October 23, 2021

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The millionaire who started his empire working on the public telephone at the Rio de Janeiro airport


This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Flavio Da Silva overcame all the obstacles necessary to achieve the success he enjoys today. The entrepreneur was 19 years old when he got a job selling English courses over the phone, but he had a little problem… there was no phone line at home. This happened in 1991, a while before the use of the cell phone permeated our way of life. Flavio lived in Rio de Janeiro, and at that time having a telephone was a luxury that his family could not afford.

Despite that setback, he did not give up. he started looking for solutions to his problem. It was then that it occurred to him to use the public telephones that were at the Santos Dumont airport. With all the noise and people around, he managed to turn the terminal into a functional office.

“I have no doubt that I found my destination at that airport,” the businessman said in an interview with the BBC .

It was with that dedication that he managed to become the commercial director of the company for which he worked. However, when he came up with various ideas to improve the quality of the courses they taught, his boss rejected them outright. It was this that prompted him to leave the company and play it alone at age 23. Here came the following two problems: I could not speak the language and it was not easy to get a bank loan.

He needed a team to carry the project forward, so he hired 18 people to help him develop the courses in a pedagogical way. He used a line of credit with an interest rate of 12% per month to get started and from there he managed to build an empire. This is how his company Wise Up started, which had a competitive advantage because it offered an innovative service. At that time the English courses were aimed at children or people who wanted to go on a trip, the new contribution that Da Silva made was to direct it to people who were looking for work, so the classes had a business focus and promised to teach English in 18 months.

Ironically, he didn’t start studying English until the 100th branch of the school was set up, but that didn’t slow down operations. In a year it already had a thousand students after the school that is in the center of Rio de Janeiro opened. In 1998 the company began to grow and soon they had branches all over the country.

Originally the English school was to be called Winners, Da Silva liked it so much that he had all the branding done with that name. But it turns out that the brand already existed and he got into legal trouble. He quickly had to look for other options, but since he had already had several things done with the letter “W” to save the most money, he had to think of a name that began with the same letter. This is how they came to the name “Wise Up” that remains to this day.

After a while he sold the company with a value of 240 million dollars to the Abril group. He used half of that money to invest in another of his passions: soccer. He bought the American team from Orlando City before it was part of the Major Soccer League.

“I see myself as a builder. I want to build a successful project and then set myself a new challenge,” he told the BBC.

They recently offered to sell you Wise Up again because the company was failing. Da Silva agreed and quickly set goals to save the project. He is recognized by many experts as a fearless entrepreneur who is always thinking 10 steps in advance and has been substantiated with all his accomplishments in the corporate world.

In addition to being in charge of the company again and owning a soccer club, he finds the time to write a blog. This one is called Valuation Generation, which seeks to inspire other people to become entrepreneurs.

“I see my career as proof that everyone is capable of it, I don’t feel better than others. It’s just about learning how to do it.”



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