Rafael dos Santos is a Brazillian entrepreneur who hails from London, UK. When he initially moved from Brazil to London, his lack of language skills and British qualifications stopped him from getting a good job. He became a kitchen porter and glass collector in various pubs to survive. In 2003 an opportunity came along and he got into the real estate industry. He started managing and letting rooms in houseshares in 2003 and by 2014 He had 50 houses in his portfolio and 15 employees. He successfully exited his first property business which he ran for 12 years and now he runs a marketing and PR agency as well as a media club.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Rafael to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I was originally born in Brazil and I migrated to London in 2001 to learn English. I worked for Microsoft as a support analyst while in Brazil but when I moved to London the lack of language skills and British qualifications meant that I couldn’t get a good job. I became a kitchen porter and glass collector in pubs to pay for my living. In 2003 an opportunity came along and I got into the real estate industry. I started managing and letting rooms in houseshares in 2003 and by 2014 I had 50 houses in my portfolio and 15 members of staff. I had successfully exited my first business and I decided to take a year off in 2015 to travel the world. Now, I’ve been to 52 countries (and counting) and I am running a successful marketing and PR agency specialising in helping migrant entrepreneurs. Behighprofile.com is where you can find information about my business and rafaeldossantos.com is my personal website.
Can you describe your journey to success? When did you start? Did you ever imagine you would become this successful?
Success means different things to different people. For me, success today is being able to help other migrants to improve their lives through entrepreneurship.
I help them grow their businesses by running a marketing campaign (via email and video distribution) and also getting them featured in newspapers and magazines in the UK.
IN 2016 I was featured in the Sunday Times as ‘Top 100 Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs in the UK’ and also got invited to give a TEDx Talk titled “What it takes to be a migrant entrepreneur’.
Life has not been easy tho. In 2016 I had the worst year of my life, I suffered from depression, lost a lot of money, my coworking space ‘mi-hub’ closed down because of BREXIT. I suffered badly until early 2017 where I started to recover. I’m back in good form now and running another business that is becoming a success.
What is your main source of income?
It’s my marketing and PR agency. For startups, I do branding and create websites. For more established businesses I create email campaigns, video campaigns to be used on social media and for experts I get them featured in newspapers and magazines with PR campaigns. I also get paid to speak and I teach entrepreneurship at Regent’s University in London.
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
The main source of customers if events. I run events twice a month and do some Facebook advertising. I started my agency 8 months ago and I am now recruiting my 2nd employee. It’s expanding fast.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
Facebook is number 1 – you can’t beat it. I do a bit of Instagram and twitter but I have a very active community on Facebook and an engaged community is 100x better than any other social media. I do a lot of videos on Facebook and also Facebook LIVE. I am now also broadcasting my events live, you can watch them here: High Profile Club
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
It’s difficult at the beginning but it works. I spent a lot on Google before and didn’t get good results so I don’t do Google advertising anymore. I do Facebook advertising and it works well but you need to keep tweaking the campaign to be able to have the results you want.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
I know people say that online advertising is good but events a is where the money is for me. I get most of my clients after they attend my events and see me in action. It helps if you are a good public speaker and if you run an event that actually shares good content to the audience. To organise an event just to promote your business does not work. You must share content that people feel that it was worth going to your event. For online tactics, as I mentioned before I have a Facebook community page and I give a lot to the community (opportunities to be featured in magazines, free advice, etc). The more you share your IP the more people know how knowledgeable you are, the more they want to work with you. I also have a book called ‘Moving abroad, one step at a time’, this helps to increase my credibility. I have also given a TEDx Talk which was awarded in the South of England as one of the most-watched (at the time): Ted Talk. I use public speaking as one of the tactics to gain visibility and credibility.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
Facebook advertising, email marketing followed by phone calls or meetings, video marketing (social media) and events – The combination of these 4 tactics is a recipe for success, for any business, in my opinion. You can see that even online businesses are running events to bring people together. Look at Airbnb now, running events in many cities.
How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?
I work in a niche market. I help migrant entrepreneurs and I am known in the UK for being a migrant entrepreneur and the ‘voice’ of migrants. In 2016 I wrote and published a report ‘Migrant Entrepreneurs, the benefits to Britain’. The report was launched at the Houses of Parliament with MP Neil Coyle. It was then featured in many local and national media.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
I had to split from a business partner. I think we rushed into ‘getting married’ without even having dated. But lesson learned and we are okay now. But any ‘break up’ is difficult.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
Don’t try to grow too quickly. Many opportunities will come long and entrepreneurs tend to say yes to everything. It’s okay to say NO to some offers. Make sure you have a goal but don’t try to run before you can walk. You can lose a lot of money by trying to run too quickly when you don’t have the structure to manage the business.
What have you learned in the process of becoming wealthy that others can learn from?
Learn to say NO. Learn to grab opportunities when they come along. Take more time to get to know someone before you decide to partner with them. Invest wisely and in different industries. I have invested in properties in Brazil and the UK, for example.
What new business would you love to start?
I am starting a membership club for entrepreneurs so they get more media exposure, network more and build confidence in public speaking. I started HIGH PROFILE MEDIA CLUB 2 years ago and I now have several paying members. We’re working with one of the members to be featured in Forbes online.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I would not have tried to grow my property business so quickly. I didn’t have enough experience, I didn’t have the right staff to manage the large building I took on board… It was a disaster! But luckily, my business survived.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?
Invest more in media. Invest less in paid advertising and more in PR.
PR gives much more credibility than paid advertising so if you want to be seen as an expert, you need to have more media exposure. TV, radio, magazines, newspapers and online. The more you are featured the more you attract opportunities.
Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
Yes, my favourite is called ‘The everyday MBA” by Dr. Chris Dalton. He was my personal tutor during my MBA (I just completed). It’s a book that all entrepreneurs should read to help structure their businesses.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Trust your instincts and don’t regret a decision once it has been made.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
1 – Attend as many events as you physically can. Your network is your NETWORTH.
2 – Look out for a mentor. Mentoring is a fantastic way to keep you on track. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey.
3 – Find good partners that complement what you do so you can work as a team.