In this week’s entrepreneur empowerment, we catch up with Dr. Betina Z. Ramos, Nanovetores’ Co-Founder, VP and CTO. We delve into her 12-year entrepreneurial journey, the importance of creating conscious businesses, and the key tips that’ll help you thrive in the business of your dreams.
A bit about Co- Founder, Dr. Betina Ramos
I’m Dr. Betina, vice-president and CTO of Nanovetores Group. My trajectory was always on research. It first started in the scientific and technological arenas when I graduated in Pharmacy in Florianópolis, at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), where I specialized in Biosafety.
I obtained a Master’s Degree in Pharmacy and a Doctorate in Chemistry at the same institution. Then I went to France to pursue my Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry at the Université Bordeaux (using encapsulation systems for active ingredients and nanotechnology) and Postdoctoral Research in Nanosafety.
With a lot of research in encapsulation technology, the seed to start the company was planted and in 2008 I founded Nanovetores.
About the Business, Nanovetores
Nanovetores is a Brazilian innovative company known for the development of nano and microencapsulated active ingredients through exclusive and natural technology. We develop high performance and safe ingredients for cosmetics, nutritional and pharmaceutical applications. We also have projects within the textile industry. The company has three main areas: InBeauty, InNutrition and InHealth.
Currently, InBeauty is our most explored area, making cosmetics the core business of our company. However, we’re developing great projects for nutritional applications too. Nanovetores is a versatile company and our diverse portfolio is present in over 45 countries.
Our differential is that our products are made in a sustainable way and our main purpose is to use technology and innovations to transform people’s lives, helping them to feel better and enjoy their lives. Our “Making the future” motto represents this: make the difference using high-end and sustainable technology that focuses on the wellbeing of future
Why did you set Nanovetores up? What were you looking to do both on our entrepreneurial and personal level with running your own business?
I’m a scientist. I did my undergraduate, Masters, Doctorate and Postdoctorate in the field of pharmacy. I believed my professional future would be in this academic area, in research institutions or in teaching.
I didn’t think about having a business of my own. But Ricardo, my husband who is an entrepreneur and who supported my academic research during my Masters and Doctorate, encouraged me to consider whether all the know-how I acquired throughout my academic journey had the potential to generate a business.
It was then that we began to study the market and were motivated to start a business in the field of cosmetic active ingredients encapsulated through nanotechnology. From there came the dream: to use scientific knowledge to generate impact products, with efficiency far superior to those already available. I already had very mature scientific knowledge regarding encapsulation technology and Ricardo had a lot of market knowledge. We joined forces and founded Nanovetores.
What do you remember about those early days and how have things changed for you since then?
Nanovetores started as an incubated company. At the beginning, we signed up for some grant notices and obtained subsidised resources, which were extremely important to develop our portfolio, our first products, and to invest in clinical tests.
We had vital support from funding agencies, such as the Santa Catarina Research Support Foundation (FAPESC), the Studies and Projects Financing Agency (FINEP), the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (SEBRAE), which gave us the financial support we needed to start the company.
The beginning, especially the first two years, was intense. We placed a lot of dedicated focus on the development of products, the portfolio, safety and performance tests. From the beginning, when we were first designing products, to now, things have changed incredibly.
We went through several cycles as a company:
1. The initial incubation stage
2. An investment stage, where Nanovetores went from being a family company to becoming a SA company
3. The international growth phase, in which we expanded our markets, taking our technology to other countries and key markets such as the United States, France and China. Today we are present in 46 countries, taking Brazilian technology to all continents of the world!
Our trajectory had several challenges but was always accompanied by achievements. We won awards and for two consecutive years, we were among the Top 10 biggest growing small-to-medium-sized companies (SMEs) in Brazil. In 10 years of history, we have evolved a lot as a company.
What/Who has helped you along the way continue to grow and evolve?
Ricardo’s contribution has been very important throughout. We’ve always shared expectations, anxieties, experiences and achievements. We also had mentors for our projects who helped us develop the company. Another factor that had (and still has) made a fundamental contribution to our development is the ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship in Florianópolis, where we are located.
Here there are important innovation habitats, quite diversified and recognised nationally and internationally. This is a great differential, as within this ecosystem, companies support each other, learn from each other and there are many activities and events happening to foster technology and innovation. Because Nanovetores is inserted in this environment, we learn a lot from other companies and serve as an example for others. It is really gratifying.
Do you have ‘mindset musts’ that you swear by?
I’m very positive and optimistic! I’m always grateful and I maintain a really positive perception of things. As much as difficulties do arise along the way, I always try to rely on and focus on the good things and opportunities in each situation. This is a mentality that I consider important for each and every entrepreneur because starting a business is a huge challenge. We cannot let ourselves be easily shaken and that’s why it’s always good to be optimistic and positive.
In the first years of the company, for example, there is the “death valley” stage, where few companies survive. These are the years that we invest a lot (energy, resources, time) and we have no financial return because the product and technology are still unknown. So it’s a great effort to develop the company. Therefore, resilience is essential for the entrepreneur. Without this characteristic, the entrepreneur won’t be able to overcome the company’s first years, the most difficult ones.
The challenges are constant and we learn to deal with each one in the best possible way; the obstacles that once seemed huge, today we are able to navigate more easily. Problems never cease to exist, so it’s important to always keep in mind everything that has already taken place and achieved to help us conduct the business in the best possible way.
I also always keep in mind that when you embark on a business, it is never possible to reach a “stable level”, where you think you’ve arrived where you wanted to be. In fact, this “comfort zone” is a very risky time, in which people tend to settle in and can put everything to waste. On the entrepreneurship journey we can never settle.
