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Better Living in Portugal
BLiP – the Brave and the Loyal in Portugal
“It’s true, it was more difficult this year to fill the pavilion,” BLiP’s “founder”, newspaper publisher Sheena Rawcliffe told us. “But what has delighted us isn’t simply the number of people who have turned up from the past, but the number of new people here – and that’s very important.”
Indeed a walk round the stalls last weekend showed just how many new businesses have stuck their heads over the parapet and set up in spite of all the doom and gloom.
In August, husband and wife team Verónica and Nuno Pisco opened their new business in Almancil - specialising in handmade chocolates, regional sweets and liqueurs – just as other businesses nearby were shutting their doors for the last time.
“I said to Nuno: I can’t believe we’re doing this - when other people are closing down! It felt very strange! But, in spite of all that, we’ve been doing very well!” Verónica told us from Docespecados’ inviting stand.
Eager purchasers included Luzdoc founder and medical practitioner Maria Alice Serrano e Silva. One of BLiP’s loyal stalwarts, representing her busy medical practice in Praia da Luz for the ninth consecutive year, she smiled: “These chocolates are excellent! I’m coming back for more!”
Other brave new faces on the market include Puxar Lustro – a business that opened at the International Autodrome just two months ago specialising in “the world’s best car polish” – with ambitions to break into the graphics market for racing cars, and eventually sell specialist British sports cars.
“If we can make a business work in this market, we’ll fly when the crisis is over”, smiled owner Phil Egginton. “Things are moving up there at the Autodrome! For me, this is all a dream come true!”
Echoing Egginton’s philosophy were the team behind Cineworld Solutions Lda – a company that opened its doors for business in Alcantarilha in May. Brainchild of “tidiness freak” Anthony Neale, it actually specialises in state-of-the-art audio visual solutions – and recently patented Neale’s design for what he calls an “audio visual pod”. The pod is an ingenious way of housing all one’s AV nick-knacks so that no wires or indeed anything unnecessary is visible – and the company markets all sorts of other accessories, like the extraordinary Philips Pronto (a gadget that could mean you never need to get out of your seat again!) Talking of seats, Cineworld solutions have designed chairs with built-in subwoofers so that “you become part of the movie” when you’re glued to your shining new pod…
“My theory when we started up in business here was: it can’t get worse”, Neale elaborated. “Let’s work our way to the top now! People are looking for sensible solutions to their problems and we’re offering all sorts of fun ideas.”
There’s innovation in property sales as well. Eighteen months ago, Morag Richardson saw a gap in the market and introduced her “pro-active” Portugal Auctions concept – a way of selling properties via virtual tours which cuts costs for vendors, and takes properties all over the world at the touch of a button. “Crisis? There’s been no crisis for me! This year, it’s gone mad!” She told us.
But perhaps top marks for bravery should go to Wood-Works of Lagos – a company so new it doesn’t even have a website! “We’ve only just arrived!” Smiled Fiona Bennett. “This is actually the first thing we’ve done in Portugal,” she gestured up at the oak-framed pergola we were sitting beneath. “We build anything with an oak frame – and so far, interest has been fantastic! We’re having a meeting shortly to find out all the legal ins and outs surrounding the building of wooden houses here”…
No, it wasn’t the time to burst her bubble. BLiP this year was about confronting the gloom - all new faces were very welcome, along with the more familiar ones.
One of these, wearing a new hat, was former wholesaler from South Africa Jan Steenkamp. A veteran in the sales game in Portugal, he saw his wholesale business “go pear-shaped” last year, and decided to break into the retail market in July with Optimum Outdoor Solutions, based in Vale de Lousas.
“We deal with the crème de la crème of products – products like Guzzini – but we’re not going to kid ourselves. This is a very tough time. We’ll be happy to cover our expenses this year – and the next for that matter”, he said as he looked out over the quietly bustling pavilion.
“Useful advice for anyone setting up in business here”, he twinkled as an afterthought. “If you want to make a small fortune in the Algarve, bring a big one!”