Francisco Noguera

Latin America in the Spotlight: Two Additional Interviews and PDF Summary Available

A few weeks back NextBillion ran a special titled Latin America in the Spotlight, with articles and interviews about the trends and the most active organizations in the region’s social enterprise scene.

Today we present two interviews that close the special and a summary of the special in PDF eBook format. The two interviews bring perspectives from the largest economies in the region: Brazil and Mexico. Kelly Michel, founder of Vox Capital and Artemisia, offers her perspective on the industry in Brazil while Álvaro Rodriguez comments from the perspective of IGNIA.

The PDF summary includes seven interviews, two articles and a list of additional resources. Download it and share it freely, and please contact us or leave a comment if you have feedback for us. We feel this way of sharing our content might be useful for those of you interested in the various topics that we cover on site.

Following is the interview we conducted with Kelly Michel. Mr. Rodriguez’s interview will go live this afternoon and linked here as soon as it does.

Interview with Kelly Michel, Founder of Artemisia and Co-Founder of Vox Capital, in Brazil. Kelly, please tell us about your organization and the partners you work with

Kelly Michel: I work with two organizations, Artemisia and Vox Capital. Artemisia is a foundation that collaborates with programs on 4 continents and aims to inspire, develop and connect people to build a new generation of businesses whose products and services contribute to reducing socioeconomic inequality. In Brazil, Artemisia is developing human capital for the social business sector through a variety of experiential learning programs geared towards potential and existing entrepreneurs, managers and field developers.

Vox Capital is a Brazilian venture capital fund that invests in small companies which serve low-income populations and contribute to reducing poverty. Together Artemisia and Vox are supporting the development of a Brazilian cluster for profitable and scalable social business that attracts talent, innovations and investment at home and abroad. In your opinion, what sets Latin America apart in the social enterprise space? What makes this market unique?

Kelly Michel: Many parts of Latin America currently benefit from positive macroeconomic and political indicators, which make it an easier context in which to start new businesses, both social and traditional ones. The country in Latin America with which I’m most familiar is Brazil. After living and working here for the last 4 years, I can confidently say that the environment here enables social business in a variety of ways, with the presence of creative and well-prepared professionals, a high level of entrepreneurship, an array of successful large Brazilian companies and their investors, etc.

On the other hand, Brazil has one of the highest rates of inequality in the world, as well as lots of red tape when doing business. The need for new solutions to reduce poverty and streamline economic activity is palpable. Luckily, Brazilians generally show great motivation for tackling these challenges! Please tell us about one or two examples of social enterprises in your country and the impact they are having against poverty and/or environmental degradation.

Kelly Michel: Solidarium is a fair trade business for consumer products with a twist: it goes after higher-volume sales by selling to the biggest retailers like Wal-Mart and Renner, thus guaranteeing an exponential increase in small producers’ income (a new strategy in Brazil). Plano CDE provides market intelligence on low income consumers to big business, as well as to government agencies and social sector organizations. This company promotes a nuanced understanding of the base of the pyramid, so that products and services more attuned to low income clients’ needs come onto the market. Finally, TerraNova mediates negotiations between urban landowners and the illegal occupants of their properties, ensuring that the occupants gain property rights at an affordable price. It also manages the associated micropayment process. Looking forward, what do you see as the biggest challenge for social enterprise to take off in the region?

Kelly Michel: We are seeing the emergence of many interesting ideas that still need experienced managers in order to take off. Attracting a critical mass of appropriate human capital to the social business field is an ongoing challenge which both Artemisia and Vox are implementing strategies to overcome. Also, like traditional start-ups in the region, social business start-ups have trouble accessing appropriate finance-to an even greater degree because of the general novelty of their business models.

Another challenge which is perhaps more specific to Latin America is that many entrepreneurs working in the social enterprise space are personally resistant to the notion of profit: they suffer with the idea that somebody could be making money while serving the poor. Sometimes this internal conflict gets in the way of making pragmatic business decisions that could ultimately greatly expand the social impact of their work. Are there any exciting new projects that you’re working on and can tell our readers about?

Kelly Michel: Under the umbrella of ANDE (Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs), Artemisia, Vox Capital, Endeavor, WRI/New Ventures and AVINA are joining forces in Brazil to gather and disseminate information about what’s going on nationally in the social business field. We’ll also translate international content into Portuguese so that more Brazilians will have access to the latest insights in social business from around the world.

This is only the first step to creating greater collaboration among local players, as we see a lot of potential for Brazil to incubate and grow businesses whose products and services help reduce poverty and improve low income people’s quality of life.

Another exciting initiative is Artemisia’s launch in Brazil of a new series of practical training programs for people who want to contribute to the social business field as entrepreneurs, managers, field developers, suppliers, etc. Our methodology helps participants learn more about social business, discover their role in the field, meet potential collaborators, and overcome barriers to action.

Also, keep an eye out for the Changemakers competition in social business, launched in partnership with Artemisia. We are looking to discover and promote social business innovations from around the world!