After running an exotics production and export business for over thirty years in Brazil, Denise Braga decided to make a career change and use her experience to help grow other businesses in the industry by becoming a consultant.
Working to shorten the learning curve
The family company worked mainly with figs, ginger and avocados, but also worked with some other exotics in smaller volumes. Braga shares: “Our main markets were Europe and the United States, but we did export to Asia and Ukraine as well. Very early on, our farms got Global G.A.P. certification, and later on we also got social certifications such as BSCI, SEDEX SMETA. These are certifications that big companies usually have but they are difficult to attain for smaller and medium-sized companies because there are really rigorous standards.”
One challenge that Braga encountered when she was running her own export business was finding growers who had the proper certification. This is one of the reasons that she decided to start a consultancy business. “I get to work with producers and exporters in mostly younger companies and help them get these important certifications. I help them understand the possibilities of the international markets and what they need to succeed in these markets, like I did,” Braga explains
“I am very familiar with dealing directly with growers and importers, so I’m able to have a large overview of the market and an international mindset that comes from experience – this is what I share with my clients,” she says. “Developing an international mindset is very important in running a business like ours. You have to be a global player, and this means going beyond speaking English; you have to understand different cultures and market demands in order to serve them well!”
She adds: “One of my main goals is to shorten the learning curve, make it easier for companies to understand and learn marketing, and reach maturity as a company faster than they would on their own.”
Encouraging words to the industry
Throughout her decades of experience in the industry, Braga has faced quite a few crises, ranging from climate-based to economic-based, from domestic crises in Brazil to global crises that affected export markets everywhere. Throughout all of this, she has learned a few key points that are important to get through a crisis.
“While every crisis is different, there are basic steps to take that always remain relevant,” Braga explains. “Of course, many businesses might be a bit paralyzed in the beginning because they are facing something completely new and different, but after this initial shock you act to face the issues, cut costs and plan solutions, even if they are only temporary. You adjust, step by step. When you have experience in the industry and with the markets, you understand how to approach a situation and react to it,” she says.
“One sure thing – I’ve learnt a lot and one of the most important things I could share with my clients:
- Take serving your clients as your main purpose, this is always important not just when we are in crisis.
- Understand what they really need and serve them from a place of excellence.
- It’s key to anticipate their needs and provide them with tangible solutions that will add value for them.
- Know how to step back when needed in order to move forward even better”
Brazil is in a different stage than Europe and the US because the pandemic hit there a little later, but they are also in the process of partially reopening. “Crises come and go – this doesn’t mean that what we are dealing with today isn’t serious, but it will pass eventually. We all need to come together and work together, from grower to consumer, and when we get through to the other side, we’ll have more skills and experience to help us be even more successful in the future.”