After 30 hours of travelling we had landed in São Paulo, the strange scenery and scents had me truly out of my comfort zone, little did I know that in just 8 days, this place would become my second home. After finally arriving we jumped straight into our itinerary! On our first day, we were visited by the co-founders of Co-Viva, who presented us with our business challenge that was to be completed at the end of the week. We were tasked with creating an innovative solution to solve our four chosen United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which were: Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Responsible consumption and production, and Gender Equality. Following this, we were then divided into 4 groups of 3 and were given both a Sustainable Development Goal and an item that will later be used for our Post-Challenge BBQ. My group, comprised of Aidan Thiago and I, were responsible for obtaining the heavenly drink of Guarana and finding a solution for Quality Education. However, this challenge was unlike any we had encountered before as we had to present our solution in a ‘storytelling’ manner, as opposed to the prevailing, formal business pitches we were all accustomed to. In hindsight, the main thing I have learned was that being able to connect and evoke emotions out of our Brazilian audience, was surprisingly, our biggest challenge. Not the work itself. It is then that we realise that the people are the most important thing in business, your work colleagues, partners, stakeholders and consumers, all require some sort of connection in order to associate themselves with you and your business. If you are unable to connect emotionally, regardless of culture and backgrounds, how do you expect to achieve or sell anything? You cannot, and that was a lesson we all ironically learned after presenting our pitches. However, we did achieve our Guarana in the end!
Whilst visiting the New Zealand Consulate General, we were greeted by the South American Regional Manager for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, who spoke to us about the Brazilian Business Market, or rather, how hostile of an environment it is. Whilst in Brazil, the word “bureaucracy” appeared in almost every conversation we had with the local Brazilians. Prior to going on this trip, I am almost certain that 99% of us New Zealand students, had never heard of this word, thus showing the difference between our countries. To my surprise, we learned that New Zealand is ranked the No.1 country in the world regarding the ‘ease of doing business’, in comparison to Brazil which is ranked 125 out of 190 economies, which is a direct result of our extreme differences in bureaucracy. Thus, we learned the extent of the hostility in the Brazilian Business Environment. My personal favourite visit was to Sistema B. Sistema B is a corporation that provides Brazilian businesses with accreditation. This accreditation is dependent on whether or not a Brazilian company is evidently a social business, which is where a business implements practices that have a positive environmental and/or social impact, whilst gaining profit. This was my favourite visit due to the fact that it shows the world that it is possible to gain profit without contributing to the destruction of our planet and societal poverty. In Brazil, a country which has a heartbreakingly large gap between the rich and poor, and where environmental pollution is prevalent, visiting Sistema B ultimately gave me hope. Hope that there are businesses that exist and who are willing to make a change for the sake of their people and for their land. This opened my eyes to how I perceived business. Before I thought of business as a structure established with the sole purpose of being as profitable as possible. Now, business to me is about being able to provide jobs for people with all different levels of education, whilst having a positive social and/or environmental impact. The profit made is just a bonus.
Perhaps, the most inspiring and motivating visit was to the roundtable discussion with successful Brazilian Entrepreneurs. Prior this discussion, I had always wondered, at what crazy point in your life do you decide to walk the path unpaved? What point do you decide to give up the stability of an established job, to create a business that does not exist? During our discussion, we learned that there were many challenges entrepreneurs were faced with, from facing adversity to the reoccurring risk of failure, the pivotal skill needed to become an entrepreneur is that of perseverance. I now realise that perseverance comes when the passion you have for whatever it is you want to do, will ultimately overcome the fear of failure or risk. Regardless of whether or not you completed higher education, or have the finances needed to start-up a business, the perseverance or will to keep moving forward prevails over everything.
Being immersed in a foreign country, completely out of my comfort zone allowed me to learn many things about myself. The main thing I have learned about myself is that I have a passion for positive impact and change. Seeing the difference between our two countries made me realise how fortunate I am to live in a country with a stable government, beautiful, clean landscapes and quality education. This appreciation has inspired to become an entrepreneur myself. After I complete my Earth Science and Law degree, I aim to create an environmental consultancy business which consults businesses on how to sustainably use the environment/how to maximise their resources. Using the social business knowledge obtained on this trip, I also want to create jobs for underprivileged people (e.g. Disabled, poverty-stricken etc.) as well. I am unsure of how exactly I plan to execute my vision but “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” does it not?
In conclusion, I would like to thank the Latin America Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence, Young Enterprise Trust (Colin and Terry in particular for ensuring our safety throughout our journey) and Campus Casa for providing us with this amazing experience and giving us the opportunity to form connections with our future business partners in Brazil! I am forever grateful! Obrigada.