Note from BW of Brazil: It’s always wonderful to be able to share stories such as the one I’m presenting today. Similar to yesterday’s profile and several others, it features a story of a dream, struggle, adversity, perseverance, dedication and finally, triumph. I must admit I had never heard the story of Jane Muniz until it began circulating on social networks a few days ago in Afro-Brazilian circles. Like other successful entrepreneurial stories such as those of Zica Assis and Geraldo Rufino, Jane Muniz is yet another example of what Afro-Brazilians can achieve with goals, determination, opportunity and a plan. And rest assured, as more of these stories come out, you can believe they weill be shared here at BW of Brazil! Congratulations Jane!
“I got out of poverty and became a millionaire businesswoman”
By Helena Bertho
Check out the story of the Brazilian businesswoman who has already washed dishes and last year earned R$93 million.
Businesswoman Jane Muniz, 37, grew up in a community and has already washed dishes to raise money. After much struggle, she opened the Spa de Sobrancelhas (Spa of Eyebrows). The success was so great that the business became a network of 450 franchises that earned R$93 million (about US$30 million) in 2016.
“When I come to a business meeting, they look at me and then they start asking me what I do, what I’ve already done, they want to know why I’m there. It’s almost an interview so they can understand how I, a mulher negra (black woman), I’m there in the same place as them.
But if I tell my story, the truth is that neither they nor anyone else will be able to doubt that yes, I belong to a business environment. Because if there’s one that I’ve been since an early age, it’s enterprising.
My mother died when I was 8 years old and my father raised me, my sister and two brothers alone. We lived in a community in Madureira (neighborhood of the northern zone of Rio de Janeiro), with a poor and simple life. And around us, more poverty and violence. So much so that my older brother got lost in (drug) trafficking. It was terrible, but at the same time it taught me the importance of the choices I made in my life. I did not want to have the same end as my brother.
So, since I was young I turned to getting my money honestly. At age nine, I carried water to neighbors for a few bucks; at 10, I washed dishes and clothes. At 13, I got my first job selling jewelry and then I didn’t stop. If at home we had only the basics to survive, I guaranteed the extra bread, the sweets, the fried snack for school.
I was secretary, clerk, receptionist and saleswoman of the most different stores, until at 16 I started at a cosmetics shop, where I found my way. There was a space there, with a toilet, chair and mirrors, where customers could use the purchased products and test it with a hairdresser. And that dazzled me! The transformation that people suffered, the well-being that came with care.
It’s just that I’ve always been vain, even though I didn’t have the money to afford it. I washed my hair with coconut soap – soap when I did – and I didn’t even know what conditioning was. Once, at the age of 12, I saw on TV a report on a medical clay mask to make the skin look beautiful. I thought that was wonderful. So when it rained, I ran out to the streets of the hills, went to a pool of water, and smeared my face in the mud to treat myself.
Working with beauty, I realized that I wanted not only to take care of myself, but also to offer care to other people and a will began to grow within me.
After I left the cosmetics store, I had my first entrepreneurial experience: a friend had a shop of imported gifts and I proposed to expand her business. I got a place to sell and we went to Paraguay to buy the products. And it was only a success! But I ended up leaving because society was not working out very well. So after a year and a half, I was back on the market looking for challenges.
I even went back to the cosmetics store, but it was a lightning flash. It’s just that Markos, my boyfriend at the time, my husband, was closing an electrical material store he had, there was R$8,000 left over from the sale and he proposed to use it to start a business.
‘Shall we open a salão (beauty salon)l?’ I said. And he laughed, thinking I was crazy. Neither of us knew anything about aesthetics. But we could learn, right? I said we take a hairdressing course and I was so convincing – after all, selling was always a gift of mine – that he ended up coming around.
While he learned to cut, I focused on chemicals. That way we could complement each other in the service. We took a quick two-month course and arranged a space for rent. It was full of rubble and that’s it! So we needed to clean, paint and even put carpet on the floor with our own hands.
With everything ready, we called one of our teachers to work with us and we put the salon to work. She took many clients to us and, doing everything right, we were getting more and more people. In months, we were a real success!
So much so that we received a proposal to buy a second salon and expand. It was ready, it just needed to be opened. We decided to give it a try and it was our biggest mistake. Dividing our energy between the two units, we could not take care of the two so well and the clientele started to fall, but the costs were now double. Result: we went broke.
Due to the rent, telephone, salaries and payments of suppliers, we closed the salon with one hand in front and one behind. Worse than our accounts, just our morale. We were destroyed, a sense of unspeakable failure.
Markos went to sell betta fish on the street while I was trying to get some work. But the worst thing for me was discouragement. I felt that I had given up, that nothing was worth trying.
At that time, we decided to live together. We went to a kitchenette and, broken, we had no money for furniture. Our house had a TV, which I took with me; a board, on which we left the clothes; an ice box that served as a refrigerator and a rug where we slept. Honestly, I didn’t think I could get out of this.
The one who gave me a jolt was my friend, of whom I was partner. ‘Where’s Jane? Go back there and open another salon. Do you owe anything? Pay it!’. That’s what she told me. And then it opened my eyes. Truth. Where is the old Jane, who did not run away from any challenge, quite to the contrary?
But there were people who also said the opposite. That I should understand that I was a poor and black woman and that I would never succeed, that my place was to be an employee of others. But I couldn’t accept that my color, my hair and my origin determined what I could or could not (do).
I looked for the owners of the property where the salon was, and after a good discussion I managed to reopen my business and pay the arrears little by little. I looked for employees who came to embark on a risky venture and started over.
We didn’t even have a phone, porque meu nome estava sujo (because my credit was ruined). So I stood at the door offering free treatments to people passing by on the street, trying to retain customer loyalty. And it worked. Those who entered loved it and soon marked another session. Slowly and by word of mouth, the business was booming and the clientele coming back.
The salon was working, Markos went back to work there and we furnished our house. I remember when we got our car. We went to spend a weekend at the beach, sleeping inside it, to celebrate the achievement!
In this partnership, the company was growing and doing well and our life only improved. But things turned again in 2010. The salon was structured and I started to look for new challenges. Then I realized that eyebrow care had a lot of demand. Why not open a specialized shop in this look?
We sold the salon and invested the money in opening the first Spa da Sobrancelhas (Spa of the Eyebrows). This time the success came fast: we had so much demand that in a year we decided to open a branch. And it never stopped growing. Today the company is in all of Brazil with 450 franchises. In a few years, I’ve gone from zero to millions. In 2016, we made R$93 million. I am responsible for training employees who work and, together, serve more than 9 million women annually.
Me and Markos lead a completely different life, with a comfort we could not even imagine as we slept on the rug in our first apartment. There are still people who will not look at me so well. But what I hope for is more and more women like me in the business world. We’re coming to stay.”
Source: Foco SH
I am glad for her, but I would like to see at least one Afro Brazilian couple who became successful outside the world of entertainment. I don’t have anything against Markos personally, but if all of our most successful people continue to mix so much, we will never ever have a Black elite since all the upcoming Blacks will have lighter skinned children and will probably teach those children to marry White…
Excellent comment Alex! It’s a sentiment I’ve expressed for years but it appears that most Afro-Brazilian elites don’t see it this way. More evidence of how the ideal of embranquecimento continues to play out today…