Spotlight: Women’s Entrepreneurship
AGP-LMD’s women entrepreneurship and leadership development component identifies women who are or have the potential to become livestock entrepreneurs and role models, and provides them with training and coaching to develop the women’s technical, business and leaderships skills that will help them become successful business owners, operators and community leaders. USAID also facilitates investment and finance to women entrepreneurs including provision of innovation grants fund to encourage local Ethiopian investment and innovation in the livestock sector. Emebet Mekonnen is one of these women and her story continues to inspire other Ethiopian women and entrepreneurs around the world.
Emebet is a widow and a mother of three girls who lives in Bahir dar town of the Amhara region in Ethiopia. Six years ago, she lost her husband in a tragic car accident that left her partially paralyzed. After a slow recovery, Emebet regained all mobility and started brainstorming ideas of ways to provide for her family. She came up with the idea of opening a small pizza house in hopes of attracting tourists visiting the town, but immediately she faced resource challenges including the availability of cheese. This led Emebet to start processing her own cheese by collecting milk from farmers in the area. Unfortunately, the product quality and yield remained low due to her limited knowledge and technical skills, coupled with the inefficiency in the collection and supply of raw milk by farmers.
Two years ago, Emebet started working with AGP-LMD. The project facilitated trainings for her in quality production, entrepreneurship and leadership, as well as sponsoring a strategic learning journey to India to study the commercialization of livestock products. Thereafter, Emebet was the first woman to apply for and receive a $100,000 innovation grant from USAID, which she used to expand her business. Emebet catalyzed major improvements by purchasing designated milk collecting cans for the farmers supplying her with milk. She used to reject up to to 200 liters of poor quality milk per day due to use of unhygienic containers but after her intervention, this has declined to roughly 20 liters. In addition, Emebet has been able to increase her processing capacity from 500 liters to 900 liters per day, an improvement that has brought her both profit and vision for future expansion.
“Before working with USAID, my business idea was to only supply cheese to my own pizza house. Today, I have a growing business with markets throughout the country. I know that my family’s livelihood improved and my income increased as a result of working with USAID.” Emebet now has several contracts to supply cheese. Additionally, nine months ago, she invested 200,000 birr and opened a new café serving cake, milk and juice. Her new venture allowed her to hire 10 more employees to join her already 50-strong staff.
Emebet has three daughters, 20, 18, and 12 years old. Her business is called Emebet & Her Children Milk and Milk Products Processing Plc.