Opinion, by Sam Flowers
RIO DE JANEIRO – What does it take to start a new business in Brazil? And what does it take to make that business succeed? I asked myself these questions for the first time about five years ago and then two years ago, I got serious about answering them.
I’ve made a lot of progress on answering the first one; I recently opened a new restaurant in Ipanema called Gringo Café and the process taught me a lot about what’s needed to start up a new business in Brazil. If all goes well, I also hope to have great answers to what it takes to succeed.
Opening my own restaurant was a life long dream that I was always preparing for but too risk averse to pursue. Baking and entertaining were always a natural passion and I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I chose the corporate path to gain experience first.
I decorated and sold cakes in high school, worked in restaurants to save for college, studied Hotel Administration and earned an MBA at Cornell University and then worked in the hospitality industry as an executive in strategic planning, marketing and finance. After fifteen years of experience and a year of living in Rio on sabbatical, I finally felt ready to follow my dream.
Now that Gringo Café is up and running, almost every day people ask me a range of questions about opening a business in Brazil and I happily share my ups, downs, opinions and ongoing concerns.
Typical questions include:
• How did you learn Portuguese?
• Do you have to have a Brazilian Partner?
• How do taxes work?
• What visa did you get?
• Did you need a good lawyer? Accountant? How did you find them?
• How do you find your staff?
It seems that many gringos in Brazil have the same questions, so each week I’ll address a question related to doing business in Brazil. If you have a particular one in mind, please write or comment and I’ll answer the most popular questions first.
This week, I’ll pick an easy one: How did I learn Portuguese?
I took the courses offered by PUC, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. They have extension classes offered every semester and an intensive 5 week course twice a year. Their method is truly effective and I highly recommend their courses. The classes are also a great way to build your network here. I met my first business partner in Brazil in class at PUC.