This article was first published in the Brazilian El Pais, 26.11.2015. Click here to view the original article. It was translated by Social Impact Consultant Laura Nora.


The retired Juraci Nascimento was famous in her community, Zinco, a favela of Complexo de São Carlos, in Rio de Janeiro. The lady of 80 years used to leave her doors always open, where she often organized themed parties, such as Christmas, for about 150 children in her backyard. “She had a list of all the children of the community, with their measurements of clothes and footwear. With the help of community partner organizations, she used to distribute a kit for all the kids at the end of the year. “I attended these parties as a boy . Juraci inspired me and helped me a lot to be what I am,”says Guilherme Vinicius Roberto, who is now 30 years old and has a social enterprise, founded in her honor. A year ago she died, so she did not get to know the business that bears her name – the Livreteria Popular Juraci Nascimento. But, of course, she would be proud. Like her, the Livreteria aims to contribute to improve the lives of community residents; and does not charge anything in return. “I take literature to children of the favela, that nurtures a love of reading early. I want to consolidate a place in the community for promoting culture, art and hope,” he says.

On weekends, Roberto and his team, made up of four young people 16-18 years old, go up the hill with a customized tricycle, carrying a plywood cabinet full of books. The doors open on a street, the children soon appear for the start of activities. “We tell stories and borrow books. If it took us too long to return to a street, we are charged by the children. This is very gratifying for us,” says Roberto.

The main source of income for the Livreteria is the young entrepreneur’s pocket, graduated in media, working at dawn in a production of clipping [archiving]. Last year, the project received 10 thousand reais to get off the ground, from the Agency Network for Youth, a youth empowerment and inclusion project supported by the city of Rio de Janeiro. With this initial capital, the itinerant literature [project] came to life in the community. In just one year of existence, it has 600 titles, national and international, all donated by partner organizations or by the community residents.

“The young people from the favela have no prospects of entering the labor market with good jobs or attending a good university because they cannot afford to pay for it. The idea of Livreteria is to ensure free access to knowledge and instigating the residents, starting from childhood, to pick up this knowledge from different sources. It does not take money to acquire a taste for literature and knowledge, “says Roberto.

Book Boy 2

To take a step further, widen the scope of the project, professionalize management and turn it formally into a company, specifically an association, the entrepreneur is counting on the support of the _SocialStarters, a program that develops young people that want a change, founded by the British Anna Moran and Andrea Gamson in 2014. The first rounds of the program, which helps disadvantaged entrepreneurs to structure their businesses within communities, occurred in Kenya. Then, India. In June this year it came to Brazil in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The program has supported entrepreneurs in favelas with consulting and management workshops. All work is done by volunteers. The first edition had 12 volunteers from the United States, Europe and Australia, who came to Brazil to impart knowledge on communication and advertising, business plan definition, fundraising strategies, human resources, design and other business management key points. 7 Brazilian translators were also part of the project.

In Brazil, Social Starters is headed up by the British Jiselle Steele. “Our job is to promote the exchange of experiences among a group of volunteers, experts in their fields, and a group of entrepreneurs, who are full of good ideas, but have many difficulties in developing a self-sustaining business,” she explains. Jiselle always worked with social projects. For nine years she held positions in nonprofit organizations in London, to develop initiatives in social entrepreneurship. In her last job, working to ensure the legacy of the London Olympics within diverse communities, she came to Brazil to develop new partnerships, as the country hosting the Games in 2016.

In Rio de Janeiro, she met the founders of _SocialStarters and decided to stay in the city to structure the project in Brazil. The project has national partners such as the Institute Eixo-Rio, the Rio Municipal Department of Culture, but the source of income are the volunteers themselves. Entrepreneurs are given the advice for free, for a period of five weeks. “They come to us through our partners. These are people who manage businesses in different stages of development. Some have earned some profit but fail to have enough revenue to expand operations, to hire employees, to ensure a healthy cash flow,” Jiselle says. The project does not provide funding or resources, but it helps to give a boost to business.

Roberto, from the Livreteria, participated in the first edition of Social Starters in June, and is also part of the second round, which began in November. “The first time was very valuable to my business, because I learned how to take the project to more people and how to raise funds through culture notices. In this second stage, I want to be able to formalize the project and, with a CNPJ, getting partnerships with companies or to seek resources from investors. For this, the company needs to be more professional, “says the entrepreneur.

The second edition has the participation of 7 foreign volunteers and 2 Brazilian translators. The _SocialStarters is supporting five entrepreneurs this time. “The leaner structure comes from learnings from the first edition. We realized that to better serve the participants of the program, we needed a more individualized approach with them, more customized to every need,” explains Jiselle.

Besides the Livreteria, the _SocialStarters are “incubating” four other projects, the NGO URECE, working with athletes with visual impairments, aiming at the Paralympic Games; the NGO Rio Vida that promotes training for entrepreneurs of Rio’s favelas; Maria Chantal store specializing in clothes that reflect African culture in Brazil; and Snipper clothing store, encouraging the “empowerment” of young black Brazilian. “Our entrepreneurs have identified a problem in the community where they work and have developed a solution but do not have access to the necessary tools to maintain a sustainable business. I believe that the greatest benefit of the _SocialStarters is to show these entrepreneurs that they are not alone and that they are able to walk with their own feet,” concludes Jiselle.

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