Mrs Mekonen is a widow, raising three daughters on her own. She operates a pizzeria in an excellent location, and, in true entrepreneurial spirit, has a vision and drive to support her family by expanding and diversifying her business..
She is softly spoken, very modest in spite of her achievements, and is eager to learn and accept advice – a strong role model for her daughters and female entrepreneurs.
Mrs Mekonen rents the whole floor in a central modern building and sublets the space she does not use to those who need it. Her restaurant accommodates over 50 customers, with additional seating on a large balcony area. It is always busy, providing tasty pizzas as well as traditional Ethiopian dishes to locals and visitors alike.
In addition, Mrs Mekonen owns and manages a bakery and coffee shop in the same building, offering cakes for consumption on the premises or take-away, as well as celebration cakes made to customer order.
She has also set up a dairy business, which she operates from home in order to secure a quality cheese supply for her pizzas, and has charmingly called the company “Emebet and Her Children”. The business is growing and she is now processing 500 litres of milk daily. The milk is collected in the morning from small farms in Bahir Dar and processed immediately into cheese, butter and cream.
More farmers are keen to supply their milk, assuring a fair and reliable income for their produce. A farmer’s cooperative has been established and Mrs Mekonen estimates that she could collect 25,000 litres if she covers a distance of 17 km and collects twice daily. She would also like to offer pasteurised milk to restaurants and retail outlets.
Upscaling her business would require a major investment in transport, cooling and processing capacity, and so, with GROWTHCAP’s support, Mrs Mekonen has prepared a business plan to obtain financial aid. She is currently in the process of negotiating a licence from the Government to standardise her company brand.
GROWTHCAP will assist with the development of a factory layout, procurement of equipment, effective transport and storage, and ensure that international hygiene standards are met in order to attract large hotels and other acclaimed leisure facilities.
Our dairy experts believe this could be the first organic dairy in Ethiopia, operated to international food hygiene standards, and used as a training site for future agribusiness initiatives.
There are numerous sectors – fruit, vegetable and husbandry, for example – that will require this assistance in the near future, to ensure Ethiopian food is farmed sustainably and ready for export.