Brazilian marketing firm follows confectioner into Richmond

Mario Leite will manage Smuzi's accounts from an outpost in Richmond. (Courtesy Smuzi)

Mario Leite will manage Smuzi’s accounts from an outpost in Richmond. (Courtesy Smuzi)

A Brazilian family’s sweet tooth for Richmond’s business climate has lured a relative to likewise open a stateside post for his business here.

Smuzi, a marketing and design firm based in Brazil, has selected Richmond for its first U.S. location. Art director Mario Leite, who is leading the local effort, is following the lead of his relatives with Mavalerio, the Brazil-based confectioner that opened its first U.S. production facility at Hanover’s Northlake Business Park last year.

Leite, who will manage Smuzi’s accounts from an outpost in Richmond, said he was drawn to the idea of expanding his business here when he accompanied family members on a tour of the city last year. Leite’s brother-in-law, Andre Bettin, is director of sales for Mavalerio’s Hanover facility.

“We came to Richmond last year to get to know the city and really liked it, so we decided to join the family members who are moving here,” Leite said, referring to himself and his wife, who are renting an apartment in Glen Allen.

“Last year, we got our first client in the United States, and some of our Brazilian clients decided to expand their operations also to the United States. So it started to make more sense for us to go overseas and start connecting directly within the United States,” Leite said. “It’s not only going to be closer for us to reach our American clients, but it’s going to help the Brazilian clients that want to bring their brands here to start selling their products here.”

Smuzi’s services include web design, graphic design and branding, as well as video production, animation and social media management. Clients include Benchmark Realty Group in Florida and a Brazilian spice producer, Sabor das Indias, which Leite said is expanding to the U.S. The firm also manages two design-focused blogs.

Samples of Smuzi-designed products. (Courtesy Smuzi)

Samples of Smuzi-designed products. (Courtesy Smuzi)

Leite will be managing the firm’s business out of Richmond, working with a business partner and a team of freelance designers in Brazil. He said he will be operating out of a coworking space initially, with plans to lease or buy permanent office space as the Richmond operation grows.

“The location is excellent for us because it’s close to New York, close to Washington. Florida is an important hub for us,” he said. “And when we came here, the cities that we visited were always large cities. Richmond has a lot of things going on, but at the same time, if you want to open a studio in a quieter place, if you want to raise a family, you can have that. So it’s a great balance for us.”

Like Mavalerio, Smuzi worked with regional economic development group Greater Richmond Partnership, which said the firm selected Richmond over other states in the Southeast and California. The firm is the fourth Brazilian company to locate in Richmond in three years, along with Mavalerio, granite importer Brugamar and manufacturer Kels USA Corp.

Leite, 30, said he has been in the U.S. for three or four months, touring coworking spaces with GRP staff and venturing beyond Richmond to attend industry events.

“I’ve been in New York twice for marketing events, and it’s just amazing,” he said. “It’s five or six hours from Richmond, and there’s a whole new world to see – a lot of people to meet, a lot of companies, a lot of events. I’m still not familiar, because there’s a lot to discover, but I think I’ll get there by halfway next year.”

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