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On August 15, students from the 4th MRI entrepreneurship course graduated at the Bar Association auditorium in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to the graduation, the event was marked by the launch of the a case studies publication and was attended by current and former students, project team, partners and MRI’s founder, Sebastian Rocca.
For this 4th entrepreneurship course, 35 vacancies were made available and better advertising strategies were put in place to promote the course. This resulted in a higher number of registrations (115 in total) and a more specific selection process, which featured a mandatory group lecture. The class composition was diverse in all senses: cis, trans and non-binary people, of diverse sexual orientations, ages and backgrounds. In terms of business ideas, diversity was also a strong component: formal and informal products and services, already established businesses and others still in the planning stage, in a wide variety of sectors, such as food, fashion, beauty, photography, health and media.
The course had a 40-hour workload over an 8-week period and offered individual monitoring by former students Isa and Isaque, a round-table discussion with former students (Ana Lima and Evelin Novaes, Laylah Felix, Thales Aquino and Simon Prado) who spoke about their experiences on previous courses, as well as motivational activities with the support of IBMR psychology students. Some students with more urgent issues to open their businesses also received individual consultations offered by the partner company Soluções Inclusivas.
After the course, the students submitted their business plan to an examination board, which allowed us to verify that many improved their marketing and pricing strategies, improved their business planning and organized better both their business and personal finances. Some entrepreneurs, who were very affected by the Brazilian economic crisis, had to restructure their business plans, changing the means of production or suppliers as an alternative to guarantee their sustainability.
Out of the 35 selected students, 31 completed the course. It should be noted that we had a higher number of trans people in relation to previous courses (10 transvestites and transsexuals) and all of them concluded the course. Among them, there was a group of trans women who developed a sewing business to generate income and increase other transgender people’s skills. They are producing handbags, purses and other products in a small collective atelier. Three of them, Ivone, Alana and Evelym, took the course to learn management tools. Another student, Andrea Brazil, who, in addition to hairdressing and makeup artist, also resells clothes, started investing in her talent as a stylist and began to produce her own pieces in partnership with an unemployed seamstress. There was also Amanda, who owns a food truck and Igor, a trans man who developed his brand of brownies during the course.
It’s important to highlight that drop-out rates were very small compared to the previous three courses. This is partly due to a more rigorous selection process (we selected only students who, at least, had a clear idea of their business) and a more effective and individual monitoring and follow-up, which enabled the team to meet specific demands of certain students who had more difficulties and challenges while developing their business plans.
However, what really guaranteed their success was their own engagement. It should be stressed that our students not only come from low-income backgrounds but also struggle with high incidences of homo/transphobia, particularly in this current time of growing conservatism, which hinders their self-esteem and their livelihoods. Moreover, they are not only struggling to survive, but also to improve their social and financial condition. In a time of serious economic crisis and high unemployment rates, we very proudly congratulate the strength of these entrepreneurs who, despite swimming against the tide, have not given up their plans to open their own small businesses in the quest for financial and professional autonomy.
Check out more photos from the graduation event on our Facebook page
If you like the work of MRI please do make sure to stay connected by signing up to MRI’s quarterly e-bulletin. If you want to have even a greater impact on LGBTI peoples’ lives consider becoming an Ally. Allies help MRI to reach out to more LGBTI people in poverty and to provide them with some of the tools they need to lift themselves out of it.
For more information about MRI’s work in Brazil please contact Lucas Paoli Itaborahy, Project Manager