Micro Rainbow International Foundation (MRIF) kicked off its 7th small business training for low-income LGBTI entrepreneurs in Brazil on 8th June 2020. Funded by Euromonitor International, the training is delivered by the Micro Rainbow Brazil team in partnership with Feira Colorida, Capacitrans and CEDIM (Rio de Janeiro’s State Council for Women´s Rights).
Since 2015, MRIF’s pioneering training has supported over 200 LGBTI people in Rio de Janeiro to start their own small businesses and step out of poverty. Most students report a significant increase in their business management and financial skills, and many are able finally to become independent and improve their lives.
The impact of COVID-19 on MRIF’s beneficiaries
For this latest training, MRIF received 278 applications, which is the highest number of candidates so far. The selection process, held in early March, was interrupted by the Covid-19 crisis. Given the uncertainty about a return of face-to-face activities, the Micro Rainbow Brazil team changed its work plan and teaching methodology and decided to deliver training online.
Despite a delay in starting, the team kept in touch with pre-selected applicants sharing useful online materials, local aid initiatives and access to support networks for LGBTI entrepreneurs. This kept the new students motivated, creating an environment of support and empathy while they coped with social isolation and financial crisis.
Since Covid-19 hit Brazil in March, the team has been constantly contacted by former students deeply affected by the pandemic. Many had to shut their small businesses or decided to start new businesses such as production of masks, food delivery and online courses. Some students also started emergency campaigns to collect basic needs donations to support members of their communities.
Former students have requested a range of support, such as technical support to save their businesses or start new ones, assistance to access government emergency funds and other local aid initiatives and guidance on how to deal with situations of domestic violence, destitution and mental health issues. The Micro Rainbow Brazil team plans to address these issues with additional support to former students in the upcoming months.
The new online training
Of the 278 applications received, MRIF selected 25 students to start the online training in June.
Among the selected students, there are:
- 10 lesbians
- 2 transvestites
- 1 trans woman
- 2 trans men
- 7 gay men
- 1 bisexual woman
- 2 bisexual men (one of whom identifies as non-binary).
The new online format consists of 16 classes of two and a half hours, taught twice a week by the local team. Not all beneficiaries can afford good internet connection, especially those living in poor communities, so MRIF has committed to buy mobile data packages to facilitate the new students’ access to online sessions.
As with previous courses, their existing or planned businesses are creative and diverse, including:
- art and craft
- sustainable fashion
- events production
- religious items
- delivery services
- and various social projects
There is also a strong presence of businesses owned by and aimed at the black community.
The biggest challenges reported so far are the generation of income and adjustments in the businesses to the circumstances of social isolation, as well as an increase in mental health issues as result of the pandemic.
Despite MRIF´s concern about a possible failure to establish support networks between the students due to the lack of face-to-face interaction, the new students have shown great enthusiasm and engagement throughout the first classes and quickly expressed support towards each other.
The online lessons will finish at the end of July. Students will receive individual tutoring to finalise their business plans throughout August and then present them to an examination board. For the first time ever, thanks to funding by Euromonitor International, MRIF will award successful students with seed funding for their newly created businesses.