‘Projeto Sebrae* no Porto’ (SEBRAE’s On the Port Project) helps professionalize small businesses

Leitura de 7min

Together with major public works and investments for regeneration of the Rio de Janeiro port area, which suffered a process of deterioration, impoverishment and neglect, the Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port) project is also helping revitalize the small businesses in the area and attract new entrepreneurs.

Together with major public works and investments for regeneration of the Rio de Janeiro port area, which suffered a process of deterioration, impoverishment and neglect, the Porto Maravilha (Marvelous Port) project is also helping revitalize the small businesses in the area and attract new entrepreneurs.

Started in late 2011 with the signing of a technical cooperation agreement with the [Rio de Janeiro] City Council, the ‘Projeto Sebrae no Porto’ is designed to provide training for the professionalization of small retail and service shops in the Porto Maravilha area – totaling 5 million sqm and comprising part of the Santo Cristo, Caju, Gamboa, Saúde and downtown neighborhoods.

According to Flávia Guerra Barbieri, a member of the ‘Projeto Sebrae no Porto’ coordination team, the development of a new downtown started four years ago as a result of the Porto Maravilha project, which will foster the transformation of “an urban void” into a dynamic and modern area.  This impact will be felt throughout the city, but mainly among the current small businesses in the area, who lack a support that is in tune with the schedule and dimension of changes under way.

We believe that the small businesses give an urban vitality to the area, promoting people circulation while providing an enhanced quality of life for those who live there and for future new residents and people working there in the service, tourism and retail industries,” says Flávia.

By providing support to small businesses and to entrepreneurs interested in starting a business in the area, SEBRAE focuses on developing and strengthening business activity in the port area of Rio de Janeiro, thus contributing to its business insertion and socioeconomic integration.  With the planned development of new residences and premier office buildings, the idea is to help these businesses prepare to serve the mass of new visitors, residents, occupants and office workers that will be attracted to the revitalized area.

What has already been done

In four years, SEBRAE provided individual counseling and technical guidance to over 23,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners. It also organized four Business Rounds for connecting anchor businesses in the port area; three ‘Semana Porto Empreendedor’ (Port Entrepreneur Week) events; lectures, workshops and connections with local partners; development of tour routes; and assistance and counseling to working-class entrepreneurs and to craftspersons and artisans. Outside meals, creative economy, information technology and services are the industries which most benefited from the project.

According to Flávia, the small business owners served by the program showed deficiencies in financial controls, low investment in advertising and marketing, deteriorated [store] layouts, lack of information and lack of alignment of business models with urban transformation, a focus on low-income consumers, and an absence of innovation.

But they were optimistic about urban transformation and open to change and to the alignment of their business models,” says Flávia.

First results

The results of the ‘Sebrae no Porto’ project have already started to show up. Formerly open Monday through Friday only, some small businesses have identified, for example, the opportunity of extending their hours to the weekends, especially after the opening of the Museum of Art of Rio (MAR).  “Little by little, other small businesses started to follow suit, and now owners point out that Saturdays are among the best days of the month for business,” says Flávia.

Other marketing actions developed by the project—including the creation of tour routes, food tours, shopping guides and business rounds—have also contributed directly to the increase in customer traffic.

The education and training programs have also contributed to build a business network, allowing small business owners and entrepreneurs to make more connections—and business partnerships—with each other,” she concludes.

A full cycle

JLL  follows with great interest the progress of the ‘Porto Maravilha’ project, which was born with a focus on fostering the development of corporate buildings.

The market responded very well to this call—so much so that numerous development and construction projects are under way, and some of them have already been completed.  These projects have fostered the real estate revitalization of all the surrounding properties, giving rise to substantially higher quality services than before.  Properties are being renovated and operations are being improved.  People are reskilling themselves to serve a more demanding public,” says Paulo Casoni, director of transactions at JLL Brazil.

In his opinion, the incentive to the construction of new homes in the area completes the cycle of a project that was well planned and conceived, and that has taken on a life of its own. The ‘Porto Maravilha’ project is expected to create a self sufficient area that, among other benefits, will reduce the impact of long commute times in the city.

Photo of the Museum of Tomorrow by Shutterstock/ lazyllama

*SEBRAE (Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas) is a Brazilian service that provides support to small businesses.