A life changing event shaped who I am today
By Nika Jazaee
Etiane Galvin is an entrepreneur from Brazil, with a degree in marketing. She started off by running her own accommodation agency and after many years in the property industry she changed to a new channel and has now set up her own jewellery business, where she works directly with the artisans in sustainable communities in Brazil. Her wish is to give back to her community and raise awareness of their work in the UK. Etiane has also started up a networking event for Latin American women. In her interview here, Etiane tells us how a car accident completely changed her attitude towards changes in life and that success is when you are happy with what you are doing.
Where did you grow up and how was your childhood?
I grew up in Brazil, in Campania, a small island with a busy fishing port. I was born in the State of Santa Catarina, which is located in the south of Brazil. My parents migrated to the island when I was just 5 years old and I kept a relationship with Santa Catarina because my grandparents where living there. They had a small farm and I used to spend my school holidays there, helping out with their business and spending time with my cousins. My Dad is a boat captain and his work made us move around a sometimes, and through this experience I learned early on not to fear changes. In my teenage years they decided that we should move to a big city, Santos, a city by the sea with the world’s largest beach garden. They are still living there and I visit them often. I graduated with a diploma in Pharmaceutics Studies, but soon realised it wasn’t for me. Despite my parents disappointment in the beginning, they later supported me to study Business and Marketing. After university I left Santos for England.
The plan was to stay for a year and then go back, however, 15 years later and I am still here, happy and alive.
Who or what has been your biggest source of inspiration in your life?
My parents. My father is a very kind and hardworking man. He had a very difficult childhood, his father committed suicide and he had to leave school at the age of ten. He worked hard for his siblings and mother; this responsibility characterised him as a caring and supporting father up until this day. My mother has a strong will and is very wise, she taught me that the world doesn’t owe you anything, you need to work hard for what you want. Despite my parents difficult life they managed to work together and complemented each other. I remember one time when my father was out in the sea and there was a big storm, his boat sunk. He called home desperately telling my mother that we had lost everything. My mother replied that we have not, because we still have each other and you still have your health. I will never forget this phone call. These incidents and their characters have influenced my life and how I think. They provided my siblings and me with a safe environment and I always look at them for inspiration during many aspects of life.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in life and how did you overcome it?
After a serious car accident I was wheelchair bound for many months, and the recovery process was long and hard. This particular accident gave me thicker skin and I became resilient towards difficulties in life. With the strong support from my family and friends I managed to fully recover and I was grateful for being alive. I grew and strong and developed a determined personality, a truly life changing part of my life.
What does a successful life mean to you and what keeps you going every day?
A successful life for me is to able to wake up every day and feel happy about the choices you’ve made and feel loved. Life is a complicated journey and sometimes it is hard to choose from so many options but the ones that make you happy are the ones that make life a success. I wanted to do something to be able to contribute to my home country’s economy. I had an aim to build a company back home that would help small businesses to progress. At the same time to build a business here that I could be proud of and passionate about. When I was 11 years old, I set up my own little business where I was selling accessories made by a neighbour of ours. I sold the jewellery to the fishermen, so that they could give their wives gifts when returning home from their long journey at sea.
It came rather natural for me to set up ‘Kaiowa Eco Jewellery’. Kaiowa means ‘people of the forest’. I work with sustainable communities that are making handcrafted jewellery, and they are doing this by using raw materials from the Amazon region. The artisans get the opportunity to show their talent in Europe, they are in charge of their own design and I buy directly from them. They are happy and so am I, with a feeling that I managed to create a win-win situation with my company and I feel I am contributing back home.
What does it mean for you to be a businesswoman and how are you balancing family life with your professional life?
To balance family life with business can be difficult sometimes to conciliate, but I work quite a lot from home. However, once I am with my family I give my 100% to them. My husband and I are supportive of each other, whenever necessary he steps in and helps and vice versa. Being a businesswoman has turned me into a role model for young girls and is sending out the message that diversity is good and that there isn’t any particular job solely designed for men, you as a woman can do whatever work you wish, and listen to this: have a family at the same time. I have always been very independent despite growing up in a family were there was pressure on women to marry young were the norm. But I was the first girl to enroll on a computer course in my community and I have worked and earned enough to pay off my own university degree, so being a woman has never stopped me to achieve what I want and I encourage the same.
Being a businesswoman has turned me into a role model for young girls and is sending out the message that diversity is good and that there isn’t any particular job solely designed for men, you as a woman can do whatever work you wish
What are your future dreams and how will you reach them?
My plan is to set up a social project in Brazil, an English school for the artisan’s children, alongside my own shop where I can sell the unique and handmade jewellery from Brazil. Luckily I am in a position where I can dedicate my full time into my business and its progression. The products I sell fascinate my daughter, she is only 8 years old and is already planning to become a designer so that she can have her own collection. This is what motivates me to continue working and providing space for others.I have recently set up a networking group called LAWEN ‘Latin American Women Entrepreneurs Network’. This way I can help Latin Women in the entrepreneur field to grow their business and also to network with other like-minded women outside of their communities.