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Ethiopia and the Entrepreneurial Dream

By Lulit Negash | Tue Jan 26 2016
The latest installment in our Q&A series with the employees of RENEW’s portfolio companies takes a closer look at the entrepreneur who is behind the Impact Angel Network’s sixth investment in East Africa - an Ethiopian food and beverage company.
Isaias Lemma was born in Addis Ababa and has lived in this city for almost his entire life, except for a brief interlude in London during his college years. Isaias sat down with me to talk about how his experiences and education to date have inspired him to pursue his dreams of running his own business in Ethiopia.
When you were a child, what did you dream of doing for work or as a career, and how did this influence your decision to become an entrepreneur?

As a child, I was always guided to follow the conventional career routes (like doctor, engineer, etc.) However, I was always fascinated by the entrepreneurial history of my grandfather and the transformation of my parents (particularly my mother) from professionals to business people. The accomplishments gained from creating a business from inception to fruition, the creation of job opportunities at different ranges and the freedom to make my own decisions are the main reasons I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship.
What education and/or training have you received to date, and how has it helped you with your career?

I have an MBA and have taken several entrepreneurial and management courses. My education has helped me to view business in a structural and conceptual method and that my business needs to be developed through a standardized system. Some of my trainings have also helped me understand my stakeholders and my environment more intimately.
Could you provide the background story of your family’s company - The Twins PLC?

The Twins PLC started as a small business and has grown into a medium-sized business consortium in Ethiopia. It started with a small children’s shop and had expanded into the supermarket business, import and distribution, and now has a paper production factory. Our steady growth in the business environment has helped us become a successful production and distribution business here in Ethiopia, with a significant market share in our selected business sectors.
As an entrepreneur, what inspired you to go out and create an entirely new business venture?

It is evident that Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa and that growth is creating a society with increasing disposable income. The manufacturing business environment here is at an infant stage and most products are imported. Thus, I am constantly inspired to create quality products that add value to raw materials available here and reduce the dependency on imported goods. Additionally, I believe through a new venture we can create jobs for the youth and directly contribute to the growth of the nation.
What is your new Ethiopian Food and Beverage Company trying to achieve at the local, regional and international levels?

My new business venture will focus on the production of food and beverage products. We will aspire to produce superior products for the local market, with potential growth in the East African region. Gradually, we would like our new business venture to become the leading fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) products company in Ethiopia and Africa.
What will your new role be at the Ethiopian Food and Beverage Company? And, what life experiences have prepared you to take on this new role?

I will be the General Manager of the company and will be managing the overall business, and guiding the company to achieve its goals and objectives. Since this project was one of my ambitions, I believe I have the passion, drive and experience to achieve the success I had envisioned.
Why do you feel that the Ethiopian Food and Beverage Company will be a successful business venture?

My family’s prior experience at The Twins PLC in importing related products, our current experience in the manufacturing process, our efficient distribution network, our close relationship with large and small local distributors and strategy to produce superior products gives me the confidence that our business venture will be successful.
What do you hope to accomplish in partnering with RENEW LLC and working with members of the Impact Angel Network (IAN)?

By partnering with RENEW LLC and the IAN, we hope to gradually grow our business and accomplish our goal of becoming one of the leading FMCG producing companies in Ethiopia. We also seek to vertically integrate into the supply chain to source our own raw materials through local farms, diversify into other products beyond the food and beverage industry sector, achieve major market share with our products, and export our products to neighboring African countries. With our experience in the local business environment and IAN’s support we believe we will accomplish these goals.
Renew Capital is an Africa-focused impact investment firm that backs innovative companies with high-growth potential. Renew Capital manages investments made on behalf of the Renew Capital Angels, a global network of angel investors, foundations and family offices who seek financial returns and sustainable social impact. For the latest on investing in Africa, subscribe and follow us at our social links below.

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