Strengthening LGBTI entrepreneurship in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil registers high rates of violence against LGBTI people every year. Pressure from activists to criminalizing trans/homophobia and regulate rights has been facing strong resistance from society’s conservative sectors. These demands are crucial to guarantee full citizenship of LGBTI people in the country. It is important to recognize that LGBTI people are commonly victims of an intersection of prejudices, coinciding with other features, (especially race/ethnicity, gender, and social class), which make them vulnerable in a particular way. Poverty is a factor that increases violence against LGBTI people and reduces their access to work and income opportunities.

To face this reality, Micro Rainbow aims to map inclusion opportunities for the LGBTI community in the formal labour market and to enhance LGBTI small entrepreneurs’ business management knowledge so they are able to expand their activities and reach financial autonomy. We believe that economically independent LGBTI people are less susceptible to domestic violence by family members and partners (responsible for a considerable parcel of assaults, according to our beneficiaries). Furthermore, examples of successful LGBTI people in society can change the social stigma that our community is affected by.

Amidst the current serious economic crisis and the high rate of unemployment, entrepreneurship has been indicated as an income generating alternative, especially for the low-income population. Research from Data Folha, one of the most important Brazilian research institutes, shows that 40% of slum dwellers would like to open a business in the near future. This number is much higher than the average, which is around 23%. However, entrepreneurs often face challenges because they lack financial knowledge and education. Another gap is the lack of planning skills in order to project a business’s sustainability and development.

Aiming to overcome these challenges and improve LGBTI entrepreneurs’ qualifications, Micro Rainbow has created the first free Entrepreneurship Course exclusive to LGBTI people in Rio de Janeiro. The course covers 40 hours and offers additionally activities such as individual mentoring with former students, educational lectures, and psychological support. The content of the course includes learning about management, personal and business finance, marketing, pricing, along with other business skills. The goal is for the students to apply these skills in planning their own business. After the course, the students present their business plans to an evaluation board, followed by a graduation ceremony and an exhibition fair to showcase our beneficiaries’ businesses.

Between October 2015 and December 2016, we have held three Entrepreneurship Courses, from which 59 students have graduated. However, the course is just the beginning of our partnership with the beneficiaries. We also seek to refer our students to individual mentoring and other business development opportunities. The businesses developed vary widely and include: handicraft manufacture and selling, culinary, clothing, rebuild and construction services, IT, design, and aesthetics, among others. The fourth course is expected to begin in May 2017 and aims to train more than 30 LGBTI entrepreneurs.

During the course, participants not only learn how to use essential tools and concepts to manage their businesses, but they also experience an ongoing exchange of experiences with other LGBTI entrepreneurs, helping them to reaffirm their identity and to expand their professional network. For many beneficiaries, this is their first professional experience in a welcoming environment. For them, the course has positively changed their self-esteem and has helped to establish a support network with a very rich exchange of contacts, opportunities and specialized services.

After the course, many students have pointed out that they were able to better price their products and services, manage their businesses more efficiently, enhance their income, and organize their finances, both in their businesses and in their personal life. However, the results from the course go beyond that. By interacting with other members of the LGBTI community, some students found a market demand that they were not aware of. In this sense, they have redefined their business scope, targeting the LGBTI market. This environment has also enabled to raise awareness among the students about the challenges faced by LGBTI people in the labour market and, as employers, they have started to use this understanding when hiring personnel.

The entrepreneurship course is part of the Micro Rainbow Brazil Project, held in partnership with “Grupo Arco-Íris” and “Positive Planet Brasil” and receives funds from the European Union in Brazil. Read more about our actions on our Facebook page

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