Two years after her first visit to Canada, Mary left her hometown in Brazil for the opportunities abound in Toronto. With her husband, her dog and a business plan in tow, Mary moved to Toronto with a vision to bring a taste of her culture to the city through the Brazilian chocolate experience. Today Mary’s Brigadeiro’s is one of Toronto’s must-try places on the Danforth, popular for its endless strip of diverse cafes and restaurants.
When I returned from Canada I fell in love with the country [and] I already knew that we would return.
I studied Business Administration in Brazil for four years and worked in a private company in HR, [but] I decided to quit my job after seven years because I was not happy.
I spent two years looking for something I was passionate about. I grew up with my mother making desserts – chocolates – to sell. It’s really common in Brazil to make and sell products from your kitchen, but it was not called “entrepreneurship” at the time.
When I quit my job I decided to just help my mother do all the administration, and I fell completely in love with the chocolate that I decided to study it, more specifically the brigadeiro.
Toronto was a big city full of opportunities for opening a business…a really great place to show a new kind of dessert [where] people were really interested to try new things. I convinced my husband to leave Brazil, and I became focused on educating people about a new experience in loving chocolate through the brigadeiro.
In Brazil, when we make brigadeiros, we sit together with our family and we hand roll them together – mothers, sisters, kids. This environment is part of making the brigadeiro. It’s like sharing a moment of happiness. So I try to put this into my chocolate, into every single piece of the brigadeiro that we produce.
Every single piece of the brigadeiro I see, I check, and we make everything from scratch.
The beginning was not easy at all. I focused all my time and all my personal life into this business.
The challenges I experienced were a mix of having a great opportunity but a personal sadness of living in a new country without my family and without anyone to share the journey with in Canada. I had my husband and mother- and father-in-law, but I had no friends.
I spoke with a few people about introducing a new product to Canada. Eventually I connected with Futurpreneur and the mentorship they provide through their Start Up Program was really good for me because I didn’t know anyone and I needed people to give me direction.
Futurpreneur gave me the right directions for how to introduce the brigadeiro to Canada while making sure my business wouldn’t fail.
I would fail really fast I believe.
With Futurpreneur it was not just about being given the right directions; the good thing about their program is that they match you with a mentor. This is good because sometimes entrepreneurs think that they already know everything, and when you meet with your mentor and you share all your thoughts, your problems, your ideas, you’re able to get advice from a person who’s outside your business.
Our mentoring relationship focused a lot on achieving Mary’s personal goals to build a foundation that would bolster everything else and help her succeed in business.
As someone who’s been mentored before, I feel like mentoring has given me the life skills, the listening, and the ability to open up and gravitate more towards the human experience side of business, before even being able to scratch the surface of what I was going to do. It was about me and how I was going to allow myself to grow into this role and ask myself tough questions to create that entrepreneurial mindset.
I feel like Mary found that, or at least made a leap in that direction. The part of what she knew she was missing, she allowed herself to see through the conversations that we had, and I watched her business flourish because she was so committed to doing her personal work and working on her personal growth – her self.
I was really impressed by her willingness to step outside of her comfort zone. She’s so insanely focused, and if she really believes in something she’ll take it all the way.
In the beginning, the idea of a mentor was a little hard for me. I was thinking, “I don’t know this person” and “I’m not sure what I will share with this person”, so I was a little concerned about the ideas that I would talk about with my mentor.
But when I did share it turned out to be really important for me because I wasn’t talking with my husband or with a friend who loves me. Instead, I was talking to someone who was going to show me the truth, whether it’s good or not, so this relationship was and still is really important for me and my business.
Mary’s Brigadeiros has become a local favourite and internet sensation. You can find Mary’s Brigadeiros at their flagship store in Toronto, 1912 Danforth Avenue, or on their online store.
Meet Mary’s mentor, Sikin Samij, who speaks about the value of mentoring, the human experience, and the importance of acknowledging the journey in business as a journey in self. Read more here.