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JobMakers transcript, Natalia Frois, October 24, 2023
Denzil Mohammed: [00:00:00] I’m Denzil Muhammad and welcome to JobMakers. Starting your own business isn’t easy, even in the country where you grew up. Regulations, licenses, forms, red tape, scaling, getting funding, getting customers, pitching your product. Now imagine starting your own business in a brand-new country, where the language, culture, and all of those things I just mentioned are all foreign.
It takes a special kind of person to achieve that, and it’s what immigrants do at a higher-than-average rate. For Natalia Frois, immigrant from Brazil and founder and CEO of International Business Relations in Hyannis, Massachusetts, she saw firsthand the struggle to start a new life and a new business in a new country. Her father went through that, as did many other Brazilian and other immigrants in her community. So, she decided to found a [00:01:00] business with the express purpose of helping immigrants start and grow their business successfully, relying on her education and her trilingual abilities. Natalia has created classes, courses, and resources to help immigrant and Hispanic businesses, and even teaches English to newcomers.
But her business model isn’t just about making money. It’s about uplifting and empowering immigrants to succeed and thrive, which in turn benefits the entire community economically and culturally — the thing that makes the United States special — as you learn in this episode of JobMakers.
Denzil: Natalia Frois, immigrant from Brazil and founder and CEO of International Business Relations in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Welcome to the JobMakers podcast. How are you?
Natalia Frois: Good. Thank you so much, Denzel, for inviting me for this opportunity to be part of your podcast.
Denzil Mohammed: Of course. [00:02:00] You’re an outstanding business owner and very admirable the things that you’ve done. What is your business? What is the purpose of the business and what makes it special, International Business Relations?
Natalia Frois: I grew up in a family of entrepreneurship family. So, I have noticed that the small business, the local small business owners, especially, the Brazilian — because I’m Brazilians — and the Latinos were not growing. They would just open up a door and stay that small and not grow, or they would open up the doors and close in less than two years and just give up. So, I want to open up a business that helps business owners to grow. So, I can provide business consultation for small business owners, provide business analysis by analyzing their company and helping them to create their business plan with a strategic action plan, and also doing [00:03:00] business relations for them, like connecting them with the right resources, the right professionals to help them grow, thrive and prosper. And as part of the International Business Relations, I created the Latino business network as a meeting group, a monthly meeting group where Latino business owners and Americans — because these, the Latino business network — is trilingual. I’m able to navigate the three languages. So, I bring in speakers that have more than 10 years and experience in the business to talk about a challenge or their specialization, to teach us.
Denzil Mohammed: And just to be clear, you’re working from the Cape and there’s a huge Brazilian and Latino population there, right?
Natalia Frois: Yes. the most numerous Immigrant here on the Cape are Brazilians and after [00:04:00] Brazilians are, the Hispanics, right? So, from many countries in South America, like Ecuadorian, Salvadorians, Mexicans. Now we had a huge influx of Haitians that have arrived on the Cape. Ukrainians — there are a lot of Ukrainians here too, that have moved to the Cape that have, because of the war. So, there’s many Europeans that moved to the Cape as well.
Denzil Mohammed: And there are a lot of immigrant-run businesses on the Cape, as well.
Natalia Frois: Yes. the immigrant, when I arrived in the United States in 1999, Denzel, there wasn’t much Brazilian business owners. There wasn’t much immigrant business owners back then. the mentality of immigrants back then was to come to the United States, conquer the American dream, save the money, and go back to their country. Now, the immigrants, they want to [00:05:00] live here. They like it here. My parents liked it so much that we’ve been here, you know, it’s going to be a 25th anniversary in January. So, they’ve been establishing their roots. So, they’re getting married, having kids, you know, having families. And opening up their own business like, for instance, just in Main Street in Hyannis, there’s more than 10 Brazilian businesses just on Main Street. Imagine throughout the Cape!
Denzil Mohammed: Wow. And they’re becoming Americans.
Natalia Frois: They are Americanizing, you know, they’re learning English, getting their green card, becoming a citizen, marrying into American, and just become this multicultural community.
Denzil Mohammed: Wow. So, what has been, what do you think is the broader impact of your work on the Cape?
