In Brazil, in the hair salons of the favelas

The project run by Matrix in the favelas of Rio is a successful example of an inclusive business model.

Over two thirds of Brazilian hairdressing salons are located in the favelas and are very hard to reach. ‘Hairdressers in the favelas use the mass-market brands, not because they are cheaper but because they’re the only ones they know’, explains Weider Cristian Campos, CEO of Matrix Brazil. ‘They don’t have the time or inclination to go and see what’s happening elsewhere.’ So, in 2010, the professional brand launched a micro-distribution project in order to convince them to use its products. The result? In 2012, 50 women managed to place Matrix products in several thousand hairdressing salons within the Rio favelas. By 2014, there should be nearly a thousand of them distributing the brand’s products to tens of thousands of salons across Brazil.

Developing the entrepreneurial fibre of women from poor districts

Recruited by Matrix together with a specialist partner, the micro-distributors first receive technical training provided by Matrix, along with management training from a public body. Each then canvasses around fifty salons in her district. ‘As they come from the favelas, they know where the hairdressers are and what kind of constraints they face, so they speak the same language,’ explains Weider Cristian Campos. At least once a month, they hold training courses in dyeing or straightening for instance, either in their homes or on small local premises rented through a system of micro-loans. The result is a win-win situation, as due to being better trained and using better products, the hairdressers attract more customers and buy more from the micro-distributors, who receive roughly 20% commission on their sales. In 2012 in Rio, they generated average sales of 10,000 reals per month, giving them a salary of about 2,000 reals*, nearly 4 times the average income of a family in the favelas. Matrix estimates that, by 2014, these sales volumes and the resulting income will have trebled. ‘This market is essential to our development. At the same time, we have the opportunity to change the lives of a lot of women,” enthuses Weider Cristian Campos.

* 1 Brazilian real is worth roughly half of one American dollar.

The hair salons in the favelas

  • 89% of Brazilian hair salons are informal and located in poor areas