Entrepreneurial Women expand their Businesses into International Markets amidst a Global Pandemic

Focusing on innovation and network expansion

By Raquel de Castro Boechat | August 26, 2021

Courtesy: content-pixie-unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the deaths of over 4.3 million people worldwide thus far.  This has been a persistent battle and continues to have an impact on the global economy.  Faced with this devastating reality, you will gain an understanding of Brazilian women entrepreneurs who successfully guided and grew their companies in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic.  Despite working in male-dominated industries and being challenged by an economic downturn due to the virus, these women expanded their businesses worldwide, focusing on innovation and network expansion.

This disease brought challenges far beyond the reach of the prevention measures taken against it.  The pandemic created unemployment, economic contraction, and arduous situations, more so for women.  They were the most affected by unemployment, especially those with children.

This pandemic has placed many women in front of a multitasking firing squad.  The COVID-19 crisis has required them to reconcile work with family and household chores while engaging in a healthy and much closer coexistence with their children at home.

Even in the face of this unprecedented scenario, many Brazilian female entrepreneurs will exit the pandemic robustly and confidently take on the market, be it through strategies of international networking, innovation, or expansion to other markets.

The number of women financially responsible for households is increasing.  According to the 2019 edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), considered the leading researcher on entrepreneurship, 25.8 million women are in charge of businesses in Brazil.

Female entrepreneurship accounts for 47.3% of all start-ups or established businesses in the country. This data draws the attention of international accelerators seeking to advise and guide leaders to the global market.

Courtesy: kristopher-roller-unsplash

Brazil and Canada are increasingly connected                               

Canada is considered one of the countries most open to International Women’s entrepreneurship. Public incentive policies and the interest of private companies in qualifying the supplier network add to the preparation for the global market through business accelerators. Proof that the country offers spaces for greater gender equity in the business environment.

 This is the case of the Canadian accelerator of women entrepreneurs, Women on the Move. This accelerator leads the Artemis Project that connects women entrepreneurs to do business with the mining industry.

The initiative expands the sector’s operations beyond the borders of Canada and offers opportunities for Brazilian women. The project’s focus is to accelerate business, guide leaders to better negotiate with decision-makers, and expand their reputation in the market, generating more business in Brazil and the world.

Other accelerators such as DMZ, a global leader among university-connected incubators, create targeted and specialized spaces for women, such as DMZ’s LaunchPad Women Founders (

The incubator is linked to Ryerson University – a Canadian educational institution that owns one of the main business schools based in Toronto.

Other female-led accelerators include Spark (, based in Oshawa, and LatAm Start-ups (, focused on Latin American international business.

Notably, Brazil and Canada are becoming increasingly connected. The North American country strengthens itself as a global headquarters for Brazilian-based companies that wish to scale up globally.

Self Guru launches multilingual platform prepared for the international market


For example, the Self Guru platform led by Luciana Madrid (right) and Fabiana Marcon, launched in 2018, celebrates three years of operation with more than 20,000 users and corporate contracts throughout Brazil.

The platform was created before the pandemic, focusing on the collaborative digital format for career development through connections with experts and tools.


Self Guru  ( now concentrates most of its revenue from corporate contracts, and despite the impact of the pandemic, the company recorded a 30% revenue growth in this first semester compared to the same period last year; a growth of 60% in the number of B2B users and new contracts with recognized groups such as Dimed, 99 App and Yara Fertilizantes. In addition, the company remained focused on technology development and solid relationships with its network of current and future customers.

“With the onset of the pandemic, all proposals were put on stand-by. Given this scenario, we reorganized our investments but kept our focus on technology development and relationships with customers, prospects, and networks of experts. We took the opportunity to create content and be present at virtual events. We launched study groups on topics relevant to HR and people development specialists. So, when the business started to pick up, we had a more evolved platform and a stronger relationship with our target audience,” says Luciana Madrid, a partner at the company.

Lightouch focuses on developing emotional intelligence skills

 Another company with prominent female leadership in this bilateral Brazil-Canada operation is Lightouch (, created by Beatriz (right) and Priscilla Zanatelli to help families and children to develop emotional intelligence.

The educational solution consists of the APP, behavior reports, and an access portal for parents and educators. The app is a fun interactive game involving the child exploring different worlds, completing challenges through stories, problem-solving, and fun activities.


While playing, the child discovers that there is no “right” or “wrong” answer, but every action has a consequence, and for best results, the child needs to develop specific skills, such as self-control and empathy. It is from the child’s interactions with the application that reports for the family are generated.

The Portal is an environment where families and educators can seek ways to develop the child’s emotional intelligence and find answers to their doubts.

According to Lightouch’s CEO, Beatriz Zanatelli, the pandemic helped to show the importance of relationships. “It has never been so important to have empathy, put yourself in the other’s shoes and understand their point of view,” said Beatriz.

Lightouch provides a series of simple and innovative tools that help adults deal with difficult times like those faced during the pandemic,” she added.

In addition to Canada and Brazil, the APP has already been downloaded in several other countries, such as the United States, Australia, India, and Japan.

ZeoFertil: technology for the production of intelligent fertilizers and soil conditioners from industrial waste

 ZeoFertil led by partners Helena Schneider (photo) and Camila Flores, chemical engineers and scientists, develops technological solutions to transform industrial waste into materials with high added value. The company’s focus is industrial residues rich in silicon and aluminum elements, such as coal ash, rice husk ash, and mining tailings. “From a chemical process, we were able to transform this residue into fertilizer.”

ZeoFertil  ( protects potassium, providing the nutrient at the exact moment that the plant demands, as an intelligent fertilizer,” explains Helena Schneider. “We stimulate the circular economy by recycling waste with little or no value. Furthermore, our fertilizer is developed with local communities of small farmers in mind, with whom we also want to work on the issue of sustainable agriculture,” she highlights.

The start-up was formally established in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 when it began participation in acceleration programs in Brazil and Canada. The programs are promoted in a virtual model made it possible for both partners to participate since one lives in Brazil and the other in France.

“Whilst the pandemic has brought the world to a standstill, it has also brought people closer together. So far, we have already connected with countries like Canada, Switzerland, and Sweden,” said Helena.

During the pandemic, we were unable to carry out our laboratory work as we would have liked due to safety restrictions. However, it was also a ‘wake-up call’ for us to rethink how to help create a more sustainable world, both environmentally and socially,” she said.

Currently, the company participates in the Go Globalx, an acceleration program for the internationalization of global start-ups developed by SEBRAE-RS, Unicred, UFRGS, PUC-RS, and Unisinos. The partners received an outstanding distinction in the “Validation” phase of the program. “This year, we were also approved for the Artemis Project acceleration.” In addition, ZeoFertil was recently selected for the 8th cycle of Academia-Industry Training, a collaboration between Swissnex Brazil, University of St. Gallen, CNPq, and MCTIC that connects researchers-entrepreneurs through training camps in Switzerland and Brazil.






We invite you to read the latest edition of Discover magazine

August 2021

Raquel de Castro Boechat

Raquel has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, partner of the Brazilian Enfato Multicomunicação ( company and leader of the expansion to Brazil of the Artemis Project (

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