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Zica Assis: From Being a Domestic Maid to One of the Most Powerful Businesswomen in Brazil

It’s been a while since I’ve been considering writing a spotlight about a Brazilian entrepreneur. The reason why I’ve been pushing it off is that I could never connect with the individual I was researching. I could have chosen the easy option by going for Jorge Paulo Leeman or Gisele Bundchen, but I decided to look deeper into my country, find the individuals that the mass media doesn’t highlight, so here is my spotlight on Zica Assis. 

Zica Assis, a black woman, grew up in the slums (favela) of Rio de Janeiro. She wasn’t left much of a choice but to start working at the age of nine as a babysitter and slowly migrated into the field of domestic cleaning. She struggled with finding consistent work as her “afro” hair was considered sloppy and dirty, forcing her into straightening her hair to solely find work. 

In a country where 43% of the population is of mixed race, 8% of the population is black, she realized that millions of other Brazilian have the same hair, “afro” hair and that she shouldn’t have to straighten it to be taken seriously. She never got used to having her hair straightened, so she began her mission of bringing her curls back and ultimately, her identity too. 

After years searching for products that did absolutely nothing to help her hair return to its natural and healthy state, making her curls more manageable and styled the way she would like them to be, she decided to do it herself. She really enjoyed the way her hair looked when it was wet, the curls being more malleable and defined, that is what she wanted from her product. 

In her testing phase, she used her brother Rogerio as her subject (he later became her partner in the business). She tested out all her prototypes on him, he even got bald at one point, and she also lost patches of her hair. However, she knew she had succeeded when her neighbor complimented her on her hair and asked what she was using. She always said that before that she was always complimented on her smile, her happiness but never her hair, until that day.

She named her product Super Relaxante (Super Relaxing) and decided to open a salon called Beleza Natural (Natural Beauty) where she would have professionals apply her product. By 2016, Beleza Natural had 33 salons and 11 kiosks in 5 different states, having over 130,000+ customers a month. Today, she has over 4,000 employees, many of them having the same background as Zica. 90% of these women say it is their first full-time job and ⅔ of these women were customers before they chose to become employees.

In 2013 she received R$70 million investment from GP Investment and is using this money to expand her brand, with the goal of having 120 salons within the next 5 years. She is currently building a Beleza Natual store in Harlem, New York, her first international salon. This same year she was named one of the most powerful businesswomen in Brazil by Forbes.

I'm a Brazilian/Swedish undergraduate student at Babson College who aspires to graduate with a concentration in Entrepreneurship. I'm currently working on my own website where I can display my writing and keep a portfolio of things that interest me. My childhood growing up in Brazil influences me in everything I do, which is clearly shown in my writing. I am a human rights activist, one of the main things I'm very passionate about is women's rights in the business world as that will be my path in the near future. I'm very open to discussing controversial topics as I realize that other people's opinion can change my perspective on the topic at hand and influence how I view the issue as well as teach me more about the other side of the argument or even a completely new approach.
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