“What’s my job? Well, I’m an enabler, I open the doors, create opportunities, I lobby nationally and internationally, encourage partnerships, galvanize the activity of the nine work groups…”, says Ana, Cluster Têxtil’s CEO.
very important Mexican entrepreneur, a hotel industry supplier, was in Portugal looking for wines and showed interest in seeing home textiles. Once the news spread, Inovcluster (Agro-Industrial Cluster of Central Portugal) notified the Cluster Têxtil, who immediately set up an evening of meetings, at CITEVE, between the Mexican entrepreneur and the Portuguese home textile manufacturers.
This is just one of the many sides of the job that Ana Ribeiro has been developing for the past year. She left CeNTI’s Business Development, which she led, to become the Cluster Textil’s CEO, turning her full attention to a sector that, thanks to her family, she knew well (her father was an engineer in companies like Lionesa, Vaz Ferreira or Cotesi).
“What’s my job? Well, I’m an enabler, I open the doors, create opportunities, I lobby nationally and internationally, encourage partnerships, galvanize the activity of the nine work groups…”, Ana enumerates, looking as if she is still missing a few things to finish her job description.
Informally, Cluster Têxtil already exists for about a century, having the city of Famalicão, where Ana brought us for lunch, as its headquarters. Her first thought was to try out Cheers (“I really like tapas”, she confessed), but it was closed for the holydays, compelling her to go to plan B instead.
However, the Cluster Têxtil only exists officially since it was acknowledged by the Government, a year ago, “in a very beautiful session, at Terreiro do Paço”.
Cluster Têxtil took off formally with 54 members, an open group (meanwhile two others joined in – ICC Lavoro and Anivec) coordinated by a High-Level Assembly, which Ana doesn’t hesitate to describe as “an extraordinary group at the uppermost level”, who greatly contribute to her work.
Ana’s job is also to help change mentalities, in a business culture whose dominant trait is individualism. Nobody is used to sharing their experience or knowledge with the ones that could be the competition – whereas they could and should be partners instead.
Convincing the entrepreneurs about the benefits of a partnership is probably Ana’s toughest mission.
“If we fly together, in formation, we can go farther”, states Cluster Têxtil’s CEO, a strong-willed woman that held several small gigs in advertising while studying in FEUP (like handing out promotional flyers for a soap opera, in Leiria, or promoting Parmalat milk in supermarkets) to gather enough money to buy a Honda CB 250 motorcycle.
The 174 people’s involvement across the nine work groups is a sure sign that Cluster Têxtil is following – full steam ahead – the right path. The destination is everywhere: they have extended their presence into other sectors, such as health, automotive or construction industries.
Examples? “We heard Weber/Saint Gobain was looking for a better insulating material for roof covers. Straight away, showed up a socks manufacturer capable and decided to solve the problem. So, we are going to hook-up several suppliers with the construction company”, concludes Ana Ribeiro, in the process of thoroughly performing her task as the great enabler – or, if you will, the great matchmaker 🙂
She was raised in São Mamede de Infesta, where she attended primary and high school. The choice for Engineering might have had to do with her father, an Electro Mechanic engineer, and her older brother, who studied Mechanical Engineering. She thought of Chemical Engineering, but she ended up going for Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, in a small class: they were 24 and mostly girls. She started her professional career in the academic world (3B Project) before going into the industry (approximately three years at Sicor, in Cortegaça), and settling in Famalicão, where she connected research and the industry in organizations such as CITEVE, CeNTI and Cluster Textile. Married to a lawyer, they live in Foz do Douro and have two kids (a nine-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy)
Rua João Pinto de Azevedo 171
Urbanização da Talvai