Whos’ Liliam? A mum and a successful entrepreneur!
She has five sons and is now a grandma too, despite her young age – she is only 38 years old!
The first thing she said, to introduce herself is that she has always dreamt about starting her own business and having her own patisserie, even when she was only a child, living in the streets, in the favelas of Recife (Brazil).
Passing by those beautiful and yummy patisseries, staring at their windows, she used to say to herself: “I wish I could have my own shop one day …” And after around 20 years – and many highs and lows! – her dream came true.
Liliam’s life has been very tough: when she was 9 years old, she had to leave her house due to the violent and abusive situation she was suffering. And ended up living in the street.
She got pregnant when she was only 14 years old and in 1995, she left her country to reach Europe, heading Germany. There she had to face bad times, once again: it turned out that the person that should have helped her, had cheated her. In fact, in Germany, she did not find the life she was dreaming to, not at all: she got caught victim of human trafficking and was forced into prostitution.
Later on, when she was living in a community for minors under protection, her passion for cooking got stronger and stronger.
Few years later – when she was 18 years old – she quit the community, after a while got married, and had two more children. Unfortunately, Liliam happiness ended soon, due to her violent husband.
Then she escaped to Italy and here her life started again: “In Italy I have found my happiness, together with my new family”, she says.
At the beginning, when she arrived in Turin, she was working very hard, doing up to four different jobs at the same time and taking care to her children.
“My happiness started thanks to an email. I was trying to apply for a job position in Milan, but I typed a wrong email address and … you know what? I didn’t get a job, but thank to that email I met my husband: Claudio”.
With her husband’s support, in 2008 she started her own business, called “Liliam Buffet”.
At the beginning, she worked with VAT registration, selling her products online, or to her personal contacts and to word of mouth.
“At the beginning I used to cook for few people, especially Brazilian people looking for traditional plates. I did everything by myself, always as an autodidact. My idea was to preserve my traditional cuisine but also to adapt it to my Italian clients. Anyway, it was not easy at all! I had to find the right balance in order to understand all the cultural differences!”
She had to overcome many obstacles, especially bureaucratic ones, in order to get all the mandatory licenses and permits. However, the hardest part was obtaining access to credit.
“Unfortunately, nobody trusted me, a young migrant woman” – Liliam says – “But at the end, I could open my own activities thanks to a friend of mine who decided to help me. He became my business partner and finally, in 2013, I opened my own patisserie! The shop I was dreaming to, since I was a child!”
Still in 2013, she also won the MoneyGram Award as best young entrepreneur of the year and in 2014 she received another award from the mayor of the City of Turin.
Nowadays Liliam Buffet is specialised in wedding and ceremonies cakes and she is one of the most famous cake designer in Piedmont region.
In her patisserie, she works together with two Italian staffers she had hired.
“I love my job and my business is going very well, but I had to face so many challenges!” she adds.
She has some advice to share with want to-be entrepreneurs:
“First of all, bear in mind that at the beginning you won’t probably see any money! It is important to look at the bigger picture and always invest on yourself, being patient and trying to find your own way to make a client a faithful customer. In my case, I used to organise many parties, inviting as many friends of my children as possible, to get in contact with their families and donating them my cakes. And then, remember to be able to deal with bureaucratic measures, it could be time-consuming and frustrating, but nothing is impossible!”
Liliam is now opening also another activity: an import-export e-commerce business and she has also founded an Association (Ngo), called “Pasticcioneria” that is building a social school, together with the director Alex Guedes: a free space for children living in the street and a safe place for prostitutes willing to change their life. The Association is already organising some activities in Rio de Janeiro suburbs. You can follow the implementation of the activities via Liliam Instagram profile.