Crystal Lindell in Brazil
Managing Editor Crystal Lindell standing in front of the city of Ilhéus during her week-long trip to Brazil. 

I have to confess that until last week, I still had a bit of a grudge against Brazil. Being a native of Chicagoland, I thought it wasn’t fair that the country had “samba’d” its way to the 2016 Summer Olympics bid. Chicago should have won that. I mean, come on, how often is the president of the United States going to be from my hometown? We needed to play that up while we could.

But no! Brazil had to be all, “We’re beautiful, and amazing and developing. Pick us! Pick us!” And that’s exactly what the Olympic Committee did.

But all those feelings of jealousy quickly melted away the second I stepped off the plane in Sao Paulo last Sunday.

I mean, who doesn’t love palm trees and Brazilian architecture?

I can say that because I just got back from a seven-day, whirlwind trip to the country that included three domestic flights and a different hotel every single night. The word amazing does not do it justice.

I got to tour the peanut candy company Santa Helena as well as the caramel maker Embaré. Then, on Friday, we went to the city of Ilhéus and toured the Leolinda cocoa farm, where they grow cocoa beans for the chocolate company Nugali. It was incredible.

I was invited by ABICAB (the Brazilian Cocoa, Chocolate, Peanut and Candies Manufacturers Association) and APEX, (the Brazilian Agency for the Promotion of Exports and Investments acts). Each provided an amazing guide — Rodrigo Solano from ABICAB and Camila Meyer from APEX. Their hospitality was a huge part of why the trip was so amazing.

And, now that I’ve seen their government agency and industry association in action, I can understand why Brazil won the 2016 Olympics.

Sure, sure, my hometown put a lot into the bid. There were signs all over the city saying “Chicago 2016” and everyone was getting into the Olympic spirit.

But that’s the problem. It was only everyone in town. In Brazil, it was the whole country. Half of South America was working to win that bid, and when an entire nation is invested in something, it’s a given that it’ll have a stronger effect than our Windy City off Lake Michigan.

In fact, it’s a concept that makes sense for development in general. And it’s one of the ways the United States could really stand to improve.

Take ABICAB for example. It’s a government-funded organization which has as its main goal increasing confectionery exports. And considering the fact that Brazil is the fourth largest confectionery exporter in the world, I’d say they’re succeeding.

What's really interesting though is that the organization doesn’t just spend all of its time trying to get tax cuts for its members. Instead, it truly invests in each company. The staff works one on one with its members, and readies them for the world market. They make sure there’s enough flavors, and that the packaging works. They find out what their strategy is and work with them to make it happen.

They also coordinate trade show trips for candy makers. And more than that, they bring buyers and media right to the country to show off Brazil and meet with confectionery makers right on their home turf.

It’s a strategy that takes a lot more work, but it has a much higher reward. With all the talk in the United States about helping small business, and business in general, it seems as though a federally funded organization that works one on one with them would have a much higher impact than a bunch of lobbyists.

I will, of course, have a full report on my journey to Brazil in an upcoming issue. But in the meantime, you should be able to spot me by the bright yellow and green clothes I’ll be wearing during the upcoming World Cup, which is also being hosted in Brazil. I’ve made my peace with the country — and more than that, I’ve become one of its biggest fans.