ENTERPRISE54 – Looking back at the hours spent swapping stories on Facebook five years ago, 26-year-old Almaz Tegene had no idea that her new online friend, Selome Mekonnen, would end up being her business partner. Almaz, Selome and Asratemariam Sileshi are three young women, who find themselves part of a new breed of Ethiopian entrepreneurs
ENTERPRISE54 – Looking back at the hours spent swapping stories on Facebook five years ago, 26-year-old Almaz Tegene had no idea that her new online friend, Selome Mekonnen, would end up being her business partner.
Almaz, Selome and Asratemariam Sileshi are three young women, who find themselves part of a new breed of Ethiopian entrepreneurs who are being supported through an Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EDP) launched by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in February 2013.
The EDP has since attracted the support of development partners such as Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) which provided USD 5.8million to the programme in April 2014.
“Canada is proud to help create jobs by promoting the growth of small businesses in Ethiopia, especially businesses owned by women,” said Christian Paradis, Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie at the time of the announcement of the partnership between Canada and UNDP on entrepreneurship.
Over four thousand Ethiopians have gone through an entrepreneurship training workshop since the Entrepreneurship Development Centre (EDC) was set up following the launch of the EDP in 2013.
Both Selome and Almaz have gone through the intensive entrepreneurship training workshop and subsequent Business Advisory Service (BAS) support provided by the EDC.
While exploring business ideas five months’ ago, the group of friends finally settled on Selome’s long time passion for including mushrooms into her every meal. The number of people requesting Selome to buy them some when she next goes shopping for mushroom ignited an idea of starting an in-door mushroom production business.
THE MUSHROOMS ARE GROWN ON A BED OF WOODEN CRATES IN THE BACKROOMS OF A CONDOMINIUM IN ADDIS ABABA
“We raised 26,000 birr ($1300) from our savings, bought a share and invested in starting the new business,” Almaz said, “Our next challenge was securing a place for the production.” Fortunately, Asratemariam had a small condominium which the new businesswomen converted into an urban mushroom farm.
The price of one kilo of mushroom goes for 50-70 birr ($2.5-3.5) and they sell 90 kilograms every week to restaurants, mushroom seed producers, small supermarkets and friends. By October this year, they plan to expand their business to produce 900 kilograms a week that would go for around 45,000 birr ($2250) in the market.
The young women have not yet seen a return on their investments but believe that once they step up production in October things will look up. Once this happens the three women plan on finally paying themselves a salary.
In two years’ time Almaz and her friends plan to set up a specialized restaurant that offers all things mushroom. In the meantime, the socially responsible entrepreneurs are exploring ways of using their business to expand the free lunch programme for 74 disadvantaged children and teens at a neighbourhood school that they had lobbied their close friends to support. “We are concerned that a meal a day is not enough for children.” Asratemariam reflects, “So we are looking for sponsors to provide the children with bread and mushroom sandwich during breakfast.” The young entrepreneurs frankly admit that this approach helps them to accomplish two things; feeding the children and also getting another market to introduce their produces.
“Entrepreneurs are passionate, positive, adaptable, and ambitious; They can spark change.” said UNDP Ethiopia’s Resident Representative Eugene Owusu explaining UNDP’s commitment to use the Entrepreneurship Development Programme as a key tool in tackling poverty reduction and promoting resilience in the country.
Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on UNDP.org