Natalia Frois: So, uh, I have been doing collaborative work with SCORE, Coastal [00:06:00] Community Capital. This year, I did a partnership also with Community Development Partnership, and we created — I have organized three business expos here on the Cape. In 2019, I was their main organizer for the first Spanish business expo in Spanish on the Cape and then pandemic hit it so everything went online. I created some programs online and then in 2021 we launched the Latino Business Expo.
So, I combined the Brazilians with the Hispanics, and it was everything in Portuguese with a Spanish interpretation. An interpreter was hired for that event. And then this year we launched the Immigrant Business Expo. So, it was all in English, no interpretation, to empower, small [00:07:00] business owners that are immigrants to speak English, which is the first language, in the United States and also is the worldwide business language.
I teach English as a Second Language for Cape Cod Community College Corporate Office at 540 Main Street for beginners. I teach business plan there and I also teach empowered through business language, and financial empowerment.
Denzil Mohammed: The business environment, the regulatory environment in the U. S. is very complicated and, you know, credit scores and things like that. Those are like alien concepts to a lot of people born outside of the U.S. So, it is a lot to, to navigate, right? A lot to learn. But your original background was in healthcare, right?
Natalia Frois: So, so that’s interesting you say. So I, my bachelor’s degree in Spanish and I have my medical interpretation license in Spanish, [00:08:00] Portuguese, and English. I worked over 10 years as a medical interpreter for Cape Cod Healthcare and also three other agencies in Boston as an interpreter. So, I worked in healthcare as an interpreter, then I thought that was not enough just to interpret the voices, I wanted to do more. So, I went back to school and got my MBA in healthcare informatics and, you know, IT is the big thing nowadays, you know, we have, so I said, I want to do my MBA in healthcare informatics. And then I worked one year in an IT department. I am not a person to stay in front of the computer the whole day fixing software. So, I ended up opening my business from there and doing social work. So, I ended up working for Independence House here on the Cape [00:09:00] for a few years. as the Independence House is a counseling center here, that helps people that suffers from domestic violence, sexual assault, and homicide. So, I was one of their trilingual counselors and advocate, for almost three years. Independence House launched their first international festival in 2018, and that was my first year there and I was part of the organizing committee. So that was my first great opportunity to organize a huge event, like the International Fest. I loved it so much that I ended up opening up my business and organizing business events and culture events on a yearly basis.
Denzil Mohammed: And when your dad moved here, he was already — he had a business in Brazil — but I imagine things were getting very tight, there weren’t a lot of opportunities, so you all moved to the U.S., and eventually he started his own business here.
Natalia Frois: [00:10:00] Yes. So, my father, he’s an auto mechanic and also small engine mechanic, in Brazil, his business — Guess what? The name of the business was my nickname, which is Oh my goodness. This is okay. So, my nickname is Tataya because my brothers couldn’t say Natalia. So, they could only call me Taya or Tataya. So my dad made that as his business name. So it was the Tataya Auto Shop. And over there, since Brazil is a hot tropical country, my dad was a motorcycle mechanic there. We came to United States. My dad started working for someone here as an auto mechanic. And then in 2009, no 2008, remember the real estate crash. Both of my parents were laid off [00:11:00] and I was in college. So, we struggled there. So, my mom was out of work for about six months and she found another full-time job. My dad decided to open his business out of that struggle. Imagine that like you don’t have a job, you’re laid off and then — what he thinks? I’m going to open my business.
So, he opened his business. So, he named it after my brothers, so it’s Twin Brothers Auto Repair in Hyannis, because my brothers are twins. So, my dad started teaching them how to be a mechanic. My brothers worked for landscaping, cutting trees, helping out my dad in the shop, and then they went to school. And they went to Bedford Aviation Academy, and they got their airplane, aircraft mechanics. So, they worked for Cape Air, and one of them worked for [00:12:00] JetBlue, as an aircraft mechanic. And they were tired of working overnights. And they wanted to make more money. So, they opened up their own business about three years ago. I guess it’s going to be about four years, almost four years. They opened up their own business called Twin Tree Services. So, they cut trees here on the Cape.
Denzil Mohammed: Wow. And just so much pivoting in terms of careers and things like that, takes a lot of skill to do that. But you mentioned that you were born in Brazil and, your grandparents were farmers. What was life like in Brazil?
