AIESEC alumnus Henrique Bussacos was a mergers-and-acquisitions investment banker.
However, a side-project with Amana-Key helped bring him into alignment and radically reshaped his career.
Amana-Key, Oscar Motomura’s company for corporate innovation, was Henrique’s focus
for four years before he turned his attention to his present sources of rapture.
These, currently, are The Hub São Paulo, a sustainable chain called Tekoha,
and a newly-reinvented family business. We asked Henrique a bunch of questions.
Thanks for chatting with us Henrique. How do you see your Amana-Key learnings applied
in Brazil today? What do they have to offer people working at grassroots social levels?
First, I think there are two main ways to work as a change agent:
working to change organizations that already exist and starting new ones.
Both ways can be effective and helpful; choosing one or the other
depends on where your passions are.
Amana-Key have developed a methodology to … talk in executives‘ language
without losing identity and purpose. This is the knowledge I use the most
to start social companies. I need to be able to make bridges between grassroots
organisations and companies.
For example, at Tekoha, we have to make the bridge between local communities
and our consumers and most of them understand the corporate language.
When we propose partnerships with companies,
we have to speak their language and yet keep our principles and purpose.
Consciousness in the management process can be relevant to any organization –
a big corporation or a grass root one.
Tell us about the café you run. You were able to take a family business and recreate it
so as to align with your deeper values?
My parents started the Café 18 years ago… My sister and me used to help them,
working there during vacation and weekends. Last year, when my parents started
thinking about continuity, my sister and me thought that selling coffees and snacks
was not meaningful for us. At the same time, we had a strong connection with
the people there. Some of the employees are there for 18, 15, 12 years…
Which is not common in a coffee shop.
We decided to reinvent the business to make it meaningful and think about
the expansion of a company with purpose. So we changed the brand to
Ekoa Café (Ekoa means home, a place where meaningful dialogues take place…),
introduced organic and more healthy food, stimulated the dialogue
about sustainability and consciousness in the coffee shops and rebuilt the stores
with sustainable materials.
How do we visit?
Campinas is a hundred km far from São Paulo, so everybody that will pass through São Paulo
before or after Rio de Janeiro should get in touch with me and then I can arrange a visit!
With Tekoha, your artisans make a lot of simple and traditional handcrafts using materials
that are both sustainable and customary, which preserves a cultural diversity. Who is your market?
This is a big challenge in Brazil, the fair trade market is not very developed.
So, we have a lot of work on education for conscious consumption. We created a
newsletter talking not only about Tekoha, but also about the communities that
are part of the network, and how conscious consumption can help change the market dynamics.
We focus on the market of gifts. Our value is to offer a meaningful hand-made gift –
telling the story of it and guaranteeing social and environmental sustainability.
How do you reconcile artisan cultures with market pressures to sell “sustainable industry”
to conforming capitalist classes?
I don’t have an answer to it… It’s a challenge that I believe has to be faced with transparency
and creativity to start new ways to establish relationships and commerce.
How did you establish relationships with the Tekoha artisans?
The first community I visited when I was dreaming about Tekoha, so they were the
first community to be part of Tekoha. The others we started to evolve, checking
the organization of the community, the role of the handcraft in the community, and
the quality of the products. Now, we are working with four communities around Brasil
and two others will be part of the network this month.
Will Tekoha go international? Why or why not?
We’ll operate abroad to balance our work in an undeveloped fair trade market, Brasil
and in a developed fair trade market. This is important, because in Brasil we have
to work on education of conscious consumption, while in other markets fair trade
is much stronger and we can generate revenues to more quickly reach the break-even.
Even though we are a non-profit organization, we consider economic sustainability
a strong point in our strategy. We will start our strategy abroad working in partnership
with AIESEC and Artemisia Foundation in 2008.
Are other Pioneers involved with your projects?
There are many levels of involvement… people that are directly involved
(as Pablo Handl and my sister), people that I exchange ideas with about the projects
(many), getting help with contacts at companies (Patrícia Sogayar, a Pioneer, helps
a lot, and others), starting partnerships with their projects or companies.
How are you and Pablo doing with The Hub?
Actually, I just came from the Hub! It’s going well. We have rented a space close
to Paulista Avenue (the main road in São Paulo) and now we’re rebuilding the space.
September 15 – 16 we’ll have the Design Workshop with architects and future
members of The Hub São Paulo.
Would you ever go back to working for a corporation?
Well, I kind of found my path on entrepreneurship of social companies.
So, I find very hard to imagine myself in a big corporation again right now. It’s not
that I have prejudices about it, but my passion is closer to the creation of new organizations.
What are you reading these days?
I’m reading Satish Kumar’s You are, therefore I am. He was a Jain monk
and left the religion to find his own path. His story is quite interesting and brings
many reflections on the meaning of life, the presence and many teachings that he got from his masters.
Oh – lovely book. Spirituality acknowledged, but I thought he was just taking culture seriously.
Great read – not necessarily light. How do you relax?
First, I’ve to tell that I’ve a lot to learn on relaxation. I relax at Aikido, enjoying a chat with friends in a café, laying down in my “Brasilian net,” and spending a day close to the sea…
Henrique Bussacos can be reached at henrique dot bussacos at tekoha dot org