Contasbrasil, a multi-pronged network of online stores and a more recently added boutique is owned by two sisters from the city of Curbita, capital of the state of PARANÁ, in the south of Brazil. Suzy Wortberg and Bebê de Soares and a third artist, Suzy’s best friend Ana Paula Vilas Boas (creator of The Waterfall Necklaces) make jewelry for the enterprise. The most recent addition to the close-knit group was Sandra Fukelmann with her unique doll bags after Suzy shared a stand with her at the fair CPD in Düsseldorf.
On November 15th, 2007 Suzy opened their new brick and mortar store in Cologne. While she was taking care of the renovation of the shop, her sister Bebê was busily promoting it on the web. To make her new shop a "must visit" when tourists come to Cologne, Suzy decorated the walls with coconut shells and the fabric that they use as a bag for their necklaces (called chita). Now that the majority of the preliminary work is completed Suzy hopes to have more time to network.
Currently the new store sells only ContasBrasil jewelry and Doll bags and until now has been the only store in Germany to carry them.
It all happened a bit more than two years ago” says Suzy. “I was already living in Germany for 13 years with my husband and daughter and had finished my ballet Dancing career. As a Christmas present, I got a beautiful necklace from my best friend Ana Vilas Boas, who lives in Brazil. She is an Architect and we’d danced ballet together. It was a piece made by her. She had never done jewelry before, but just for fun, started to make some and give them to her friends. I was fascinated by her talent! I asked her to make 4 other pieces so maybe I could show them to my friends in Germany.”
Back home in Germany Suzy looked at her jewelry box, took some pieces that were broken and some others that she was a bit tired of wearing, carefully chose some of the beads, and decided to give it a try herself. She created her first necklace and once she started she was captivated by this new excitement she felt as the beads were strung onto the nylon thread (the only thread she knew to use at that time.That very first necklace she made was similar to the necklace Beads Allerei and the very first one she ever sold! After that, she began selling Ana Paula's work with hers.
Then came the name of the shop, Contas, which is an old Portuguese name for all kinds of beads and the logo. She described how she wanted it to look and her husband drew it. Bebê was then an actress, living in Sao Paulo at that time (actually she was in Germany before Suzy moved there, and then moved with her German husband and kids for 6 years in Brazil). After 4 months of selling very well but mostly to friends and family, someone told Suzy she should try a fashion fair.
“Bebê, who was then moving back to Cologne helped me a lot” said Suzy, “ because she could buy beads and Brazilian stones for the collection in Brazil and also look for someone that could make our folders, banners, etc for the fair. Here in Germany it can be immensely expensive!” Bebê got so involved with everything that even she began to make some necklaces. A bit embarrassed, she told Suzy she would like to send some pictures of her work. “I couldn't believe my eyes” Suzy exclaimed, “especially when I saw them (come to) life! And that's how everything happened...”
Bebê and Suzy currently live in Cologne but they fly once or twice a year to Brazil where their large family lives.
ContasBrasil became a full time job for Suzy. Bebê started rehearsing for a new theater play a month ago, but still manages to make wonderful pieces for the new shop. She is continuing to promote the shop on the web, and plans to keep making jewelry for Contas.
Ana Paula still works as an Architect in Brazil but never stopped creating her beauties for the business.
After the fair, Bebê’ and Suzy placed work in 15 shops in Germany. After that Suzy set her sights on opening her own shop. “Four shops are still selling our work and now that my big dream became reality, I can plan the fairs again.”
Suzy remembers an early experience with a particularly promising and interested customer.
“My very first client at the fair was someone from Japan. I was very impressed by that. In the end we never managed to make big business with them because we make everything ourselves and the pieces are unique. So it became impossible to fulfill the expectations of the Japanese...but this shop now is my big success! I have to say thanks to Bebê’s perseverance; whenever some technical problem would appear, she was immediately looking on (the) internet for a solution, better material, new methods; our work improved a lot!
I think my mother's perfectionism in her work (she has a ballet school in Brazil) and my father's great communication talent to people (he is an Ophthalmologist) were somehow a big influence to the quality of work we are delivering. We experience a great amount of positive feedback not only because of the beauty of our jewelry, but also the way we transmit what is behind this work; our Brazilian identity.”
The most expensive piece they’ve sold was one of Bebê's necklaces, a very exquisite design, with a big yellow Agate, Brazilian seeds, Lapis Lazuli, and Swarovski crystal. The buyer was so enchanted by the piece that price was no object!
Although up until now ContasBrasil has only produced beaded jewelry, Suzy and Bebê plan to learn soldering to expand their repertoire of techniques.
In preparation for the coming holiday season Bebê is making X-Large necklaces, Ana Paula, the Pernambuco Collection (Pernambuco is a State in Northeast Brazil, very warm and colorful, where she spent her last Holidays) and Suzy is busy working with metals and stones.
ContasBrasil has done a great job of selling its exotic cultual image, a growing practice in business once frowned-upon but now recognized as a very savvy and effective marketing practice. It is a beautiful example of how diversity can be an assett rather than a liability, a perfect way to celebrate a heritage and a means through which to educate the public on the value of preserving culture in modern society.
Be sure to check out their online Etsy store:
Contas Brasil Shop
Their other website:
and to learn more about what they’re doing, take a look at her blog:
article written by Pippit