Natalia Frois: Oh, it was awesome. I loved it. Yeah, I love it because I’m from a small town and I live in a small town. I just visit big cities. On the weekends we visited our grandparents at the farm, so riding horses, you know, running around the [00:13:00] chickens, fishing. A lot of space, a lot of land to run and play. I used to get hurt a lot, you know, but it was fun. It was fun. It was a lot of fun, a lot of nature. I a, just in love with nature. And my grandparents used to make cheese and sugar cane — sugar bars from sugar cane. So, I used to see that process in the farm. And I remember my grandfather, since we were little kids and our hands were so small, he used to make the cheese were like this, like big, right?
And he made little ones for me and my other cousins. So, he taught us how to make cheese and he did the little shapes for us, it’s small so we could press it down because he did manually the cheese with his [00:14:00] hands was no machinery at all very old-fashioned.
Denzil Mohammed: Finally, the U.S. has given you and your family a lot of opportunities to better yourself, to reach for dreams, and to give back. What are your thoughts on the United States as a home for immigrants like your family?
Natalia Frois: I’m very grateful. I’m very thankful for America, for how, especially here in Massachusetts, you know, people just embraced us. I know that we struggle against discrimination here and there. And it took a while to learn the English language and to get to know the culture. I used to be very homesick in the beginning, but then you make friends and then, you go to church, you make friends, you go to school, you make friends, you go to work, you make new friends, and then you build a new life [00:15:00] in a different country.
And so, I was able, I had the opportunity to go to school. I learned a second language here in the United States, which is English. I learned a third language, which is Spanish. I was able from being a documented immigrant and having the opportunity to be documented. I was able to get scholarships because of my grades and I was able to get scholarships to go to college. I have two degrees and I have many certifications. And I think that — and just living in Hyannis, I’m exposed to so many different immigrants, so many different cultures, and for me it’s a privilege. Because I don’t need to travel around the world to learn about different cultures and different languages. Just walking around Main Street in Hyannis, I [00:16:00] hear many different languages. I can taste different foods from around the world. So, it is a privilege, like. I don’t think I was ever able to acquire so much cultural backgrounds and be so culturally diverse and influence, if I stayed in Brazil, in my little town.
Denzil Mohammed: And that’s something we take for granted every day, that we have every kind of food possible. We can go, we could have tacos, we can have gyros, we can have Thai food, we can have Mexican food, and it’s all within reach. And that’s not something that exists everywhere else in the world. So, you know, it really is something Americans take for granted, but I’m glad that you could bring it up this way and consider it a privilege.
Natalia Frios, CEO and founder of International Business Relations in Hyannis, Massachusetts, immigrant from Brazil. Thank you for joining us on the JobMakers Podcast.
Natalia Frois: Oh, thank you so [00:17:00] much, Denzel, for giving me this opportunity.
Denzil Mohammed: And thank you for helping to grow businesses across the Cape. JobMakers is a podcast about immigrant entrepreneurship and innovation produced by Pioneer Institute, a think tank in Boston, and the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden, Massachusetts, a not for profit that gives [00:18:00] immigrants a voice. Thank you for joining us for today’s inspiring story of an immigrant business owner who’s building up other businesses and her wider community.
If you know another outstanding immigrant business owner or inventor we should talk to, email Denzil, that’s D E N Z I L at jobmakerspodcast.org. I’m Denzil Mohammad. See you in two weeks for another episode of JobMakers.
This week on Jobmakers, host Denzil Mohammed interviews Natalia Frois, a Brazilian immigrant and CEO of International Business Relations in Massachusetts. She discusses how she supports immigrants and Hispanic entrepreneurs by offering classes, resources, and English education, drawing on her trilingual skills and personal experience. Frois shares how her mission aids business success and community integration.
Natalia Frois, an immigrant from Brazil, comes from a family of entrepreneurs and understands what it takes for small, immigrant-owned business to thrive. While obtaining a master’s in business administration at Cambridge College, Natalia founded the Latino Business Network to help aspiring entrepreneurs establish and grow their businesses. With a background that includes office work, management experience, and fluency in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, Natalia is realizing her goal of connecting immigrant businesses to established business networks in the U.S. through consultation, analysis, and building business plans — as well as teaching ESL classes at Cape Cod community College.