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Global Fayre owner Cheri Crump explains to the Project Socrates students why her store carries only fair-trade products.
Global Fayre owner Cheri Crump explains to the Project Socrates students why her store carries only fair-trade products.

Springfield firms open doors to Brazilian students

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When Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Brad Bodenhausen visited Missouri’s sister state of Para, Brazil, last year, he invited some of the people he met to pay a visit to Springfield if they ever decided to come to the U.S. During the week of Oct. 18, a group of 10 students and alumni from Centro Universitário do Para, or CESUPA, took him up on the offer.

As part of its Project Socrates, members of CESUPA’s Students in Free Enterprise are spending two weeks learning about best business practices in Missouri, with a week dedicated to visits in the southwest part of the state. SIFE World Headquarters, Bass Pro Shops, Noble Communications, Global Fayre, Askinosie Chocolate, Drury University, Springfield Remanufacturing Corp. and International Division Inc. were on the agenda.

Project Socrates, started in 2007, takes students out of the classroom and into the companies they hope to work for when they graduate.

“This is the first international version of the project,” said project coordinator and law student Juliana Campos de Britto. “We developed five different versions in Brazil, and we always look for the companies that have something different to show us.”

The first company on the group’s agenda hit that target. CESUPA students toured the flagship Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, dined in Uncle Buck’s Auditorium and watched a video about the outdoor retailer’s history.

“Most of them said they’ve never seen anything like this,” said Bass Pro spokesman Larry Whiteley. “I think I had more questions as we toured the store than right after lunch and the video.”

Among the questions Whiteley fielded: Do many customers who shop at the flagship store come from other countries? (Yes.) What country has the most visitors? (Japan.) Does Bass Pro have an international presence? (Yes, two stores in Canada.) Have there been requests for stores in other countries? (Yes, including Japan, Argentina and Australia.)

CESUPA alumna Dahra Quintella, now program director for SIFE Brazil, said an important lesson learned at Bass Pro was the way the store’s design reflects its identity.

“It shows how companies build a very big experience for their customers,” she said. “It’s about the experience, and it’s about the differentiation.”

In contrast to its Oct. 18 visit to the behemoth Bass Pro store, the Brazilian students spent part of the afternoon on Oct. 19 at Global Fayre, 324 S. Campbell Ave. The small retailer’s emphasis is on fair-trade products from around the world.

“In Brazil, we know about fair trade, but we just got to know the concept,” said Britto. “We haven’t been to stores like this.”

Alum Lucas Goés, now a business analyst with Vale Co. in Brazil, saw opportunity at Global Fayre. Goés discussed another CESUPA SIFE endeavor, called Miriti Project, with Global Fayre owner Cheri Crump. In the Miriti Project, students worked with a group of artisans from Abaetetuba, Brazil, to market their crafts and develop the means to support themselves through their work. The artisans use the root of the miriti, a palm leaf tree that grows in the flooded regions of the lower Amazon in Brazil, to create crafts such as decorative boxes. Goés brought a sample of their work to show Crump.

Crump said she was impressed with the unfinished piece and planned to look online to view examples of painted and finished products. It appears the crafts would be a good fit for the downtown Springfield store.

“As long as we can make sure that they’re fair trade,” she said, noting that the stamp of approval would come from the World Fair Trade Organization.

Whiteley doesn’t have any expectations that the Project Socrates visit will help Bass Pro down the road, but he noted that reaching out to tomorrow’s international business leaders creates a potential for a positive impact on Springfield’s business community.

“I think these kids will see ideas and see other companies, and who knows, they may go back and … they may say we’ve got to have (Bass Pro) stores over here,” he said. “As they visit Askinosie Chocolate, there may be something opening up from that, or Jack Stack’s company, there may be something that opens up from that.”[[In-content Ad]]

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