By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The pousada Casa Dois Irmãos in Santa Teresa was opened in 2015 by siblings Kristopher and Josephine Jennings-Bramly, who are from Vancouver Island in Canada, and children of British and Brazilian parents.
After opening just in time for the World Cup and Olympics, they are now focused on expanding and improving their business, and continuing to show guests the best of the Cidade Maravilhosa.
Kristopher had arrived in Brazil for the first time at age eighteen in 1993 and worked at a small airport in Bahia and has lived through the massive changes Rio has seen in the last twenty years. Josephine arrived six years ago after a separation from her husband and a desire to make a career change.
The pousada offers sweeping views of the bay and Centro with Sugarloaf in the horizon, set in the vibrant bohemian art-drenched culture of Santa Teresa. The rooms are spacious with private bathrooms, detailed in pristine tiles and rich wood with accents of plush green plants.
Discussing the process of opening the pousada, Josephine Jennings-Bramly shares, “Business in Brazil is a strange combination of yes’s and roundabout routes. You end up where you wanted but with far too much time and money spent on the process.”
She explains, “We opened the pousada in 2015 with the help of a lawyer and an accountant and lots of sweat and tears, but the timing was perfect as we had both the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics to attract guests.”
Of course Brazil and Rio especially are facing a economic crisis and tourism has been hard hit, and Josephine shares, “The biggest challenge now is how do we keep up the movement, differentiate ourselves, when there is so much negative foreign media and the market has been saturated with Airbnb, new hotels and private rentals.”
However the pousada is thriving and she shares, “Our biggest success was the afternoon when three Chinese knocked on the door wanting to see the space and decided it would be perfect for their Chinese Celebrity reality show called Divas Hit the Road! This was the break we were looking for and we managed to make some money to complete the garden, buy furniture and paint the house.”
In the future the pair are, “hoping to change the business model to focus more on retreats, groups of friends, families, colleagues as opposed to single room rentals. We want to attract foreigners with a common interest, such as dance, yoga, food. The house would then be booked for a week or ten days with a single group.”
“Long term plan… well, my dream would be to buy the property below us which has been abandoned and make it into an art school for the kids living in the community on the corner and pay for it by renting out space to working artists who want a creative environment and cost sharing.”
As far as tips for those looking to open a small business in Brazil, she offers some kind advice, “The Carioca way of doing business is frustrating and painful if you are not used it. My brother has been here for twenty years and has a good understanding of the ‘jeito’ (shortcuts) but without a local partner, a good understanding of the language, masses of patience and a very high risk tolerance it will be a tough ride.”
Thankfully Casa Dois Irmãos has succeeded and both visitors and locals should keep an eye out for their weekend feijoada (there is one happening today) as well as art exhibitions and music performances.