New Boom of Entrepreneurship in Brazil’s Favelas

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SEATTLE — Entrepreneurship in Brazil’s favelas is booming and creating an incredible community of business owners. In circumstances where many are living in poverty, unique businesses have arisen, creating a greater sense of community and lifting many out of poverty.

A favela is a grouping of dwellings, often on hillsides, that are usually equated with slums. In Brazil, more than 11 million individuals live in favelas, making up 6 percent of Brazil’s population. One of the defining features of these favelas is the entrepreneurship that emerges.

A study done by the London School of Economics identified that entrepreneurship in Brazil’s favelas is characterized by an action-driven, high-risk approach to business that challenges the traditional economic thought on entrepreneurship. Rather than planning, the entrepreneurs are very goal-oriented. Beginning with only the resources they have at their fingertips, they develop a business and expand as resources accumulate; planning is often not part of the process.

It is a unique approach to business, but one that yields incredible results. These are four examples of successful entrepreneurship in Brazil’s favelas.

Craft Beer Bar in Complexo do Alamão Increases Tourism

Two young entrepreneurs and favela residents, Marcelo Ramos and Gabriela Romualdo, launched a craft beer brewery in Complexo do Almão, a dense favela on the north side of Rio De Janeiro. Bistrô Estação R&R has become popular with both local and foreign visitors for its wide range of artisanal beer from many locations, ranging from the favela itself to Belguim.

“I always say that people who are poor, black and favelada are born entrepreneurs,” Ramos said. “We don’t stand behind the counter waiting for customers to come in so we can make a sale. We go after customers.”

The bar has brought many tourists from all over the world to Complexo do Almão, bringing business to other entrepreneurs and prompting something of a shift of what is traditionally associated with the term favela. Ramos and Romualdo are now expanding to other cities in Brazil, hoping to grow their business.

Bank of Paraisopolis Focuses on Community Development

Entrepreneurs have recognized a need for financial services for favela residents, particularly since they often do not have access to traditional national banks in Brazil. In the south São Paulo favela of Paraisopolis, a new bank gives favela residents the opportunity to open savings, start credit accounts and take out small loans.

One of the creators, Gilson Rodrigues, says the goal is to create community development, not profit. In addition, the bank created a currency, Nova Paraisopolis, that residents can use in the favela in addition to the Brazilian real, in order to create financial stability for the residents.

Casa Brota Creates Work Space for Entrepreneurship in Brazil’s Favelas

In favelas, entrepreneurs are booming. One of these entrepreneurs, who has not released his name to the media, recognized this and created Casa Brota, a space where entrepreneurs can go to develop ideas, hold meetings and explore new ideas.

It is a bright, colorful room in Rio de Janeiro’s Complexo do Almão that encourages imagination. Many in the community use the room for their work. In addition, the space is also rented out on Airbnb for others to enjoy and immerse themselves in the favela culture.

Organic Gardens in Vidigal Provide Education and Empowerment

In one of Rio’s largest favelas, Vidigal, a trend of rooftop gardens growing organic food has emerged. Started by Vidigal favela residents Carlos Agusto Graciano and Graça dos Prazeres, the organic gardens encompass favela culture and encourage a healthier lifestyle for favela residents.

The trend began when Graciano, a local architect, was hired to build a minibus shelter in the favela. He wanted to do something different that encompassed the culture of the community. With help from biology teachers, graffiti artists and other locals, he developed the rooftop garden.

This original garden is called Organic Rooftop and Living Gallery, which the Brazilian government has now deemed a heritage site. The site acts as a gathering place to teach children about plants and biology, while adults are given cooking lessons and access to the food. The food grown there can also be sold, which promotes financial empowerment for many favela residents.

There are approximately nine million micro businesses in Brazil, which make up 27 percent of Brazil’s GDP. The entrepreneurship in Brazil’s favelas are imaginative and fulfills the needs of communities while being an important part of the national economy.

– Katherine Kirker
Photo: Flickr

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