Between June and August 2020, Micro Rainbow International Foundation (MRIF) held its 7th small business training for low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people (LGBTI). Initially scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, as with previous training, the course was offered online for the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the 25 people who were selected, 20 completed the training and 16 submitted well-produced and detailed business plans, with a strong emphasis on financial projections, which has always been the biggest difficulty for our former students. Thanks to the funding of Euromonitor International, for the first time we granted seed-capital to six participants whose business plans stood out. We considered their commitment, efficiency, financial planning, identity representation and social relevance, among other criteria established by the local team.
Positive results despite Covid-19
The socio-economic vulnerability of the LGBTI community, which has increased with the advance of political conservatism in the country, was undoubtedly aggravated by this health crisis and impacted negatively on the sustainability of small businesses. According to our beneficiaries, however, the online classes and individual support from MRIF’s team gave them courage and resilience.
Some students had their businesses interrupted due to the pandemic or suffered abrupt reduction in sales and customers, while others had very fragile management skills. All of them managed to reorganize their businesses and make plans to cope with this pandemic. In their evaluations, our small business training has been constantly cited as a “watershed moment” on their entrepreneurial paths, as highlighted below by a trans student:
“Before the course, I did not know I could be a businesswoman. I was just trying to earn an income and survive. Now I am specializing even more to become a mega entrepreneur one day!”
The psychological support was also considered essential, since the incidence of mental health issues caused or aggravated by the pandemic could have resulted in massive dropouts. The group discussions facilitated by our psychologist helped participants navigate this scenario of uncertainty and instability and deal with lack of income and work opportunities, as well as common difficulties in handling their personal finances and making financial projections for their businesses. The psychological support was also very important for those who experienced increased domestic violence during the pandemic and were abused by family members or forced to return to homo or transphobic homes in the face of economic restrictions.
Finding hope amid this difficult scenario
Many participants missed face-to-face interaction but that did not stop them from learning new skills and expanding their knowledge. The majority reported significant improvements in their enterprises and better organisation of personal and business finances. Some participants also pointed out they were able to adjust their activities and invest in digital marketing strategies or sales, thus finding opportunities and hope amid this difficult time.
There was a unanimous perception that the training enabled them to recognise an entrepreneurial identity, increase their confidence and autonomy, and alleviate some negative impacts of the pandemic. The testimonies below from two participants show the impact of the training in their lives:
“I have always heard that a crisis is an opportunity for growth. I do not know if this is true or not, but I know what this pandemic taught me. Despite the isolation, the scarcity, the loneliness, I was surrounded by a team that agreed to stick together. For a few months, I would take a break from the whirlwind outside and meet people willing to share their knowledge and help my dreams come true. Studying with the Micro Rainbow Brazil team was more than learning tools for structuring my business. I learnt to deal with my limitations and to understand that there are ways to overcome them. (…) I am very grateful that you decided to teach the course online. I am not just a former student; I have become a fan of Micro Rainbow!”
“I already knew of Micro Rainbow’s course long before I participated. I know some people who had already taken it and was aware of how powerful it could be. (…) In addition to obtaining valuable knowledge, it was important to understand where I was going wrong in my previous business. I met incredible people, full of energy and willingness to run after their dreams and to support each other in such a disturbing and confusing year. I am very thankful for the entire team, who were always close to the students, providing support and showing unwavering dedication. (…) In a moment where everything was so distant and cold through a cell phone screen, you have warmed my heart several times. I feel immensely grateful for being part of this experience.”