Caíto Maia: “the important thing is to deliver a great experience”

Telling a good story is the secret of every great brand, says one of the country's greatest entrepreneurs, Caíto Maia, founder of Chilli Beans. Know your story!

“I started with nothing.” This is how Caíto Maia, founder of Chilli Beans, begins to tell us about the entrepreneurial journey that led him to today lead the largest sunglasses brand in Latin America.

This story began in the late 1990s, when Caíto had a negative bank account. While walking on a beach in California (United States), he saw and liked the style of sunglasses on sale there. He bought 200 units and brought them to sell to friends in Brazil. “Then I knocked on the companies’ doors. In one of them, they asked me for 18 thousand pieces”, recalls Caíto.

The problem was that he didn't have the cash resources to make a purchase of that size. “With the cash advance, I opened a sunglasses import company. I had 250 wholesale customers; two of them didn’t pay me and I went bankrupt”, he recalls.

Caíto's entrepreneurial story could have stopped there, but he didn't give up. “I learned my first lesson: the importance of working on a brand. If I continued selling sunglasses, I would die on the beach, because it's a product that everyone sells in the mall.” He then began to tell the stories of each product he launched. “That’s what differentiated us and gave us a long life”, says the entrepreneur, who officially launched Chilli Beans in 1998.

When the brand was planning an eyewear collection with singer Rita Lee, for example, she said she had already seen a flying saucer. “I asked her to draw the UFO on paper and that became the logo for the collection. Rita Lee fans didn’t buy glasses, they bought this story.”

This is a tactic that can also be used by those who have a restaurant to attract and maintain public loyalty. “Telling a story is making the consumer understand that your business does not deliver food, but experience. Don't sell the stroganoff, sell the experience, the story behind the dish. This increases the average ticket, and the entrepreneur is not left fighting over price.”

Presentation, in this case, makes all the difference – especially on digital channels. “Is it the menu that has to come in straight away or other information that makes your mouth water? The sensation given by the food, the history, all of this makes the consumer value the restaurant”, comments the founder of Chilli Beans.

Still in terms of experience, he highlights the importance of surprising the public. Just as his brand releases 10 sunglasses a week, he provokes entrepreneurs to think about how to launch a new dish with that frequency. “In the beginning, only 30%, 40% of the dishes will rotate, the rest will have to be removed from the menu. But that's how you get the hang of it and understand what makes the consumer's eye shine. If you offer something new every week, the customer comes to your channel every week to buy something new”, explains Caíto.

If this all seems crazy, Caíto says that what he admires about entrepreneurs is precisely that. “I love this madness of people who love their business. Two things catch my attention: the reckless side of entrepreneurs, which is having a dream in which they believe more than anyone else, and the down-to-earth side, of having done the math and knowing whether the business will stay afloat.”

Equally important for him is knowing how to engage and listen to people. “Without a team, you are nothing. When the team buys your fight, your dream, no one stops you”, highlights Caíto. Finally, he gave one more piece of advice to entrepreneurs: listen to criticism more than praise from customers. “The criticisms are course adjustments. Constantly listen to suggestions because that is the secret to success.”

Do you want to know the stories and tips from experts in different areas for food entrepreneurs? Check out the Super Lives iFood Takes Off on the channel iFood for Partners on Youtube.

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