I waited across the street from the small shop in Laranjeiras and watched. In just 20 minutes I saw more than a dozen people enter with cash and leave moments later, hurriedly tucking tins or small foil envelopes into their bags and pockets. The clients were content for another day now that they had their fix.
This dangerously addictive substance, known as veneno da lata (literally ‘poison in a tin’, but meaning something closer to ‘good stuff in a tin’), is sweeping across the city of Rio and it has been winning over thousands of fans. But who is responsible for this and what should be done about it? The trail leads back to a guy called Luiz Quinderé, and it all started when he was just 15.
Back in 2005, a young Luiz was offered a ‘new kind of cake’ by his friend Miranda. This cake was a particularly delicious brownie with a good crunchy crust and a perfectly soft centre. Luiz loved the brownies so much that he learned the recipe himself and before long he was taking his them to football games as a half-time snack. His friends soon noticed these chocolate treats and soon after he had handed a few out, the demand began to grow.
Before long, this entrepreneurial adolescent decided to start selling his wares. He baked the brownies in his parents’ kitchen and made his deliveries by skateboard!
Years passed, Luiz went to university and studied in England, but when he returned, the business continued to grow. Friends helped package the brownies in silver wrappers and the signature tins and everything they made flew off the shelves. In 2012, Luiz moved his production operation to a factory in São Conrado, but demand grew at such a rate that within a year he moved to an even larger factory and opened his shop in Laranjeiras.
Today, Luiz has a whole range of brownie products and sells more than a thousand brownies per day in over 50 establishments across the city. He has an on-line store as part of the Brownie do Luiz website and over 22,000 likes on his Facebook page.
A lot of people (including me) complain about the painful bureaucracy involved in starting up and running a small business in Brazil, but Luiz’s story is a perfect illustration of the thing that gives me hope: if you have a great idea that captures people’s imagination, if you have a quality product (and believe me, those brownies are amazing) and if you have the entrepreneurial spirit to get things moving, you can be hugely successful here. Despite the slow-down in the growth of Brazil’s economy in recent years, Rio is still a city of opportunity.