The Lagos Entrepreneur Factory

By Sophie Sadler

In a pleasant square in Lagos marina, you will find a glass-fronted unit – a minimalist interior offering a “factory” for Lagos’ budding entrepreneurs as well as an incubator for start-ups – a modern concept to generate new businesses or support existing ones.

I visited after seeing the publicity for the Female Entrepreneurship Day, which was celebrated on 19 November with an event at Fábrica do Empreendedor de Lagos (Lagos Entrepreneur Factory), and was met by entrepreneurship technician (técnica de empreendedorismo) Marta Dinis.

Marta explained the concept to me, “We are offering a service to future or established entrepreneurs in the municipality of Lagos and surrounding areas. In addition, those who want a place to work while receiving mentoring can work in this same space in a concept called Startlab – an incubator scheme for local businesses. StartLab can incubate and give support to micro-entrepreneurship initiatives in the initial phase of their projects. There is a capacity for up to six entrepreneurs.”

Marta Dinis is passionate about the project having previously worked handling applications for funds from small businesses. She now helps those start-ups to define their business in different areas or helps to expand existing businesses. Marta can also assist in finding the best finance options for the projects or help companies and local institutions that come to the factory looking for training or staff, in order to expand their business.

Marta works alongside Sónia Marreiros, an employment technician who helps companies and local institutions who come to the factory if they are looking to recruit. They may need help in the selection processes, a service which is offered free of charge.

What is notable about this project is that out of the more than 90 entrepreneurs who have already accessed the services of the Lagos Entrepreneur Factory, 90% of those who Marta is currently mentoring are female. “I think women are looking for more flexibility which is why so many are inspired to start their own businesses. Women are more open to ask for help and to share their crusade.”

In fact, one of the female entrepreneurs is Linda van Oosterhout, who Tomorrow featured in the November edition and is creating shoes from sustainable products such as fish.

The Fábrica do Empreendedor de Lagos is a partnership project between the Municipality of Lagos and the Social Entrepreneurs Agency (SEA), a non-profit organisation created in 2007 by a group of social entrepreneurs, with the aim of creating innovative solutions and with high social impact in the local economy. It acts in the areas of entrepreneurship, employment, training, consulting and research and operates in the municipalities of Cascais, Lisbon, Sintra, Oeiras, Elvas, Valença, Alfândega da Fé, Chamusca, Vila Franca de Xira and Lagoa, with 11 Entrepreneur Factories across Portugal.

Tomorrow will be telling the story of some of these entrepreneurs in this and the following edition.

Sabine André

Sabine is a writer trained in SEO (search engine optimisation) who produces internet copy for her clients, for example, web pages, blog posts, newsletters and sales pages. “I structure and write my clients’ content so that it appears in the first search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo,” she explains.

“I first walked through the door of Fábrica do Empreendedor in June 2021. I had just started my business and was looking for shared office space in the centre of Lagos. As a freelancer, I work alone most of the time. I needed to interact with other freelancers and work outside my home. My clients are, for the moment, mainly French and have a business in France or here in the Algarve. I help them to gain more visibility on the web.”

At the Lagos StartLab, Sabine found more than shared offices: she has benefited from tailor-made support, which she has found incredibly helpful and enabled her to start working freelance. “The administrative aspect, for example, is not my cup of tea but I know that Marta and Sonia are there to help me and answer my questions.” 

At the women’s entrepreneurship meeting, Sabine was able to interact with other women from the Algarve in a similar situation and was able to discuss and establish very enriching contacts. “Since then, we have been meeting every two months at Fábrica to discuss specific issues and to develop our business.” 

Ana Silva

One of the business owners who took part in the event to celebrate women entrepreneurs was Ana Silva. She says that the initiative is of benefit, “For people who need the inspiration to put their dreams into practice.”

Ana’s trajectory into ceramics is recent. “I had my first contact with ceramics through a workshop in Lisbon just after moving in 2017 from Brazil to Portugal. On that occasion, I found what I truly would like to work with. The whole production process is very personal and intimate. Each piece has a lot of who makes it.”

From then, Ana continued her research into the world of clays, glazes and engobes (a ceramic colouring technique) as well as low and high-temperature firing. 

Ana credits ceramics as having shown her the importance of attention and patience because, “There is a huge world to be discovered. It’s a continuing process of learning. This path was important to help me discover utilitarian pieces like plates, vases, bowls, mugs and espresso cups. The options are many, as are the challenges.”

She read an article about the opening of the Fábrica do Empreendedor’s office in Lagos and she got in touch as she felt she had the creativity for the job but needed professional guidance on how to reach clients and showcase her work.

“The recent event with women entrepreneurs was exceptional. From there, we have already exchanged contacts and come up with super creative collaborations. It has been very interesting for me to interact with other women entrepreneurs. Especially with Linda van Oosterhout, who opened the doors of her atelier to show my work.”

Marina Santos 

Marina João Vieira Santos has a degree in social work and has been working as a social worker since 2003. She started her professional life in Social Security and, since June 2004, with a non-profit organisation (Entidade do Setor Particular de Solidariedade Social).

“My professional experience has always focused on the promotion and implementation of social rights, as well as the empowerment of people. Throughout my professional experience, I have diagnosed that many people are subject to a worrying economic vulnerability and a certain social disqualification, due to difficulty in accessing digital services, in conciliating professional activity with the timetables of public services, due to inter-service bureaucracy, among many other factors.”

To address this problem she formed Com Sigo, providing specialised technical services of information, intervention and empowerment, enabling people access to their social rights, and contributing to an increase in their well-being and quality of life. It has a portfolio of services in areas such as illness, incapacity, disability, support for the carer, family reorganisation (death in the family, separation/divorce, absence of family support network), adaptation due to change of location/country of residence, difficulty in accessing public services, difficulty in accessing digital services, lack of time or predisposition to deal with bureaucratic matters, among many others.

It is also offering technical support to the business sector, giving social support to the needs of its workers and promoting a balance between the personal, family and professional life.

Com Sigo has been linked to Fábrica do Empreendedor de Lagos since its launch mainly with the mentorship of Marta Dinis who has been instrumental in its implementation and development. “This partnership relationship has allowed me to go beyond the creation of the business. Marta helped me with the submission of an application to the Acredita Portugal Programme, with the Com Sigo project where we reached the semi-finalist category. We still continue to work together to develop the brand.”


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