Suzana Santos: for all the diversity of women

2024-03-04 | By Brazilian Footwear


Suzana dos Santos is an entrepreneur and Commercial Director atthe Suzana Santos Group. Founded in 1995, in the city of São João Batista, by her father, the company bears the name of Suzana and owns, in addition to the eponymous brand, Azilê and Renata Mello. Connected to market trends, the company delivers innovation and style in timeless products for different styles of women.

Always investing in innovation, design and quality, the company has a production capacity of 30 thousand pairs / day and employs about 1.5 thousand professionals. The group that is part of the Brazilian Footwear, an incentive program for footwear exports, carried out by the Brazilian Footwear Industries Association (Abicalçados) in partnership with the Brazilian Export and Investment Promotion Agency (ApexBrasil), has, in addition to its headquarters in Santa Catarina, three other units in southern Bahia.

In her career, Suzana faced numerous barriers as a leader and woman, working in a strictly male market. It was she who founded the export sector at the company in 2010, which today accounts for about 15% of the company's production. The group's brands are present in 45 countries, with its main markets in Central America and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, despite the challenges, the businesswoman sees today a positive change in this scenario, where more women are gaining space, involved in areas such as style, innovation and marketing. For her, the feminine vision in the business and the ability to focus on consumer behavior are fundamental to act strategically in such a dynamic sector as the footwear market.

1. What do you do to keep up to date with fashion, business and technology trends?

One thing we always did was travel, exploring both showcase trends and street style. We are always very attuned, especially on social networks. Internet research is essential, as influencers are consuming and, currently, they are the ones who dictate fashion.

Observing what influencers are wearing is crucial too, in addition to attending fairs, especially international ones. We always seek to exchange ideas with customers and suppliers. I believe that networking with these partners brings many valuable ideas to our business. We are constantly attentive, engaged in conversations and ideas exchanges to stay up to date on what is happening in the fashion world.


2. What is the impact of technology and e-commerce in the footwear sector today?

I believe that during the pandemic, the message emerged that those who were not present online were not going to disappear from the market. Really, nowadays, it is essential to be active in the virtual environment. In the e-commerce sector, innovation in technology is crucial, since all companies are following this path. Those that do not are quickly overtaken.

We created our e-commerce store ourselves during the pandemic. Although we are still in the early stages, we have already switched platforms this year and are constantly looking for innovations. We recently launched an app in addition to the website, investing in solutions that help drive sales. It is essential to always look for a differential, since this is what our competitors are doing. If we don't keep up, we run the risk of falling behind and becoming outdated.


3. How do you manage work and personal life, especially in such a dynamic industry?

Really, this year was my first year as a mother, before it was a little challenging, but I always had a lot of support from my husband to travel, so I was never alone. My life has always been very focused on being an entrepreneur and experiencing my professional life. I have always counted on this support, but really, after we become mothers, we need to devote a little more time.

I believe very much in the quality of time, both what I spend with my children and what I dedicate to the company. Although I try to work fewer hours than before, I still do pretty much the same amount of work.

I consider inspiring leadership that leader who always seeks to be by the side of the team, doing together and not only bossing, always listening."

4. What do you consider inspirational leadership?

I consider inspiring leadership that leader who always seeks to be by the side of the team, doing together and not only bossing, always listening. The team is always seeking to understand what can be improved, both as a person and as part of the company. In addition to motivating, it is also being together. It is the leader who has an innovative vision, who sees a future for the company, who has purpose and does not work only for money. Therefore, a leader who inspires me is one with purpose, who motivates the team and has a vision for the future.

5. Do you have role models or mentors who have inspired you throughout your career?

Yes, I have some, but I would like to highlight my father, as I said before, he is a great manager. He has an incredible vision in financial entrepreneurship. Another person who inspires me is Rafaela Furlanetto, a reference for me. She is also in the footwear sector, and I consider her a source of inspiration, mainly because we share something in common: the management of a family business, with her father's involvement in the business. We both represent the second generation, bringing an innovative vision to the business. Not only do we produce shoes, like our parents at the time when they were predominantly white, black and caramel. Today, it is essential to have a vision of style and always be aware of changes. So I find a lot of inspiration in it, especially in the footwear sector.


6. Is there any advice you would like to give to women who are starting their careers in fashion and business?

I believe that the fundamental element lies in the love and purpose of the business. There are two phrases that I appreciate very much and that I always carry with me. One of them is: 'Success arises from the ability to move from one failure to another without losing enthusiasm.' So I believe that's the key. We all fail, we make mistakes, but the essence lies in not giving up, because success is a sum of failures, isn't it?

Another quote I love is: 'The secret of success is constancy of purpose.' As I mentioned, it's remembering every day the reason for waking up, the reason for having a business and why we are ahead of this venture. I think that's the secret, and never stop investing in yourself, it is necessary because business has a side that rewards you, such as when we get a good order or hit our goals. However, many challenges come along with these rewards, as we invest time in ourselves, prepare ourselves to face and strengthen our ability to overcome these difficult moments of crisis, finding opportunities even in the face of challenges.


7. In your opinion, how does the Brazilian Footwear program contribute to gender equality in the Brazilian footwear sector?

I believe that Brazilian Footwear is already an example for us women because part of the management of the program are women and they are very inspiring women. So, for me, this is already one of the reasons that contribute to gender equality because Brazilian Footwear has this female example in management. At the beginning, when I started exporting and participating in international fairs, I came across women like Leticia and Alice, who are people who forward the project and are strong and inspiring female leaders. Another way is by proposing this type of content, such as It's Time for Women, to present and show the world that women also lead the Brazilian footwear industry, always with current, innovative and modern information, changing the old views that women have one place and that they can not be where they want to be, as in the direction of a company. I thought the idea of the project was amazing. With initiatives like this, Brazilian Footwear contributes to gender equality in the national footwear sector.

See the brands
Renata Mello
Suzana Santos
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