Lessons from Brazil – The “Bombril” Biz


In the same way a bombril (think: circular, grey, steel mesh sponges) has 1,001 uses, many small stores here do, too! That’s right, I often come across small businesses whose owners seem unsure of what direction they wish to go in. A prime example is the local locadora, or movie rental place. Aside from renting out dvds, they are a cyber cafe and a barbershop. They also sell ice cream, popsicles, candy and children’s dolls. Truth be told, I go there mostly to buy popsicles, so yeah, go figure…

The other day, I came across a paper stationary store that doubles as a makeshift cafe. It had a third function but I wasn’t paying attention. Many multi-function stores fall within the “loja de conserto” (repair shop) category since they often repair unrelated items (ie, hard drives and guitars). Once, I had a neighbor who fixed computers and did macumba, though not exactly in that order.


I’m fairly sure having a single identity and a clear business plan are high up on the list of business people in the States. I’m not saying stores with multiple personalities are necessarily bad, though. They are just more prevelant here in South America.


2 thoughts on “Lessons from Brazil – The “Bombril” Biz

  1. Movie rental places in the usa also sell candy , drinks etc. Its very common in the usa to have stores selling different stuff as well.
    You make it sound like lots of stores make macumba , come on man…

    • Sure they sell drinks and popcorn, candy and such…but you will never find a movie rental place that is also a barbershop and sells dolls on the side. The example is indicative of many small businesses in Brazil. I challenge anyone in the US to find a small business that does three or more things that have nothing to do with one another or that expands into areas that have nothing to do with their primary business. Possible, but extremely unlikely…whereas in Brazil, it’s very likely that I can walk down the street right now and find a “bombril” business within 5 minutes.

      Ultimately, I’m not saying it is bad, I’m just saying it’s common here.

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