With Nanovetores, we never reach the comfort zone, because as we work with innovation, we are constantly looking for new, looking for improvements. This promotes a good and positive restlessness, which causes the feeling of being in continuous improvement, which is fundamental for the health and the development of the business.
How do you cope with and overcome barriers? Are there any that really stand out during the crazy
The barriers are always present and exist to be overcome and to improve us. You overcome one and already have another, but as I said: we are learning to cope in the best possible way. It is essential to have business awareness, emotional intelligence, and a calm mind so that we can face each challenge properly and act effectively.
In the current pandemic, this is more evident. I had the opportunity to immerse myself in self-knowledge and I realised how a broad conscience and emotional intelligence are fundamental for personal and professional development. When we are able to have greater discernment, a broad awareness of everything that is around us and listen more to employees and clients, we’re able to be more assertive in our actions and overcome challenges with more serenity. It is not enough to just go around the barrier, as the problem will return on a recurring basis. We have to act assertively.
When we reach a certain maturity and manage to have a more holistic vision and awareness, it’s possible to find more lasting solutions, which better contemplate the challenges of a business.
At Nanovetores we have had several barriers:
- The first was the technology itself because when we started working with encapsulation and nanotechnology systems, the market didn’t know exactly what that was. So we had to show the market what this technology was, why our product was better and why the consumer should choose our active ingredients.
- From this first challenge, other similar ones came along. We had to prove why we were different. We invested a lot in efficacy tests to show that our active, when compared with the ingredients in the conventional format, is much superior. All of this required us to have very broad planning because the challenges were part of our routine.
We started to understand how our product was positioned in the market and that learning fueled the company’s growth.
What do you define as success for you and how do you celebrate it? Are there any standout moments?
In my view, success happens when our products are repurchased, when a product goes to the market and has very good feedback. This represents success because it reflects all the work we had to do to develop a quality product that meets consumer expectations when it reaches the market.
On a daily basis, as part of our routine, we have many successes that are reflected in performance metrics. We have successful sales goals and project goals, among others. When we envision our goals and achieve them it is really a success. At the macro level, we have experienced several successes, from capturing an investment fund (very important for the development of Nanovetores) to our global presence.
Thinking a little about the future, we are dedicated to aligning the profile of the company’s employees with a greater purpose through the development of soft skills and happiness skills. This will lead us on a very successful path, in the sense of realising our company’s mission and of contributing to the development of people and humanity.
All of these achievements I celebrate through gratitude, which comes with a sense of accomplishment based on the path our company is taking. We celebrate the achievements of the company with our employees and the performance achieved by the whole team.
What are the top lessons that you’ve learnt as an entrepreneur?
The first lesson I’ve learnt is to dedicate yourself to a business where you can use your technical aptitude combined with what you love to do. In my case, I started in the area of encapsulation technology, which I committed to the study of for many years.
By using your skills and technical knowledge when starting a business you can find fulfillment even in the smallest things and this is the best lesson. I used all my knowledge to develop products that satisfy those who are using it because of the differential they represent in the market. So, when we are dedicated to embarking on an entrepreneurial journey that we have knowledge of and believe in, the challenges are small compared to the motivation to make it happen.
Being convinced and sure of your enterprise is fundamental. And being sure that your product does good, takes care of, and solves a problem is what matters. Dreaming small takes as much effort as dreaming big, so dream big.
Sometimes we see entrepreneurs who start a business by looking at another company that has succeeded in the same area. But they don’t have the necessary knowledge. They don’t dedicate themselves, nor do they love what they do. It’s unlikely to work.
What are your top tips for anyone dreaming on setting up their own venture, struggling with getting it
off the ground, or equally, are in it, but finding it hard (particularly amid COVID-19)?
I believe it’s essential to understand the problem/pain in the market that your business will solve, what makes it different and why it’s better than others.
First, it is necessary to see what already exists in your domestic market and around the world, because today, businesses are global. When internationalizing your product, you may encounter obstacles if it is not well thought out. So it is very important to think globally and act locally.
Although in the beginning, there is no way to embrace the world so you focus your efforts on the national market, you also need to be aware that you are aiming for global reach as your solution can serve international markets. In other words, the product must be designed for global scope. But first, you must engage locally, developing the national market. The market you operate in must be well worked out. The next stage of international leverage will come as a result of the good performance of the product.
Now, in the midst of Covid-19, it is essential to understand the changes that the pandemic is bringing to how people think, how people behave, and in their consumption patterns. Armed with this information, you can build a business based on these new changes, and solve some of the many limitations that have arisen during the pandemic.
Some key considerations that are here to stay for businesses post-Covid are:
- E-commerce (it is important to see if it is possible to develop e-commerce for your business);
- Sustainability (must be present, consumers are opting for sustainable products);
- Good relationships (developing a good and humanised relationship of trust and transparency with customers is essential, this influences the choice of the consumer).
In this post-pandemic design, you can face market disability. Have an insight and perceive new opportunities with these new ways of working, studying and interacting in mind. The most important of all is to think about embarking on a business consciously: Have a conscious business, guided by conscious capitalism. These are the companies of the future. The ways of doing business are changing and need to change. The old mindset focused only on profit. This no longer supports a business; we need to think about the purposes of companies. We need to ask why a business exists, what it adds to the world, and what it adds to humanity.
The higher the level of awareness that we as companies and entrepreneurs have, the more achievements we will have, and the greater satisfaction and engagement our employees and customers will experience.
As entrepreneurs. we need to focus on less impact and more sustainability, as we cannot play the game by destroying it.
Take a look at Nanovetores on Instagram, @nanovetores.
You can also check out our entrepreneur empowerment movement here or over on Instagram @lionspiritmedia.