For many entrepreneurs and small businesses, social media can be an absolute game-changer! All it takes is one viral post and a business can suddenly take off.
At Like A Voss Social Media, we’re highlighting local businesses and entrepreneurs who are killing the online game. This week’s spotlight is on Cinthia Amaral, owner of Quitanda!
Quitanda is an online Brazilian Grocery Store, bringing the South American flavours and tastes to the country’s immigrants in Canada. With amazing customer service, impeccable packaging, and logistics, we deliver all our products to the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Niagara Region, London, Waterloo, Kitchener, Barrie, Sudbury, North Bay, Kingston, PEC, Ottawa, Gatineau, and Montreal; and non-frozen products to the rest of the country.
Our girl Betina interviewed Cinthia about her secret to success in business and in life. We also got some awesome insights into what they think makes social media such an effective tool in business.
A Little Bit About Being a Female Entrepreneur
1: How long have you been in business for?
I started planning our online business in January 2019. But with a newborn at home then, I took my time, figuring out the best ways to go to market, the best structure, the best moment… Fast-forward a full year, in January 2020, we had already connected and signed contracts with our main suppliers. I went back to Brazil for the last holiday before venturing into the entrepreneurial world. When I came back and Canada entered the first lockdown, we activated the idea. April 9th became Quitanda’s official anniversary. It does sound like an opportunistic move starting a grocery delivery business with the pandemic, but it was just a coincidence.
2: What made you decide to start Quitanda?
I’m a salesperson at heart. And I had been working with that for at least 15 years before immigrating to Canada. When my family arrived, my challenges to speak the language denied me to enter the workforce immediately. I became a housewife, and shortly after, a mom – 19 years after I had my first child (Yes! I had a daughter when I was just 17). I saw myself thinking about the usual household errands that I had never had to worry much about before. And trying to close the cultural differences gap and make Canada feel more like home, I would go grocery shopping in the Portuguese stores around town, sometimes taking 40 minutes each way to travel between home and the shops. But even though they had many Brazilian products, they wouldn’t have the regional food available or specific brands we love. After all, Brazil has many cultures, tastes, and flavours. So much so that you will likely not know half of them even if you are from there. I soon realized that doing something as simple as buying groceries would connect me with my origins. And I thought – “This is a pain that other fellow Brazilians might also have.” I decided to unite my sales skills, focusing on customer satisfaction, my deep connection with my homeland culture to start Quitanda. My husband’s tech/marketing/entrepreneurial skills came in handy too!
3: What do you love most about being a female entrepreneur?
I love being an entrepreneur – period. There are advantages and disadvantages (huge sometimes) of being a female in this function. It’s nothing to hate or love about. I think I’d love it as much, even without the gender prefix. So I’ll talk about the edge that being a female entrepreneur creates. I know that the world needs us, women, to take charge of our goals, hopes, and dreams. We understand desires, and we have the instinct to try and make people happier – more than our male peers, usually. And most importantly, as entrepreneurs, we are free to draw our own destiny without (being forced to) coping with obstacles of fighting for equality in the workplace. So, if one day I will refer to gender as a reason to love being an entrepreneur, I wish that it will be to inspiring other women to drop the gender barrier and just venture into this incredible world of opportunities.
4: What is the hardest thing you have had to overcome as a female entrepreneur?
Number one was at home. I have a supporting husband – don’t get me wrong. He was actually the one that pushed me to go after this. But emotionally and physically, we are raised to nurture affection at home. I developed this natural bond with my little boy and my grown-up daughter, and a constant need to satisfy them, which I thought couldn’t be replaced. So my first challenge was to manage my role as a mom and a wife while dedicating my heart to this company. I had to show my husband that I needed him to be more available to our home, to our children, to me. Sharing even more responsibilities than before (again, he was always helpful – but I needed him to raise his game). It was not easy-breezy! I had to fight for that space really hard.
