Let’s Go Trade (LGT) funding, totalling over US $30k, has been awarded to 14 businesses from eight Shell LiveWIRE countries, namely: Brazil, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. The successful participants include businesses involved in sectors ranging from solar energy to mushroom farming, and waste management to automotive services. The LGT grants cover 50% of the costs of travel and accommodation, up to a maximum of US $3,000 per entrepreneur.

Fábio Marciano de Moraes, Founder of Brazil-based sustainable housing company Favelar, used his LGT grant to visit Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, in order to explore new technologies and construction techniques used in an urban setting which has strong similarities with his operations in Brazil.

Employing three full time and six part-time staff, Favelar is a social housing business specialising in architectural and sustainable housing developments in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas; to deliver a better quality of life for disadvantaged residents and to reduce social inequality through architecture.

Fábio chose to visit Maputo, because the development of its housing sector has similar challenges with those faced in the favelas, such as the high density of population and very limited infrastructure. With a population of over 2.5 million, of which 80% live in slums, Maputo presents an opportunity for Favelar to expand its market through international collaboration. Fábio also has contact with local engineers who would be able to make the necessary connections to people and projects in the social housing sector, thereby enhancing the opportunity for a successful visit.

Market opportunities

The visit confirmed the similarities facing the social housing sectors in Brazil and Mozambique, with Fábio saying, “The challenges encountered turned out to be similar to what we find in Brazil; the peripheral population lacks access to technical assistance in the form of architecture and engineering, demonstrating significant market opportunities for Favelar.”

During the visit, Fábio discovered innovations within local construction methods and materials that could be applied to Favelar operations in Brazil which will reduce costs and improve productivity.

Explaining the insight he gained that can be applied to his construction processes in Brazil, Fábio said, “Reducing the use of concrete in building developments has proved an excellent way of mitigating the negative impacts caused by construction, and in cutting the time to complete work. In Maputo, the materials used in social housing are interspersed between concrete, wood and zinc, which allows reduced costs and improved productivity. It’s a simple method using accessible materials that can be employed in our projects.”

Commenting on the overall impact of his LGT visit, Fábio said, “It provided the opportunity to create new international ties with organisations that work in the social housing arena, enabling us to expand our impact by developing projects in collaboration with Mozambique.

“The next step following our Let’s Go Trade visit will be the creation of a sustainable housing project for an urban settlement in Mozambique.

“Let’s Go Trade allowed me to look beyond my horizon to discover new cultures, technologies and initiatives that seek to bring more dignity and improve the quality of life for disadvantaged residents. The visit motivated me and reaffirmed that we’re on the right track. Having this international experience enriched my personal and professional knowledge, where everything I learned will be replicated in my company’s operations in order to improve our efficiency. I return with the aim of contributing even more to the reduction of social inequality and making the favelas communities that are more sustainable places in which to live.”

Innovations, including the use of building materials that are better for the environment, will enable Favelar to be at the forefront of the social housing sector in Brazil.

Furniture innovations

Another entrepreneur to have just completed her LGT visit is Deana Mojigoh, Founder of Kazu FurnishingSdn Bhd, a furniture design and retail company from Sabah, Malaysia with three permanent and four part-time employees.

Deana specialises in producing high quality custom made timber furniture for middle income households. Recognising the need to adapt to changing lifestyles, such as the tendency for people to live in smaller houses or apartments with a need for space saving multi-functional furniture, Deana’s LGT objective was to learn new trends and technologies from other manufacturers and retailers to strengthen her business, and to expand her networks.

Deana used her LGT grant to visit Melbourne, Australia, where she visited three major furniture exhibitions, as well as arranging meetings with furniture manufacturers and retailers. She also visited a leading restaurant chain in Singapore to explore their furnishing procurement requirements and processes.

As a result of her LGT visit Deana discovered that adding an upholstery service to her current furniture operations provides an opportunity to create a wider market for her products. Deana said, “I was inspired by my visit to an upholstery factory. The operation doesn’t need large set-up costs or expensive machinery. I am now working with a partner to introduce an upholstery option into my business as an added service.

“By adding an upholstery service into our existing business, we hope to capture a wider market – not only for residential but also commercial projects. We are also looking at wholesale operators and supplying to furniture agents and distributors, which will be a new delivery channel for us.”

Summing up her LGT experience, Deana said, “My business strategy has definitely changed. With an added upholstery service, our products will have a wider market.

“The LGT experience has opened my eyes to new possibilities. I am inspired to try my new strategy and work even harder to achieve my goals.”