God forbid if an idea gets in his head! His family, who knows him better than anyone, is always warning everybody, urbi et orbi, so they don’t get caught off-guard. If an idea gets stuck in his head, it’s certain that Jorge Pereira will stop for nothing before he makes it a reality.
he fault for getting Lipaco into his head was his father, Adélio (from whom he inherited the restless and entrepreneurial spirit), who bought, in a fair, a machine in that he found most interesting and installed in the warehouse next to their home, in Esposende. Restless as a willow in a windstorm, Jorge wouldn’t rest until he managed to get the sewing thread maker working. That was 32 years ago.
The first 18 years went by smoothly, with nothing to point out. Lipaco sold sewing thread in the internal market, to a manufacturing industry that prospered without any concerns until, already in the 21st century, it was shaken by two violent cataclysms – China’s accession to the WTO and the sovereign debt crisis that brought the Troika to Portugal.
“Back then it was very clear to me that we had to search for alternatives, to modify our offer and to find new markets”, recalls Jorge Pereira, who had lunch with us during his hour-long break of exhibiting at Techtextil, choosing Coke over beer in order to stay well awake during the afternoon – and dispensing the usual coffee, as not disturb a good night’s sleep after an exhausting day at the fair. To go through the crisis that hit Lipaco early in its adulthood, he began purchasing thread making equipment (broadening his offer), grabbed his suitcase and went around the world, from trade fair to trade fair, discovering new destinations that would replace the perishing internal market – and to understand which type of products were in demand.
“I learned that the way was to bet on exports, and on increasingly technical products”, sums up Lipaco’s CEO, who next month is completing an investment of 1.8 million euro to double the factory’s installed capacity.
Sustainability, the magic word for anybody looking to have a future in the textile industry, is on the top of Lipaco’s priorities, with a success that is made evident by the fact that Messe Frankfurt included the company in the exclusive board of honour (that features 41 companies out of 1,818 attending Techtextil) of good practises in the field.
To depend less on others is another concern, which led Lipaco to invest on dyeing sections and laboratories. “We realized that, in order to reduce delivery times and to guarantee the quality of our products, we couldn’t resort to outsourcing”, he explains.
Lipaco is on the right track. It exports 45% of its 2.6-million-euro sales, and 30% of its production is technical threads. Nevertheless, the short-term goals are to raise exports to 50% of the business volume and to grow the share of technical threads. “We’re interested in having more value-added products and fewer commodities”, sentences Jorge Pereira, an entrepreneur with an idea in his head.
He dreamt of becoming an air traffic controller, but failed the exam. After that, he wanted to become a pilot, and he passed all the exams, but gave up at the last minute, pressured by his mother, who kept telling him it was a bad profession –flying from one place to another wouldn’t allow him to raise a family. He set his feet on the ground and enrolled in year zero of the Management degree in Porto’s Catholic University, where he was (quite happy, having a pirate radio as a hobby) when his father, Adélio, purchased a sewing thread machine. In 1987 Lipaco was founded. Jorge Pereira was born in 1964, back when Maputo was still called Lourenço Marques (where his father worked in a cement plant of the Champalimaud group), and came to Portugal just two and a half years later. At first the family lived in Trofa (where his mother owned a grocery store and where he learned the trade secrets from his grandmother), before laying down roots in Esposende. Married to a physiotherapist, they have a 21-year-old daughter, who graduated in Management from the Catholic University of Porto.
Main course: Four-cheese pizza Drinks: Coke, Becks Beer and a coffee