Note from BW of Brazil: In the past few decades, a rise in black consciousness throughout Brazil has led to a number of black-oriented products and businesses. Within that period, we have seen the appearance of the most successful magazine targeted at the Afro-Brazilian population (Raça Brasil), the first and only black university, not only in Brazil but in all of Latin America (UniPalmares), the longest running, most successful black cultural expo (Feira Preta) as well as a number of other important accomplishments in the business/entrepreneurial world. This is no accident as the past decade in particular saw a huge rise in the number black Brazilians into the country’s middle class and thus bringing access to many goods and products that many afrodescedentes simply didn’t have as recently as the 1990s. The discussion and spread of black identity in a nation that always promoted itself as a single “race” also brought a demand for items that that were sorely missing and in many ways, still are. With this entrepreneurial spirit, Afro-Brazilian business men and women are creating space and bringing innovations to Brazil’s consumer market with the force of a segment’s buying power that must be reckoned with.
‘Ethnic Consumption’ heats up business among black entrepreneurs
by Cris Olivette
The founder of Cia. das Tranças (Braids Co.), Chris Oliveira, was a fashion producer before creating a salon specializing in black people’s hair. “I didn’t like the care I received in the salons and started to take care of my own hair.”
The result was so good that people began to compliment her and ask who took care of her curls. “In the beginning, I did some hair as a hobby. In the process, I saw that many people had the same misfortune as I, for not finding good salons. I used the criticism to my advantage and created a salon like I always dreamed finding.”
After 12 years, Chris heads up a team of 13 professionals. “For two years I only taken care of the management of the company and it has been great because in this period the business grew 50%.” She says 80% of her clientele is women. “In relation to dreads and braids, I have a strong male clientele.” Chris says that it’s not only blacks seeking African hairstyles. “We get Japanese, blondes, but it is clear that blacks represent 80%.”
Chris’s activity, adds to the study that reported a 29% growth in entrepreneurship among blacks occurring in a decade. The data are from the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra em Domicílios (PNAD or National Research by Survey on Household), taken by the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE or Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), which considered the period between 2001-2011. According to the study, entrepreneurship among blacks rose from 43% to 49%.
The Sebrae-SP marketing consultant Marcelo Sinelli considers, however, that what grew so much, in fact, was the number of people who claim to be black. “For the IBGE, the criterion that determines whether a person is black or not is self-declaration. It is likely that many were already entrepreneurs, but didn’t declare themselves black.”
Sinelli says the changes occurring in Brazilian society over the past 20 years have contributed to the change of posture. “It’s all linked. The growth of pride in being black, the rise of social classes C and D and increasing access to information have opened a lot of opportunities by stimulating specific business, that we might call ethnic consumption.”
A partner in Xongani, Ana Paula Xongani (pictured on the cover), is among those who favor the ethnic consumer. “Like other businesses related to the black public, Xongani was born to fill a gap. There were no market accessories that valued African culture.”
Cristina, Ana Paula’s partner and mother, says that the professionalization of the brand came from the demand. “Everything is designed to meet the needs of women in the family. Over time, we received orders and the business grew.”
Today, after four years in the market, Xongani produces 26 items such as sneakers, earrings, bracelets, and turbans. “Last year, we launched our first model of the Afro-Brazilian bride dress. Our main differential is in the cloth, imported from Africa,” says Ana.
Besides selling through e-commerce, the brand goes where the audience is. “We participate in major events throughout the country like the Congresso Brasileiro de Pesquisadores Negros (Brazilian Congress of Black Researchers), Feira Preta (Black Expo), Afrolatinidades Rua de Samba (Street Samba), Festa de São Benedito (Feast of St. Benedict) and the Feijoada da Mãe Preta (Feijoada of the Black Mother). We also visit events in the periphery of São Paulo.”
One of the forerunners of this movement of the appreciation of specific products for the black population was the founder of Muene Cosmetics, Maria do Carmo Valério, 81. “It was very difficult to adjust the formulas because the Ph of black skin is different. I had to change chemicals several times.” On the market for 25 years, Muene sells 121 items, with the flagship pancake, with nine shades.
Before founding HDA Model Agency, Helder Araújo Dias was a runway teacher and choreographer in Bahia. “I came to São Paulo practically penniless. I worked three years in an agency. When it closed, I saw that there wasn’t an agency in the city specializing in black models. I grabbed this opportunity. Today, 14 years later, and I capacitate and train professionals. Our book contains more than 200 models.”
He says the modeling course has 33 subjects like etiquette, theater, runway, nutrition, makeup and posture. “Halfway through the course, which lasts six months, they participated in a panel that evaluates who’s making good progress and should complete the training.”
Helder says aspiring models go through a review and are asked about their studies. “It’s critical that the model is still studying. This career is ephemeral and often thankless. They need to have their feet on the ground.”
The businessman says the market for black models is growing. “But I believe that it wasn’t the market that opened up but that it was blacks becoming conscious and is seeking their space. Blacks realized, finally, that education is the great tool, with it you can go wherever you want.”
Entrepreneurial activism boosts business
With a degree in event management with specialization in art and culture, Adriana Barbosa is a committed entrepreneur. Since 2002, the Feira Preta has taken place every year. “I created the show for the necessity of there being an event with this racial segmentation, taking into account not only militancy but above all business opportunity. There was no expo with this approach that brings together products and culture,” she says.
Adriana says that the event started with 40 exhibitors and 100 participants from all over the country. “In 2005, I created the Feira Preta Institute that organizes cultural activities, music festivals, seminars on best practices in creative economy and the Preta Qualifica course that capacitates entrepreneurs that participate in the fair, in areas such as formulation of prices and service to the public.”
The training is done in partnership with Sebrae (1). But the institute also organizes training linked to the area of culture, which covers subjects such as project preparation, fundraising and communications strategy. “The goal is to give artists a glance of management of their own work.”
According to Adriana, there is great potential to be explored in this niche. “The preoccupation is whether those who produce understand the particularities of this public, increasingly demanding, and has to escalate to meet the growing demand.”
The entrepreneur says that outsourcing some stages of their business is done through networks that group black professionals. “One is Kultafro. Today, 70% of my productions are made by black entrepreneurs and professionals. We adopted the American concept Black Money, money to circulate within the black community.”
The commercial director of the doll store Preta Pretinha, Joyce Venâncio shop was inspired by a childhood dream of building the business. “When my sisters and I were little, we wanted to have black dolls and our grandmother made dolls with brown cloth for us,” says Joyce. In 2000, the sisters teamed up to create a store that offers, in addition to dolls, educational toys, puppets and wooden dolls.
“We didn’t wish to segregate producing only black dolls, they are the majority, but we also have the Oriental, Muslim, Russian etc.” Joyce says that, with time, she saw that it was necessary to create dolls with a focus on inclusion. “Today, we have wheelchair, albino and obese dolls, among others, which are widely used in lessons about inclusion.” In 2010, they also founded the Instituto Preta Pretinha, which promotes workshops and inclusion of disadvantaged people.
1. SEBRAE – Sebrae is part of a system created in 1972 – the Centro Brasileiro de Apoio à Pequena e Média Empresa (Brazilian Center for Support to Small and Medium Enterprise or Cebrae) linked to the Federal Government. Since 1990, the organization became an autonomous social service denominated Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas – Sebrae or Brazilian Service of Support for Micro and Small Enterprises. Formally, it is a civil nonprofit, created by Law No. 8029 on April 12, 1990, regulated by Decree No. 99.570, of October 9, 1990, subsequently amended by Law No. 8154 of December 28,1990. Source