Luciana’s restaurant in São Paulo, called Barraca da Lu Lu, is inspired by her childhood in a small town in Piauí in northeast Brazil. “Every detail refers to my origins,” she says. “The logo has a cashew, which reminds me a lot of my childhood. I was raised eating a lot of cashews.” Cashew trees surrounded her grandmother’s home in the countryside of Piauí. “I would wake up and see the ground covered in cashews and birds all around,” Luciana recalls.

Before she opened her restaurant, Luciana started by running a stand at a bus stop where she sold egg custard pastries called pastéis, and tapioca crepes that her father taught her how to make growing up. She quickly found success selling her snacks to workers from neighboring businesses and clients at a nearby gym.

“I started in a very small space. I didn’t know it was going to get to the size it is today,” she recalls, but time and again, customers showed that they wanted to keep dining at Barraca da Lu Lu. Her secret? “When it comes to the food, we prepare it with love. [Our ingredients] may be the same brand that the neighbor uses. The respect we have for the food differentiates the flavor.” Among her loyal customers, she’s known for her bife a cavalo, a traditional Brazilian dish with steak and eggs, as well as her rice, beans, and vegetable dishes.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached São Paulo, “Everything closed. Nobody released credit to anyone,” said Luciana. With bills coming due and lockdown measures in place, Luciana began to despair.

After searching online, she was able to find relief through Dinie. Dinie is an embedded lender serving micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Brazil. Suzy Ferreira, Andrea Burattini, and Vinícius Cibim co-founded the company to seamlessly provide digital lending products in the same platforms that entrepreneurs already use to run their businesses. Luciana first started delivering her food through iFood’s platform, Dinie’s partner that offers food delivery services in Brazil. Through the partnership, MSMEs, such as Barraca da Lu Lu, can access credit offers that fit their financial situation.

For Dinie’s founders, the company’s mission is personal. “When I was very little, I watched my father as a small business entrepreneur really struggle building his business,” recalls Suzy. “These small businesses don’t have working capital. They don’t have excess liquidity to be able to cover the cash flow needs of the business.”

These platforms have access to data on clients’ cash flows and other payment behavior, which gives Dinie a basis for providing credit. Dinie’s customers can access flexible credit when they need it and receive the loan instantly. Entrepreneurs like Luciana can use the extra working capital from Dinie for marketing, payments, inventory, and other expenses that help them better serve their customers. Accion Venture Lab is proud to have invested in Dinie to expand these financial services to more of Brazil’s underserved MSMEs.

Luciana in her restaurant

“It was very easy [to get credit from Dinie],” Luciana recalls. “My contact explained everything clearly to me. In two to three days, the loan was approved and [in my account] to do what I needed, which was to pay my bills.”

Dinie co-founders Suzy Ferreira and Andrea Burattini are acutely aware of the ways women are excluded from the financial system. While their target clients are small business owners who don’t have access to credit, women-led startups like theirs receive only a tiny percentage of investments from venture capital firms around the world.

“Being founded by two women, we appreciate a lot, and we want to see the impact of our actions here at Dinie [result] in more female entrepreneurs,” says Andrea. “Historically, women entrepreneurs have had more difficulty accessing credit than men entrepreneurs. And today, our customer base of female entrepreneurs is 45 percent of our customer base.”

“I find it very powerful how financial services are interconnected to everything we do. It enables us to fulfill our dreams.

“I find it very powerful how financial services are interconnected to everything we do. It enables us to fulfill our dreams. It enables us to create businesses, create ideas, and basically create wealth through the world,” says Andrea.

An accessible, affordable loan from Dinie helped keep Barraca da Lu Lu afloat through the pandemic. The restaurant remains open, and customers are already asking when Luciana plans to expand again. “This loan has made a huge difference in my life because I was able to continue my dream,” she says. “It means a lot to my family because it’s not just my dream, but also my husband’s and my son’s, too.”

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