[Hpn] RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Ex-homeless man talks shop to Brazil biz elite - Reuters News Service - July 12, 2002

H. C. Covington H. C. Covington" <icanamerica@bellsouth.net
Sat, 13 Jul 2002 10:17:40 -0500

Ex-homeless man talks shop to Brazil biz elite

By Andrei Khalip - Reuters News Service - July 12, 2002

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- For someone who used to sleep in the streets and
starve, Rio de Janeiro street vendor David Mendonca has an unusual and busy
agenda: he gives 15 lectures on marketing per month to Brazil's business elite.

He's not a millionaire -- yet, but his candy tent in the centre of Rio, complete
with a delivery service via phone and the Internet, is a great success and
brings steady profits.

Mendonca, 44, now has a trendy car, owns a home in a decent neighbourhood and is
preparing to open a store. He also has sponsors and an advertising agent and is
planning to publish his rags-to-riches tale.

"I'm the only street vendor in the world with his own Internet page and a
publicity agency," boasted Mendonca, a slim and lively man with a broad smile
that became the logo of his sweets and snack business.

He would not reveal all his marketing tricks in an interview, but his basic
"teachings" are clear and simple, with some resembling ancient wisdom: "A smile
opens all the doors and a bad mood closes them. Fear not to make a mistake --
invent, run away from the average, the error is in not trying."

Others are hyper modern: "In a globalised world, the goods are all the same, it
is the vendor who makes the difference."

On a more pragmatic note, Mendonca says: "You make people laugh and they relax,
their wallet becomes vulnerable." He explains though that one has to "love and
fondle" the client and always be honest with him.

Mendonca has given 150 lectures in the last three years at MBA economic
university courses, corporate seminars and top business association meetings
across Brazil. There are 72 scheduled for this year and 2003 is getting
increasingly booked up.

"His lectures are excellent. Absolutely everyone loves him. Marketing
headhunters must be mad to get him," said Maria Gurgel do Amaral, who works in
Caixa Economica savings bank where Mendonca gave one of his lectures.


"I give a lesson in life and a lesson in marketing, all based on my true story,"
he says.

About 13 years ago, Mendonca lived in Rio de Janeiro's biggest shanty town
Rocinha and worked as a driver, but he lost his job and he and his wife went to
live in the streets.

When his pregnant wife fell ill, Mendonca had to borrow $4 (2.60 pounds) to get
medicine at a drugstore.

"I was thinking that I'd have to pay it back somehow... then suddenly I saw a
sweets wholesale store. I bought some sweets, sold them and doubled my capital,
buying my wife the medicine, a sandwich and more sweets to sell."

Less than a year later, he bought a modest house in a humble neighbourhood on
the outskirts of Rio, not in a slum. Now, he carries mileage cards from the
major Brazilian ( news - web sites) airlines, drives a $15,000 car, and brings
in a profit of $1,000 a month just from the sweets tent.

"Not bad for someone who used to live in the street, huh?" he says pointing with
pride at the new Volkswagen Golf.


Mendonca strongly believes that giving away prizes for clients inflates sales
and, along with his "good mood" image and advertising, is an invincible

"The client loves getting anything for free," he repeated a few times during the
interview. Mendonca's advertising style is best illustrated with a street sign
just before his new store saying: "Prohibited to look in this direction."
Needless to say, everyone looks.

Mendonca's unorthodox "prizes" include dental services for those with a sweet
tooth. Clients can generally claim plaque cleansing after collecting 32 points,
or "teeth."

"I have a special 20-tooth offer so that those who don't have all their teeth
don't feel bad," he said.

His first lottery had prizes ranging from $1 worth of sweets to a bicycle, with
tickets hidden inside coloured balloons that buyers had to pop. The balloons
drew the attention of clients, businesspeople and the media.

"There was a newspaper report about a street vendor who uses marketing tricks.
So a businessman showed up, newspaper in hand, inviting me to speak at some
meeting," Mendonca recalls.

He debuted as a lecturer at an important Industrial Marketing Meeting in Sao
Paulo's Sheraton hotel.

"Guards did not want to let me in as I was wearing my Bermudas and a T-shirt and
told them that I was a street vendor," he said with a laugh.

He now has sponsors who provide money and other backing in exchange for lectures
during which the vendor wears a T-shirt with the sponsor's logo.

Mendonca says the lectures and sponsors "made a very good" addition to his
profits, but would not disclose how much.

He knows his knowledge has a price: "Those things that everyone wants to know
about my marketing, things that make people laugh out loud, I only tell the
paying clients during my lectures."
[Editors note: Can you help us find success stories or
examples like this on Life Recovery of formerly homeless
individuals and familes in the US?]

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