Caetano Fasano, founder and owner of high-end catering company Affari started his business two years ago in São Paulo, Brazil. With the help of fellow Les Roches alumnus Luis Romero, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, they have created an F&B company that provides in-house catering for businesses, has doubled in size over two years, and already employs over 85 people.
Mention Brazil and the chances are that the conversation will turn to football. After all, it’s the World Cup and World Cup fever has set in. But Brazil is also hot topic for another reason. Along with Russia, China and India, Brazil is experiencing consistent levels of expansion within the travel and tourism sectors. And with this comes opportunities for trail-blazing, risk-taking entrepreneurs who can spot a gap in the market and create a successful enterprise.
Les Roches caught up with two of its alumni, budding entrepreneurs, Caetano Fasano and Luis Romero, in São Paulo, Brazil.
How did you start Affari?
CF: After leaving Les Roches, I worked some time for a consulting company in computing. I was not happy. I thought ‘this has nothing to do with me and my passion.’
I took the opportunity to open a new restaurant within a company. It would have two different segments: one high-end, à la carte, and one market-based. I was in discussions with the client when Luis contacted me looking for a job. He was getting married to a Brazilian and was moving here. And at this time, I had the perfect job: manager in one of my restaurant operations. That was two years ago.
How has it developed since then?
CF: We have doubled in size since we started two years ago. We now have 3 restaurants, 2 meeting rooms, 1 cafeteria and employ over 85 people. Our client base is from the banking sector, but we are discussing with clients to expand to other sectors including advertising, legal and consulting.
What are the main opportunities of doing business in Brazil?
CF: The main opportunity is that the market is not as well developed as in Europe. Of course the opportunities here are much bigger than other countries. The challenges, there are challenges. We are service providers. We work with food. We deal with people. We have almost 100 employees. So, we have to deal with the clients, suppliers, with the employees, and knowing how to deal with them is one of the biggest challenges. It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s complex. But we all have skills to do it.
Brazil is a place of a lot of opportunities. It’s a growing here. There are a lot of situations that are not the best, but in terms of opportunity here is a place to be. Talking about our business, hotels, businesses, or restaurants. It’s a place which needs a lot of people who have the know-how. Les Roches people should be coming to Brazil.
Seriously? Would there be an opportunity?
CF: Sure. Get in touch. Especially if you speak Spanish or Portuguese. We don’t have a website yet – it’s in the pipeline, (any budding marketing specialists out there?) but you can email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
LR: The biggest challenge is human resources. In Brazil, this is difficult. There is a large pool of applicants to choose from. You are not hiring a waiter or a service attender. You’re hiring someone who works in another area and you train them. There is a huge turnover of staff. There are lots of opportunities and people jump jobs. We try and overcome this through training, caring for employees, social meetings for them so they engage with the company. Then when they think about leaving, there is a higher barrier for them.
How has the entrepreneur experience been for you, personally?
LR: This has been a great learning opportunity since the beginning. We were all very young, we were the entrepreneurs of the company. It was an exciting time, getting everything together and running. A very good experience for all of us. When started, I was 23 and Caetano was 25. That’s young.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? What would be your pearl of wisdom?
CF: To live. To insist. And hold your breath a lot.
Because when you are a start up, you live between two moments: you are either terrified or excited. You have to believe in yourself and the business. We all believe in the business. We are thinking and looking for our next clients. Trying every day to get the contact with the client. We are together the dream. And of course at times we look at each other and feel very afraid about the future, but we always have to believe and keep focused on our idea.
An internship with Affari catering won’t coincide with the World Cup, alas, but it will expose you to an entrepreneurship in practice, in one of the fastest growing economies in the world.