Secondly, we have to be even more sensitive and worry about things men don’t. As simple as a smiley face on WhatsApp, little things can give all the wrong signs given the patriarchal society we live in. I’ll use my husband again as an example (poor him! I promise he is great!): When he has to help me with customer service, and being a marketing genius that he is, he plays around with language, using emojis quite well to give our customers a warming experience I want them to have with the brand. But sending the wrong emoji on my behalf can cause the receptor to misread the message – an angry spouse thinking I’m too “forward” with her husband, or even the male customer believing that he is special to me beyond the company-client relationship. So, the lack of freedom of using a cozier language that would match my brand better is tough because Quitanda’s main value is to make the Brazilian immigrants feel like they’re home.
5: What is one thing about working in the food industry that people would be surprised to learn?
I think every segment of the market will have its own surprises. Working with food also has its particularities, mainly when it comes to the entire shelf life-logistics co-dependent relationship. It’s hard to master when we define standards to reject any kind of passing forward expired products with the disguise of the “it’s ‘best by’ – but you can still eat it at your risk” regulations many grocery shops in Canada comply with. We take safety very seriously and remove from inventory every product at the end of its valid life-cycle. On a “good surprise” matter, it’s incredible how close clients are to your shopping cart. My previous experiences required me to convince the client to come to a physical store, spend my time with them on a sales pitch, and finally, lead them to checkout. With e-commerce, that line is blurry, and you can go through this entire process while the client is in the comfort of his sofa.
And Now Onto The Social Media Questions!
6: Do you have a favorite social media platform? Why?
Instagram for sure. It feels more like a conversation without being one necessarily. It has proven functionalities, and it is super flexible. We can blend informational content with fun content as we wish. We can be serious and use creative resources all the time. It has better engagement than Facebook while still using its advertising power. It is more inclusive than TikTok or other ultra-segmented social platforms.
7: What made you decide to start using social media as a way to promote your company?
Being an entrepreneur was pushing me strongly out of my comfort zone. To balance with that, I wanted to use a channel that I was comfortable with. I have been making videos and stories for friends and family ever since I immigrated. So it was a natural way to start. We never planned it to be our main communications channel. But it has become. Supported by a strong integration with other messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook (Business) Messenger.
8: How has social media impacted your business? Would you say that it’s an effective marketing tool?
Definitely! We started during the early days of the lockdown. People were still trying to figure out a world of social disconnection. Social media was the bridge to make these challenging times easier. Currently, 24% of our sales are directly related to the content we recently published. Other 8-12% come from publications that are over a week old. The rest is a mix of email marketing, direct sales using messaging platforms, and word-of-mouth. However, social media is a great way to keep our brand top-of-mind.
9: What advice would you give to other businesses and entrepreneurs who want to use social media as a way to connect with customers?
Be authentic. People will notice when you are faking a persona. In the short-term, it is easy to copy someone. But then you become dependent on the others to evolve, so you can too. If you are original, there’s always something new, spontaneity, and empathy from your followers. And mainly, remember it’s a two-way street. Speak up! But try and listen to your customers much more.
A Little More About Cinthia
Friendly, dependable, easygoing, authentic. I’m a mother of a super-funny 2-year-old named Lucca, a 21-year-old amazing daughter that helps me with Quitanda’s logistics (and comes with the best son-in-law a mother can ever wish), a cute-caring 9-year-old stepdaughter, and wife of this passionate entrepreneur that put us at the forefront of every single decision he makes and has inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I love people and being around my friends all the time – which makes these pandemic times mega-challenging for me. I love my country, my culture, and that’s why being a community reference for Brazilians coming to Canada is fulfilling. But mostly, I love my guts and my instinct. Not that it has always made me take better or easier paths, but they have shaped who I am today.
Connect with Cinthia
Know Any Voss Babes?
Do you know a female entrepreneur who loves social media as much as we do? Contact us today – we’d love to tell her story!