Tucum maintains support for communities and adapts to deal with pandemic

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Created with the commitment to make a connection between the art of the people of the forest and urban centers, Tucum is a company that has been working with indigenous communities to empower them, allowing more autonomy. In this curatorial process, he became a member of PPA (Plataforma Parceiros pela Amazônia) in 2019. This year, Tucum participates in the PPA Acceleration Program in the middle of preparing for the expansion of its business, which already has physical stores and online.

But the process had to be changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. PPA spoke with Amanda Santana, one of the founders of Tucum, to find out how the business is doing.

How did the pandemic impact Tucum?

We were super scared at the end of March. I spoke with partners, with SITAWI, with IDESAM about this fear and this catastrophic vision. The physical points had to be closed - we had a partnership with a store in São Paulo and Parque Laje. But when April came, the market's response was surprising.

We positioned ourselves in a way that people were touched by our cause, both for the impact we generate and for the opportunity to collaborate effectively with this network of artisans at this time. The funds were invested in working capital and, with that, we were able to maintain the purchase with all our partners. We placed orders and were lucky that the online market is overheated. Everyone is looking at their homes, so the online decorating market was one of the fastest growing. We were able to provide products for people to take care of their homes and make them more beautiful, in addition to collaborating with the standing forest and maintaining socio-biodiversity.

People understood the importance of continuing to exist. The deal took off. Although the physical points are closed, online sales went up a lot, around 50%. This gave us a very good insurance policy. We were well structured to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that the crisis presented. We achieved a 30% increase in sales. April, May and June were very good, July was also cool. We have risen to the next level and we are managing to keep ourselves that way.

Did Tucum have PPA support during the crisis?

The investments we had were in working capital, which is why we kept purchasing from suppliers and communities. We had the support of the Program to do the financial monitoring, which helped us to be clearer about the numbers. This is super important, because it provides security. And SITAWI also extended our loan to help us understand what that cash flow would look like.

We have the support of the network, such as the partnership with Mercado Livre, in addition to (virtual) meetings. We are taking classes, I participated in a branding module that was incredible. We are learning a lot about business techniques. From communication to finances.

We feel that there is a network that believes in our project. Just knowing that you are not alone, you sleep, have a lighter, more peaceful sleep.

How is contact with communities going during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We remain in constant, virtual contact, as far as possible. Everyone is isolated, the artisans went to their lands. We have more contact with the associations that are on the front line, making the contention to give support to the communities during the COVID pandemic, we kept generating income for them. When someone or some leadership needs to leave the community, take advantage, bring the handicrafts and send them. We are creating strategies and respecting them. We are in contact to collaborate as we can.

In addition, Tucum is in the process of changing to become a marketplace, which we are due to launch in October. The groups will be able to sell to the final consumer and we will only provide the technology to mediate the sale. We prepared a training for the groups that will participate in the pilot, which are the Kayapó of the Protected Forest, the Carajas of the Casa de Cultura Carajá, the Association of Indigenous Warriors of Rondônia and the Amazon Gallery, of Manaus.

These four groups will position themselves as stores within our platform. We will train managers, mostly indigenous, to run the online craft business. Because of the pandemic, the training will be distance learning, but it will be turned into a podcast so that we can send it to the communities later.

What is it like to be a member of the PPA, besides being in the Acceleration Program?

We think it's super important. We already have a great deal of knowledge of the Amazon. My partner has worked in the Amazon for fifteen years, I have been working for almost ten years. We understand a lot about the productive chain of handicrafts, but also other chains. I think that, even though it is a very small company, we have a knowledge of the base, of those who are inside the forest, which can contribute a lot to the ecosystem of these larger companies that have less connection with those on the edge. I believe that it is also born as a platform that we propose to be. And more and more moving in this direction, we are also a platform to bring these communities, they are also PPA. Everyone is starting to have the same vision and this is important for planet Earth. I think it has everything to do with being part of that environment.

Being able to access the network and exchange with other players in the market, for us is super enriching and important.