Rhythm? No, everyday is different and I like it that way.

Living abroad puts you in the mood for exploring, searching for the unknown, and meeting new people. That’s why we, the group of consultants on the _SocialStarters Rio programme, decided to go to Ilha Grande for the weekend.

Ilha Grande is one of the most beautiful islands in Brazil, just a short drive and a bumpy boat ride away from Rio (aka ‘Hiiiiio’ in Carioca parlance). A great short break with hikes in the forest and snorkelling at the best beaches.

When not exploring Brazil’s beautiful islands, we live in  a lovely apartment at Praia do Flamengo, which gives me the opportunity to have a run/work-out on the beach every morning. And I am not the only one. From six in the morning it is full of Cariocas (the name for people from Rio) and expats, up, fresh and ready for the day!

For work, we go to Eixo Rio, our headquarters for the six-week-long _SocialStarters Immersion Programme. Last week I conducted research and pre-work for a meeting with my client Maria Chantal. Chantal is running her own fashion brand (Loja Maria Chantal) and does everything herself, ranging from daily production and finances, to preparing Feiras (markets) where she sells her super inspiring t-shirts and other products.

My client Maria wants to create awareness around racism, a very big social issue in Rio de Janeiro. With her great one-liners printed on t-shirts and other products, she wants to empower black women to be happy with who they are and not be ashamed of being black.

Maria Chantal

Maria Chantal with some of her classic designs

My mission is to assist her in growing her business, setting long and short term goals. As she does everything on her own, she can be quite chaotic and sometimes loses control. That is why I thought of a helpful tool she can use to become a better planner and have a good overview of her important tasks. In the meeting, I explained the tool to plan her daily tasks more efficiently. She was very happy and has been using the personal planner every day since then, sending me pictures of the progress, which gives me lots of energy! Chantal had an event (Feira) on Saturday in Lapa, ‘Encontro Preto’, so she had to prepare a lot and still needed to promote the event.

Together we created a network overview in order to use the right contacts to spread the word, invite people to the event and make it the best we could. It was very satisfying to see so many people attend the event and she had a very good day in terms of sales. Overall, I am very proud of Chantal, she is the best in what she does!

This week we will have a look at her finances, using her new product ‘skirts’ as an example. She admits that keeping track of finances is not her favourite part of being a social entrepreneur. However, she knows that it is very important and therefore asked for my help. I will try to teach her the basic skills of setting a fair price, setting up a balance sheet and explain how to update incomes and outflows easily. Having a good overview of her finances will give her a better perspective on new opportunities/investments in her business which could lead to further growth! Soon, Chantal will launch her new product, so again we will promote the event, invite the right people (bloggers, influencers, photographers and potential customers) to make it a huge success.

Sheila bike

Sheila gets ready for action!

Together with my colleague Oliver, I also support social entrepreneur Sheila. Sheila has grown up in Santa Marta, one of the many favelas in Rio de Janeiro. She is a strong woman with a great personality. She was one of the first girls from the favela to attend university. After obtaining her degree in tourism, she now has her own tourist agency ‘Brazilidade’, giving amazing tours in the favela. She wants to grow in a direction in which tourism will lead to a more sustainable living environment for the community of Santa Marta. We brainstorm a lot with her about this and also try to get good insight into her finances, how to grow, evaluate activities, etc.

Together with the whole group of consultants, we also help Sheila and her community with the project Eu quero o Santa Marta limpo. How do we educate the local people to take their rubbish to the bins? Can you imagine a favela where 6,000 inhabitants throw trash away, but nobody takes the lead in carrying it to the main street? Santa Marta is built into a very steep hillside making trash collection difficult. People work long hours and have other things to do, but together with Sheila we aim to educate people about the importance of a clean and proper living environment. It is a challenge, but some impact has already been made. One day o Santa Marta vao a ser limpo!

In the meantime, _SocialStarters arranges great workshops to help consultants grow personally and professionally. To give you an example, we do SWOT’s to find out our pain points and opportunities. We also had a session called ‘limiting beliefs’ – how to broaden your perspective by just thinking differently. We also do headspace trips (like trips to the Dois Irmaos) together that literally blows your mind.

Of course there is also time to live the real Rio life, learn portuguese, do some samba, drink Capirinhas at the beach and enjoy the stunning sunset. Que queres mas?

What will I take home from all this? Lots of energy, new perspectives, a personally and professionally enhanced me, amazing like-minded friends, great satisfaction, a tan… and so on!


Would you like to #JoinUs in either Brazil, India, or Sri Lanka in 2016? APPLY HERE. Immersion Programmes are running throughout the year as well as a new programme format for people who can’t take 6 weeks out of their lives – our 2-3 week Inspiration Programme in Rio in August/September, and our flexible volunteer programme _TheAssignment. See our website for more details www.socialstarters.org.