Local Entrepreneur Puts Natural Resources To Good Use
by Laura Preftes
Like any successful entrepreneur, Arimar Feitosa won’t take no for an answer.
When the owner of the souvenir shop in Alter d'Chão told Arimar he didn’t want the handbags because they wouldn’t sell, Arimar offered them to the owner as a gift. He hung the bags on the display himself and told the owner he would return in a few weeks. If they didn’t sell, the owner would not have to pay for them. Sure enough Arimar’s hunch paid off and, upon returning as promised, the shop owner ran out to meet him, telling him, “Every bag sold! I want to buy more!”
Born and raised in Maguary, Brazil, Arimar recognized another economic opportunity for one of the area’s natural resources, rubber. Like most communities in the Flona Tapajós Verde (Tapajós National Forest) region of Brazil, Maguary was founded over 100 years ago by rubber-tappers. However, with the rise of rubber plantations in Malaysia (after Sir Henry Wickham smuggled rubber tree seeds out of Brazil), the market for Brazilian latex essentially dried up.
After learning about a process to vulcanize natural latex from engineer, Osvaldo Rodrigues, Arimar founded Couro Ecológico in 1997. “I believe the production of (ecological) leather can have many great results,” Arimar told CEN’s Robert Bortner. “It can increase the family income of the seringueiros (local rubber extractors). It gives our youth the incentive to remain in the community to study and work without having to go to the cities to find better living conditions. It is also a form of generating income without degrading the environment.”
With his inexhaustible energy and drive, Arimar is now heading up the commercialization efforts for the Flona Tapajós Verde Cooperative, an artisan's cooperative recently started to promote the production and sale of products manufactured by communities in the Flona Nacional de Tapajós. As a role model, teacher and marketer, Arimar will play a crucial role in the Integrated Entrepreneurship Development program, part of CEN’s cCLEAR project.
Today, 10 years after Arimar first walked into the souvenir shop, Couro Ecológico handbags are being sold in Italy, Germany, and Belgium, as well as in Sao Paulo. With the help of CEN, distributors are being sought for the US market. An example of what a little ingenuity and a lot of motivation can do, Arimar Feitosa is an inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs in both developed and developing countries.