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Honk-Honk! Honk-Honk!  Think of the sound a clown horn makes – that is exactly the sound I hear each morning on my way to work in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  The sound comes from the bakery man who rides the neighborhood streets around the hotel announcing his freshly baked bread and rolls, and local favorite Pao de Queijo (cheese breads) for sale in the neighborhood.  This bakery biker is a budding entrepreneur hard at work.

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I am here in Brazil working with an NGO as part of SAP’s inaugural Social Sabbatical program.  I have found that the walk to work is quite different than my usual commute with the bakery man, an occasional crowing rooster, and busy downtown city streets.  And how I work, and what I am doing has taken me in a completely new direction.

I am here working as part of a team of three supporting the Maos de Minas organization.  Founded by Tania Machado, Maos de Minas is committed to the growth of the Minas Gerais artisan community as a type of small business incubator. 

In Brazil, all individuals conducting business where an invoice is required for a sale are required to be registered with the state authorities.  This is a complicated process, and one that is difficult and cumbersome for those with an artistic spirit.  This is where Maos de Minas gets involved.  It helps the artisan to consider their crafts and hand work as a business, training them to include the true cost of their product and production and to think about including in the product price things like their labor time,  and cost of electricity that they use in their workshop.  Maos de Minas is dedicated to skills development of entrepreneurs.   It provides the necessary back office infrastructure of legal invoicing and payment receipt to allow these new small businesses the opportunity to focus on growing their business.

An additional service provided by Maos de Minas is the sale and exportation of the artisan handmade crafts to the international market.  The firm has attracted attention from major U.S. retailers including Macy’s and TJ Maxx, and was recently challenged with order fulfillment and shipment of a 45,000 piece order for a European retailer. 

This is where the SAP team gets involved.  We are examining the Maos procure to pay process, developing recommendations and deliverables to ease the pain with large order fulfillment.  For a company with a shipping department of 2 persons, this is a challenge, but one that the entire staff of Maos de Minas is dedicated to addressing.  For someone with an accounting and finance background, this new thinking around supply chain is encouraging me to return to a practical way of approaching an issue, and to step outside the numbers for a solution.  The teaming with colleagues from the Netherlands and Germany has personally stretched me to understand how different cultures approach problem solving.  I am learning to be open to ideas and alternatives.

So – honk, honk!  Next time you hear the sound of a clown horn, I hope you think about the small businessmen of Brazil and their path to success!

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To learn more about our team experiences in Brazil, please check out this link to a video of our experiences:

https://saptube.wdf.sap.corp:50000/saptube/csr?guid=SAP_Social_Sabbatical_Video_Diaries_AllProjects_final-WMV_1920x1080_16x920120912180737

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