By Liz Lacerda, Foreign Correspondent
Why/When did you decide to start Tropical Brazil?
I had the idea of bringing açaí to Australia in 2003 as I was looking to unite the best of both countries. At that time though, I was here as a student, consequently resources and opportunities were limited.
On top of that, nobody had heard about açaí before, so I archived the project. As there is more competition for formal work, I decided to implement my plan B.
When I founded the company, four years ago, I was already a citizen and I had partners. Our first container arrived in August 2016, and this journey has been an adventure for us. We are very happy to be bringing the best from Brazil to Australia.
What is Tropical Brazil?
Tropical Brazil brings fruit pulp and açaí from Brazil.
We found a trustworthy supplier from Rio Grande do Sul State, with headquarters in São Paulo and farms in Pará, and they deliver high quality products with certifications.
I valued that, so we closed the deal with them. Our clients chose the name of our company. When we gave them samples, they said it had a “tropical” flavour, and I wanted to incorporate “Brazil” as it is a strong name, so “Tropical Brazil”.
Why did you choose Australia?
I came here for the first time as an English student and I stayed for one year. I started planning my return to Australia as soon as I arrived back in Brazil though, due to the social differences and the fact that I was always worried about security.
I got a job as an Engineer in São Paulo, pretty much at the same time that I applied for the Australian Permanent Residency (PR). I passed the English test and I had my degree recognised by the “Engineers Australia” in Brazil, so I came back in July 2007.
What type of support did you get from the Australian / Brazilian governments to open your business?
At the beginning, we received some incentives for small companies, so you pay less taxation, but we did not look for funds or grants.
We had a plan and we had our own capital. We contacted many potential suppliers, but most did not have the conditions nor the right documentation to export.
In terms of logistics, Brazil is one of the most difficult countries to trade with due to the distance; so, now, we are looking for governmental support in relation to marketing and promotion. We have partnership with the Australian Brazil Business Council and we are investing in networking.
What are the biggest challenges of running a business in Australia?
For us, the most difficult part was to start with a product unknown to Australians. Açaí is not popular enough yet.
It is a product that sells closer to beaches and city centres. Our biggest challenges are to promote the product on a massive scale and to let clients know we are around. At this stage, we work B2B. We sell to coffee shops, restaurants and supermarkets.
Another challenge is to import frozen food as it is expensive and the logistics are very specific. We need a lot of reports, certifications and insurances, but we have done our homework and we passed the inspections and lab tests. We are registered with the Food Safety Authority of New South Wales.
How is the company growing? How is the business today in terms of revenue / staff, etc.?
We started from scratch with all the uncertainty surrounding a new business, but our açaí was welcomed due to its creamy texture. Our growth is not exponential yet, as we have some limitations in terms of area and logistics, but we are growing around 20% – 30% per year.
We bought a refrigerated van, which is delivering our products in Sydney, and we are redesigning packaging. At the moment, we are limited in terms of staff, and we will probably be hiring sometime soon. We are learning from our mistakes and improving.
We have representatives in other states, such as Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. We are also negotiating with South Australia and the Northern Territories. We have already sold to New Zealand and we are also negotiating with Asia.
How can the Brazilian community help your business to grow?
The Brazilian community is already helping our business growth as we offer good quality açaí and clients recommend it to others.
We do a lot of digital marketing, and some partnerships with other Brazilians businesses, but the word-of-mouth helps expansion.
We offer excellent customer service and we never ignore the needs of our clients. Networking within the Australia Brazil Business Council is also very important.
What is your advice to anyone who wants to open a business in Australia?
Start your business after planning ahead in order to minimise mistakes and avoid frustrations. There is no short cut or quick way to make money. It is research, information and partnerships. Talk to more experienced entrepreneurs. I am open to partners who want to work together.
What are your plans for the future?
We are researching new high quality products to import, but I cannot disclose the details just yet. We want happy customers as well as products that will be accepted in the local market.
Today, we are recognised as one of the best açaí suppliers in Australia, if not the best, and we are proud of that.
Tropical Brasil is a proud SME Member of the Australia-Brazil Business Council.