Micro-entrepreneurs & start-up's
Meet Josiane & Fred
Text & Photography by Stefan Jermann
On Rua dos Anjos no 4, right before you enter Largo do Intendente, Retrox, a small vintage shop, has opened its doors. Run by Josiane and Frederico Lima, it’s furnished with old books and magazines, designer chairs, unique lamps and other antiques. Retrox feels like it has always been part of the neighborhood. The handsome couple opened in Intendente because they enjoy being away from the tourist crowds and rent is still affordable here. The idea of selling vintage pieces came natural to them – they’ve always been collectors and there came a point when their apartment was so jam-packed that they began a business selling what they are most passionate about.
Josiane and Frederico’s story is not unique. In 2015 Lisbon, together with Northern Ireland and the Spanish region of Valencia, were the winners of »European Entrepreneurial Region«. The jury of the EER has acknowledged Lisbon’s ability to position itself as an Atlantic business and start-up hub geared towards the Americas, Africa and the EU. Many smaller initiatives and efforts by the city have been set up such as “Empresa na hora” – allowing less than a day to take care of bureaucratic red tape to open a new business. In the Baixa (downtown) district, the Startup Lisboa business incubator was brought into life in 2012 and is part of an urban regeneration project where participants will receive mentoring, promotion and financial instruments.
Antonio Costa, Lisbon’s former mayor who just stepped down to run for prime minister, said: “Lisbon is a unique city with a great potential for the entrepreneur. This has been a priority for the city of Lisbon, which has launched various articulated projects and programs with this objective. The vital steps have been spaces for incubators and testing new concepts.” One of Lisbon’s major start-up incubator’s is “Startup Lisboa”. They provide three buildings for start-ups in the tech, commerce and tourism sectors and provide aid financial and know-how to budding entrepreneurs. One typical startup is called »hole19golf.com« — an easy-to-use app that helps golfers gain insight into the game so they can play better. Then there’s »CITADIN«, a shoe business that produces chic quality urban footwear by hand that is quite affordable compared to better-known rivals from abroad. The start-up »Portugalinsights.com« focuses on guided tours beyond the ordinary. They organize customized tours for small groups on such topics as the history and memories printed on tiles or stories told by modest folk living in the city.
While venture capital firms are keeping close tabs on these very innovative firms, it is important to note that lots of small new businesses such as Retrox need to grow at an organic pace. While many international cities have made it hard for smaller shops to survive, it is refreshing to see that Lisbon hosts plenty of them and they seem to be doing just fine. While the local factor plays an important role, those business owners know that their concepts need to be unique and authentic in order to keep a competitive advantage over items sold at big shopping malls and international chains.