Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship is a recognized RVO* startup facilitator for international innovative startup entrepreneurs. For one year, we provide these entrepreneurs with support and mentorship to develop their businesses in the Dutch market. Each month we ask one of our Startup Visa participants to share their story. This month we spoke to Samille, founder of Zucas.
Zucas is a marketplace that connects local suppliers of artisan products to importers and retailers from Europe. The name “zucas” is derived from “Brazucas”, a nickname for Brazilians which is similar to “Dutchies”: cute and easy to remember! After spotting a gap in the international trade in artisan products, Samille, originally from Brazil, came to the Netherlands to do an internship and validate her business idea in the Dutch market at the same time before officially deciding to relocate to the Netherlands!
The idea: matching supply and demand
The idea for Zucas sparked after the Olympic games that took place in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, when Samille noticed the high levels of unemployment in the city, especially among artisans. Selling their products in the streets, she started talking to them: “I asked them if they had any kind of marketing and business knowledge. Most of them did not, and I started to think that if they were able to sell under these conditions, they would probably be able to sell faster and all over the world if they would have a place to showcase their products.”
On the other hand, she regularly met retailers from Europe who travelled to Brazil multiple times a year to import certain products, including artisan products and handicrafts. “For the buyers, Brazil is quite an expensive country to visit and also not the safest if you are a tourist. Having a party that can find, buy and import the products makes this process a lot easier for them,” she says.
Validating the concept in the Netherlands
Seeing aggregated value for both sides, she came to the Netherlands to further test the idea by researching and connecting with fairtrade retailers. When asked why she chose the Netherlands to build her startup, Samille says: “it is very well located and the entrance for a lot of European markets. In addition, The Netherlands is the second country (after Germany) in Europe with the most consumption of fair-trade goods.”
After gaining sufficient validation for the concept, Samille decided to apply for the Startup Visa in order to realize the Zucas platform. Though having spotted Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship as an organisation that offers support to startups when she first arrived in the Netherlands, she connected to ECE’s startup visa programme manager by chance in early 2020.
Despite not going out as much due to the lockdown, she highly values the network of Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship as her facilitator, saying “I think the networking opportunities are really good, and in general all the support and information that the Centre provides, including introductions and tips. The coaching sessions were very helpful too.”
The impact of COVID-19
As is now history, in March 2020 the Netherlands entered a (first) lockdown to combat the coronavirus. For the development of Zucas and Samille personally, this had a large impact. As a person who is passionate about solving problems, on a personal level Samille experienced frustration with the situation at hand, for not being able to do anything about it. After learning how to adapt, she focused on gaining knowledge about building a business and flexibly changed her strategy for Zucas.
Initially planning on winning some deals, earn some money and build the MVP of the Zucas platform, she inverted her timeline: “not necessarily the business model, but the steps I was willing and ready to take kind of changed. I expected some deals to fall through in March, but these were cancelled. The plan was to win some deals, earn some money and build the MVP but now I kind of inverted. I took the time to build the MVP first and then get in some transactions.”
In addition, she broadened her customer segments after attending a virtual fair organised by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce (KvK) by identifying sustainable brands in the fashion industry that are searching for new organic materials for their products.
Generating long-term socioeconomic impact in Brazil
In the long-term, Samille wants to become a global reference point for fairtrade and organic goods worldwide, thereby creating business opportunities that drive social and economic development in Brazil. Integrating a social aspect to her business to ensure long-term impact, she also aims to donate a percentage of each transaction to local educational programmes.
Equally conscious about her short-term strategy, Samille lists the most important milestones for Zucas in the coming months: “structurally getting suppliers on board, being able to validate the transaction-flow (customer journey) on the MVP version of the platform and most importantly, first revenues.”
Passion is what matters
When asked about her advice to aspiring and fellow entrepreneurs, she says “believing in the idea! If you are not passionate about it, you will not be able to do much.”
On a more practical note: “I think that reading can be quite important. Sometimes you find people that have been through some difficult times, and you can learn from their experience (avoid the trial and error). Marketplace platforms are a bit new, but books do exist on the networking effect and how to build a market. If there are few or no books on the topic that you are working on, I think this is a good sign because it indicates that you are pioneering in this field!”
Want to know more about Samille’s entrepreneurial journey with Zucas? Reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Applying for Startup Visa Facilitator programme
International innovative entrepreneurs have the possibility to apply for the programme all through the year. With a startup visa, international startups have one year to start an innovative company in the Netherlands. On the Startup Visa Facilitator page, you can find all the information you need, including a brochure.