Monday, April 11, 2016

Overcoming Challenges: Jorge Luis Linhares

Living in the favela can be a challenge as in Brazil there is a stigma for people like us. The media doesn't help with it portrayal of favela residents as being drug dealers, thieves or criminals of some kind. Youth in the favela have very few opportunities for success. Education is poor and many sacrifices needed to be made just to earn a decent living. Very few who are born and raised in Rocinha leave. If you stay you try to make the best of it.

Jorge Luis Linhares is no different. Born and raised in Rocinha, he experienced much prejudice as he was a man who in his early years as a teen made mistakes and ended up in prison. upon leaving he experienced much prejudice against him because of his former life. Today he has his own business working in advertisement. Very unique in the favela is the way merchants advertise their goods or services. Jorge owns a car with a speaker box secured to the roof that yells out each companies ad for all to hear as he drives up and down the main drag in Rocinha. He also has a motobike that advertises the same way and works with ads on radio stations in Rocinha.

His clients include an Ice cream shop, Rocinha Pet Shop, A Vet clinic, A Japanese Restaurant and a Plaster company. He is now a part owner in a franchise company called "Green Elephant". His company works with digital marketing which includes website design, email marketing, discount coupons, inserts in local papers and offer space for reviews of online users.  This is new for him as he used to just have the car and motobike out during the days driving through the community with the ads blaring through his speaker system on the top of his car.

"My idea was to create an alternative ad agency with various services for an affordable price. So, I earn the Tuition or monthly payments rather than immediate sales, but I have contracts with businesses set up for 12 months" explained Jorge.

"The super combo costs 160 reais a month and is more advantageous" he explains. The news was released in March, he has closed some contracts already but things are still in the experimental phase", according to Linhares. About 90% of Rocinha is connected to the internet in some way and this is a great opportunity for business. Jorge has a team of 7 people working with him bringing together merchants in the area to pass on his experience. "People still have strength to understand that advertising is not an expenditure, it is an investment." he says.

His set up is quite advanced. The car is equipped with LED TV on both sides which also show ads. He included calls on a gospel radio hot spot which earned him no profit. He contacted a friend about working a deal to create ads for the motobike. So they work together. He also works with another radio station for ads as well.

Linhares youth was quite different than it is today. Jorge was addicted to cocaine and was involved in theft, armed robbery and drug trafficking. He was arrested 6 times and spent six years in jail. In 1999 after the birth of his child he decided to change his ways, but was fired from a bar where he worked after discovering his past crimes.

He lived off the help of donations from friends and began to sell for shows in the favela, like the samba school. The jump to his entrepreneurial life began about 8 years ago when he left selling events to follow his vocation as an advertising salesman. The turning point came when he was able to close an ad deal with a furniture and appliance store in Ipanema. He partnered with a friend who had a car and was able to buy the speakers and this his future began in 2002.

"I preferred to meet businesses that didn't have a lot of capital for investment," he explains. Thus arose the idea of creating monthly packages. The first feature he created was the sound car. Then came opportunities in two Radio Stations in Rocinha. Then he trained to develop his voice (so he could record customers ads). "From the moment I got out of my comfort zone, horizons began to open up for me." says Linhares.

"Elephante Verde" or in English, "Green Elephant" as the company is called has more than 50 franchises and is interesting to be present in the favelas because they are places with many entrepreneurs and where digital marketing can make a big difference for small businesses." according to Fabio Melo Duran, one of the founders of Green Elephant. "The use of smart phones is everywhere in the favelas. People are connected online and the business owners know it." Fabio ads.

Out of this idea for development of an ad agency, Linhares bought a franchise of Green Elephant.  The online plans of the franchise out of the combination (of services) offered by Linhares, start from 69.90 up to 299.90 and vary according to each contracted service. They plan to open another franchise in May 2016 in the favela Complexo de Mare.

The Green Elephant franchise has an initial investment from 16,500 reais, including installation costs, franchise fees and working capital. The average monthly income is from 6,000 to 10,000 reais. The return on investment takes about 6 months. This is data given by the company. This kind of business can grow and be replicated. Jorge has made the connection between supply and local demand and favors the growth of a self sustaining economy. This is very positive.

"After everything that has been in my life, I am an entrepreneur! I tried working for others, but it didn't work out. The time we live today is one of instability. As an entrepreneur, I don't run the risk of being fired or unemployed. I have some contracts of 12 months now with businesses and have a fixed income much higher than I ever expected." he says.

I see Jorge almost everyday driving his car up and down the Estrada da Gavea (our main street in Rocinha) smiling and often greeting people. I often chat with him. He if proof of bring able to turn ones life around. He is someone we are very proud of!

Jorge driving his sound car through the lower part of Rocinha, called, the "Valao"