Hi, my name is Renata and chocolate making has been part of my life since I was 12.
When I was 3 years old my mother discovered that my father had another woman. She was 22, had no education and no professional training, came from a poor family and lived in a small town in the middle of Brazil in a male-centric society. She decided to leave my father and took my two sisters and I with her. She did everything she could to support us: clean houses, sell clothes door-to-door and any small jobs that came her way.
One day she heard about a course to make chocolate and soon decided to earn a living making chocolate. Being the oldest sister, for over 10 years I was her right hand. Peak season for chocolate in Brazil is Easter, which is in Brazil’s summer so we would work at night because the days were too hot and we had no air conditioning. We would produce over 2,000 pounds every season – by hand.
Years later, I studied at Brazil’s top medical school and earned a Nursing degree. I loved the profession and did it well although it was not well paid. I lived in São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil and I vowed never to live in a small town or make chocolate again.
After over a decade in the profession, one day I realized that even with a degree and working hard I couldn’t support myself. About the same time the man I was dating – and who I planned to marry – broke up with me and broke my heart. I felt like it was the low point of my life.
I felt I needed a clean start, so I packed up and went to study English far away – in a city where I knew no one and had no connections – San Francisco. I was eager to speak the language better and be immersed in a different culture.
The plan was to stay for 3 months, which was as long as my savings would allow. It turned out to be 9 months, during which I:
+ made the acquaintance of amazing Brazilians who went out of their way to help
+ graduated from a free English course
+ was a nanny for a wonderful 4 month-old. The job enabled me to share a modest apartment and pay my way.
+ took a deep dive in this new place and culture that was so welcoming
And that’s when…
+ I started dating an American and soon fell in love with him. Luckily, he did the same.
4 months after starting the relationship my visa ran out and I had to return home to Brazil, but my heart stayed with my budding love and we maintained the bond long distance for 6 months.
He came to visit my family. He was a successful entrepreneur and I had no job or money. I tried becoming a realtor.
At the end of 6 months, he sold his startup and came to live with me in Brazil – the plan was to stay for 3 months to learn Portuguese so he could understand me and my culture better. Days turned into weeks, weeks to months and the 3 month original plan eventually turned into a full 2 ½ year stay. Eight months into his stay we took a trip to Paris, and he proposed to me in the gardens of Versailles, in a tiny row boat.
At the end of our stay in São Paulo, we came back to SF to start a family. I was ready to move on from nursing and I tried my hand at a more artistic profession and I chose photography.
When I was a teenager and left home for college, I swore that I’d never make chocolate again even though brigadeiro was a personal passion of mine. And there I was, in a foreign country making a batch and sharing it with friends. They loved it. Even those who didn’t like dessert had seconds, so we soon started selling in a well known grocery. I was certain that this would be a big success in the US and especially in SF – a city constantly looking for something new and delicious and open to other cultures. I was stuck, though – I didn’t know much about business and couldn’t sell. My husband was starting another tech business.
Slowly, he began to fall in love with brigadeiros, too, and he joined me in late 2014 as we decided to dedicate ourselves to the company. We started in our home kitchen and became the first brigadeiro company in the Bay Area and one of a handful in the US. I’m proud to introduce Americans to a part of Brazil that I love so much – a part that’s virtually unknown and is never associated with the country.
Now, over 5 years later, we have our own dedicated facility with a Braizilian-themed event space that’s beautiful and has great energy. Practically everyone on our team grew up with brigadeiros.
Our mission is to bring people together through the magic of Brazilian chocolate.
In addition to growing tinyB we’re also growing a family: Luke who is 1 and Emilia, 3.
After all this, my personal takeaway is that a setback can often bring you forward in unexpected ways. In my case, it brought me to SF and opened the way for me to meet my life partner.
Above all, I know that I always have to believe and never dim my own light.