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Rafael Jorge '23

Best for Business

Apr 5, 2023

Rafael Jorge is due to graduate from Florida Southern College in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

Looking at what Jorge has already done in the business world, one might argue that he has already graduated.

Jorge is the owner of Mastro, a digital marketing company that provides web design, social media strategies, and helps build brand awareness.

Not even out of college yet, Jorge has built a profitable company that has four employees that is set to rake in more than six figures this year.

Like any successful businessman, Jorge is not resting on his laurels.

“It’s exciting but I feel I’m just one percent at where I want to be,” the 21-year-old native of Brazil said. “I’m a very ambitious person. I’m proud of me and my team, but I think we’re just at the beginning.”

Breaking Into the Biz

Jorge was born in Campinas, Sao Paulo in Brazil, a metropolitan area made up of 19 different municipalities that total more than 2.8 million citizens.

As Jorge’s education increased, he knew he wanted to study abroad in the United States and set his mind to making that happen. Thanks in part to his athletic prowess in soccer, Jorge earned a scholarship to Union College in Kentucky in 2019, leaving behind his home country at just 18 years old.

Jorge soon found out that his scholarship was not going to be enough to get him by, and he had to ask his parents for help. Wanting to be independent and help his parents instead, Jorge found work as a dish washer on campus. Even that was not enough.

“It was rough,” he said. “I couldn’t help my parents.”

Then during the final semester of his freshman year, the COVID-19 pandemic erupted.

Not wanting to be stuck in Kentucky, Jorge returned home, but he had a plan.

“All international students were advised to go home, or we could be locked out returning to our country,” he recalled. “I came back home, and I stayed a year.”

Mastro Logo
The logo for Mastro

Jorge did not take it easy, as he decided to take what he had learned already in his one year in Kentucky and started Mastro to also help local businesses during the pandemic.

From his marketing class, videos on YouTube, and online courses Jorge turned Mastro into a success in his neighborhood.

“I didn’t stop studying digital marketing,” Jorge said. “I purchased more online courses because I had more time. I got to the point where I needed to start applying what I learned and seeing how it worked instead of in theory. I know businesses in my neighborhood weren’t doing great because of the lockdown. I started knocking on doors and asking them if I could help them for free and if they liked it, they could start paying me from there.”

During that first week, Jorge secured two clients. A few months later he had 12 clients and a team of three people to help as he started working full time to build Mastro.

Return to the States

Despite his growing business, Jorge wanted to continue his education in the U.S.

Deciding not to return to Union, Jorge started applying to different schools and ended up earning an academic scholarship to Florida Southern in the Fall of 2021.

Jorge continued working with his team in Brazil, but he encountered a problem.

“I was working with my clients in Brazil, but I had a currency problem,” he said. “Everything I earned got divided by five here, so I would end up working full-time hours and only making like $100. It wasn’t worth it.”

That’s when Jorge discovered the Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (CFEE) and started working closely with Professor Justin Heacock.

Through Heacock’s connections with Catapult, a Lakeland entrepreneurship builder, Jorge was able to bring Mastro to the U.S. and through March of 2023 Jorge has earned more than $100,000 in revenue.

“He got me linked up with Catapult and the school paid for my membership,” the 2022 Sharp Fellowship recipient said. “I was able to get my first client here and started building my portfolio.”

In April of 2022 Jorge landed his first client, the Lakeland United FC soccer team, and has been adding clients since. By July Jorge had doubled his revenue.

Now with seven clients, Jorge is able to pay for his own Catapult membership and another dedicated desk at Catapult, one for him and another employee. In total, thanks to one-time projects, Jorge has worked with 20 brands from all over the United States and has even taken on fellow student Happyson Kaunda’s Tafika Tickets startup as he looks to get that more established in his home country of Zambia.

Jorge’s success so far is a testament to how much the CFEE is able to help students at Florida Southern.

Ultimately, it’s up to the student to make the business successful, and Heacock had no doubt that Jorge was going to do great things once he got a little help.

“We have certain students that are by the very definition entrepreneurs,” Heacock said. “If I was going to bet, I would be on this kid being successful,” Heacock said of Jorge. “We just try to accelerate the process. What we helped do is to flip it and help him open (Mastro) to the States. We gave him a ton of connections to people that needed his services, and he stepped up as a young professional. He has delivered to his clients time and time again.

“This is an example of how the center can provide support for students at all levels of entrepreneurship. For him to be a student that graduates with a business that already has that many employees, that’s a home run. It shows we can support you regardless of whether it’s just an idea or a business that is already selling. We can add value to your business.”