Network of Lions – Kiersten DeHaven & Danielle Fiorino, GHD’19

On one of our recent field visits, we learned the meaning of being called a lion. In Ethiopia, a person is a lion if they are innovative, foreword thinking, and daring.  They represent strength and fortitude.  After reflecting on this, we recognize that many lionesses have touched our internship and allowed our summer to be so fulfilling.

Recently, we had the great pleasure of hosting Professor Holly Wise at Kidame Mart in Ethiopia. A true lioness in the social enterprise space, Professor Wise was able to give insights, advice, and endless positive energy to Kidame Mart. It’s not surprising that the founder of Kidame Mart, Shani Senbetta, and Professor Wise hit it off so well. Shani is well known in Addis Ababa as a lioness. Not only is she the founder of Kidame Mart, but she is also the COO of Zeleman, the largest marketing, advertising, and production firm in Ethiopia.  We should also note that she is a fellow Hoya.  If that weren’t enough, Shani has three kids under the age of four and makes time to continuously mentor us. Seeing Professor Wise and Shani generate ideas and insights on our field visit to Wolkete was quite inspiring. They interviewed our sales representatives reflecting on ways to best facilitate the growth of their sales and thus heighten impact for their families and communities.

Shani Senbetta and Henock Gezahegn present learnings to an audience of development and social enterprise experts
Shani Senbetta (Kidame Mart Founder and Hoya Alum) and Henock Gezahegn (Kidame Mart General Manager) present learnings from Kidame Mart to an audience of development and social enterprise experts

At the end of Professor Wise’s visit, we had the incredible opportunity to present Kidame Mart to the public. The presentation drew a full house from the social enterprise and development space.  Having the opportunity to work with our sister company, Zeleman, collaborating with the video production team, graphic designers, and IT specialists to tell the Kidame Mart story was a highlight of the internship.  This video is on display on our website, www.kidamemart.com.  For us, it was a great sense of achievement to present our summer’s work and highlight the progress Kidame Mart has made to change rural women’s lives. The presentation was a great success and has attracted many new partners. It is very exciting for us to interact with this growing network of lions interesting in investing in Kidame Mart’s future.

Professor Holy Wise talks with Ethiopia country director
Professor Holly Wise provides her expert insight on social enterprises to
Unilever Ethiopia country director, Tim Kleinebenne

Kidame Mart is fortunate to have a network working to empower our female entrepreneurs.  Having visited every site in which Kidame Mart operates across three regions of Ethiopia, we were constantly inspired by our women and recognize them as lionesses. Kidame Mart female entrepreneurs go door-to-door, selling from the markets and their own homes. They sell high impact products like Unilever soaps and fortified flour along with fast moving high quality consumer goods to which their communities lack access. These women join Kidame Mart because they have a growth mindset and entrepreneurial spirit to better their family’s lives. We talked to many inspiring female entrepreneurs, but one that stood out to us was Birtukan, our highest selling female entrepreneur. One of the reasons she is so successful is because of her supportive husband who helps her sell products door-to-door. In this moment, we realized that to become a lioness requires a network of support, and Birtukan is a shining example of what this kind of support can do for female entrepreneurs.

Kidame mart sales agent
One Kidame Mart sales agent was so successful selling Kidame Mart products, that she has purchased a sewing machine to expand her business to sell embroidery

After reflection, we recognized that the network of individuals we have worked with throughout our internship all stand as lions. Being surrounded by this network of people invested in improving rural women’s lives and thus their communities has been incredibly inspiring.  It is not surprising we have encountered so many lions during our summer work.  In our humble opinion, Ethiopia is one of the most exciting countries in recent world history.  The election of Prime Minister Abiy has ignited a fire of growth across the country.  Being in Ethiopia, the excitement is in the air as the Prime Minister has opened the country to foreign investment, made peace with Eritrea, and welcomed back political exiles. Ethiopia recognizes the Prime Minister as a lion, and his energy is contagious.  We could not have been more fortunate to work In Ethiopia at this time.  As we approach our last week working for Kidame Mart, it is difficult to leave this network of lions. Kidame Mart has an incredible team of powerhouses invested in the enterprise’s success and with this network, we believe as Kidame Mart scales up, it will be considered as lion across Ethiopia.