My first few hours at the Afro-Brazilian Incubator involved meeting with the team, especially their Executive Director, Mr. Giovanni Harvey. Giovanni has a very strong personality and is a fearless leader. Although he doesn’t speak English (and I only know ‘obrigado’ in Portuguese), I could understand most of what he said due to the passion in his voice, the elaborative hand gestures, and such expressive eyes. That said, we had his partners, Mr. Paulo Renato Colombiano and Ms. Isadora Lopes, helping us with translation.
Giovanni began by telling me about his vision for the incubator. Incubator plans to promote social ascendance in the marginalized community of Afro-Brazilians by fostering entrepreneurship. He doesn’t want ABI to operate as a traditional incubator that attracts scholars and new ideas. He wants ABI to be a ‘connector’ – a resource that helps entrepreneurs streamline operations and grow their already existing businesses. He believes that “entrepreneurship doesn’t exist by itself.” Using a medicinal analogy, he comments that “entrepreneurship is not a single virus that you can isolate and put in another person’s body; you must understand first how the other person’s system going to react to this new virus.”
ABI spends a lot of time in recruiting the right entrepreneurs and then provides them with necessary ecosystem for 9 – 15 months to succeed. Interestingly, ABI sometimes may overlook businesses with the best chance of success in favor of the businesses most vulnerable to fail without support.