When you meet them at a dinner or social event, you imagine that they are simply pretty, well educated women. If you meet them in the company of their children, then, maybe, you will find that care for their kids is the main activity of their lives, so great is the dedication.
But if you telephone their homes on a Tuesday, in the mid morning, you will discover that they woke up early, left home a few hours ago, and are already in a business meeting, on a phone call to a supplier or closing a sale.
They were the generation of women of Arab origin that helped the Brazilian economy to move. Most grew seeing their parents build their great or small fortunes, hearing stories of their grandparents who arrived on ships from Syria and Lebanon, with not a penny to their names, and became traveling salesmen until they had some money stored away.
They do have their husbands and children. And they are dedicated to them. But spending their whole day at home is an idea that is not under consideration for these women. What they really like is to do business.
They are women like Andrea Kurbhi, Roberta Nahas, Rose Koraicho and others with anonymous faces and surnames like Chohfi, Jafet, Nasser, Abdouni. Rose Koraicho, for example, heads company Koema, one of the most important real estate companies in the country, which she established.
Entering the business world was almost a question of stubbornness to the granddaughters of Syrians. "I was educated to become a housewife," she explained. At the age of 28, however, having been married since the age of 19 and a mother from the age of 20, she decided to turn her life around.
Much to her father's displeasure, she started working at Marverich, a company he had for administering his own assets. "I had to show that my intention of following a career was true. I started reading several books about the real estate sector, the civil code, and the housing law, and I took many courses. Little by little I found my space in the company and my father's trust," pointed out Rose.
Seeing life moving by her window seemed hard for the girl whose grandfather on her father's side had been a chariot driver and traveling salesman, whose father had produced suspenders, run a dry good shop and managed a real estate agency.
When her father died, in 1996, Rose opened Koema. The granddaughter of Arabs stated that it was not easy to enter the business world. "In the beginning I was seen as the heiress who was playing at doing business. As time went by, with the Koema results, its projects and the awards, I was accepted by the Men's Club," she said. In 2005, Rose won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award granted by consultancy company Ernest & Young.
She defines herself as a businesswoman who is involved and dedicated to the business. "I like taking care of the whole and also of the details, which are what, in my opinion, make the difference. Apart from that, I try to conciliate my work with my family life. Despite having three adult offspring, family life is still fundamental for us," she says.
"But I try not to exceed rational limits. I unfortunately closely experienced the four heart attacks my father had, the first at the age of 40, due to his total devotion to work."
Roberta Nahas was also greatly influenced by her family's activities to become an entrepreneur. She and Andrea Kurbhi own Spezzato, a renowned Brazilian women's fashion brand. Both of their families, which are related, operate in trade.
"I was brought up in the shop. I left school and went to the shop. I went there to kiss my mother. At Christmas I helped at the shop. I have always been involved in this environment of trade and fashion," she explained. At the age of 17, Roberta started working in the family clothes store.
She mirrored other women in different generations of her family, as both her mother, Arlete Chammas Salum, and her grandmother, Ilva Salim Nahas, worked and work in trade. Thus, when she was still an adolescent, Roberta, who is now 37 years old, decided to start her own business.
She and Andrea opened Spezzato. They noticed that some kinds of clothes were lacking on the market and started making them. First they sold at the family shop, and then they started offering the product to other stores.
Spezzato is now a renowned brand with its own shops. Roberta is currently responsible for the area of creation, whereas Andrea operates in the administrative and trade sector.
"I did not go to college to work in creation, I learnt in life," said Roberta. Andrea explained that the start of business was not easy. Her taste for trade, however, helped the woman of Lebanese descent to carry on with the brand. "Trade is born from people. Those who like selling, really like it," said Andrea.
Andrea's maternal and paternal grandparents came from Lebanon. She saw her grandparents working in trade, as did her mother and father. Andrea's father, Fuad Chammas, dedicated himself to medicine as soon as he had an opportunity, as a cardiologist.
"He worked in my grandfather's fabric store, on 25 de Março street, but he loved medicine, he worked behind the counter while studying medicine," pointed out Andrea. She believes that her passion for sales was inherited from her father and mother, who were also very passionate about their professions.