche there. It was the beginning of the BAP Store, which today has six fixed partners. For the future, the idea is to stop being just an e-commerce and a BAP Panel rewards center to become a marketplace, where each Afro entrepreneur will have their own virtual store within the BAP universe.
DESIGNING THE FUTURE: EXPANDING THE ACTION AND ENLARGING THE PARTNER NETWORK
The Panel, which still operates at MVP, has been compiling an average growth of 138% per month in its main metrics, which include the number of active participants, survey respondents and response rate, which now ranges from 35% to 45%. The next steps envisage the expansion of the network of panelists and partners for the BAP Store. For this, Luanna has a powerful network that she has built over the years. From the blog Efigênias, which talks about cultura negra (black culture), to the ecosystem of startups of which it is part of the mentoring program, Black Rocks. It was also through Black Rocks that she reunited with Adriana Barbosa, of Feira Preta, and received an invitation to attend the Mulheres Digitais (Digital Women) event. “I have a network of Afro entrepreneurs and professionals who help me develop my ideas and strengthen this system,” she says.
Among the short-term goals are to increase the panelist’s useful life and response rate. Some of its bets are to raffle products, shorten reward redemption times, and award points to panelists who recommend the Panel. In addition, it aims to broaden its support for cultural initiatives, as is the case of the play É samba na veia, é Candeia: anyone who signs up for the BAP Panel through the exclusive link of the play competes for a couple of tickets for the show, and each subscription made reverts to financial support for the performance of the show. Another example of an initiative supported by the Panel is the independent site Alma Preta. It is worth checking the interview with Luanna for the portal, which tells a little about her trajectory, here.
Expanding the performance of the BAP Panel is also among its plans, which has already begun to become a reality. Recently, in July of this year, another venture was born, part of the BAP universe, the B4B (BAP for Business), the market research arm. The first survey was on the employability of the população preta (black population), carried out in partnership with EmpregueAfro and Etnus Consultoria e Planejamento. It was the first time that three black startups conducted a study of the type in Brazil and that was presented at the Whow Innovation Festival. Later this month, another research will come out of the oven and will address the Afro-descendant and political theme, with the participation of the Zumbi dos Palmares University. And so Luanna is steadfast in her life purpose.
Project: BAP Panel
What it does: Provides respondents for market research, with an emphasis on Afro public
Partner (s): Luanna Teófilo
Staff: 1 (the partner)
Headquarters: São Paulo
Beginning of activities: September 2016
Initial investment: R$ 30 thousand
Source: Project Draft