Look for RENEW’s latest Impact Report next week! This year, we’ll explore what it was like for our investors, entrepreneurs and our team to stand our ground during the pandemic in East Africa. The report will feature key statistics and amazing photos and stories from our work in East Africa.
In anticipation of the Impact Report, we wanted to share the story of one entrepreneur who more than stood his ground in 2020. Meet Tsega Wubishet (aka Gigi) of Effoi Pizza. Effoi Pizza, a bustling pizza operation in Addis Ababa, now includes 6 branches and more than 190 employees. Gigi previously participated in RENEW’s Exec’s Program, which is how we came to know and love him. So sit back, relax and enjoy how Gigi describes in his own words what it was like to stand his ground and grow his company in 2020.
How did you and your company experience the pandemic?
By March 2020, Ethiopia recorded it’s first COVID-19 patient and everyone was washing [their] hands, and all the necessary actions were being taken.
At Effoi, we initially decided to close in-restaurant dining. By observing the precautions, we continued with takeaway and pizza delivery. The government passed laws requiring clubs and bars to close, but restaurants could stay open at half capacity, with 3 people at a table. We followed instructions and business was back. With the rules, we still managed to pull through that period, mostly with delivery.
As an entrepreneur, the one thing I learned is that nothing is certain. We can have 1 year, 5 year strategy, but that is something we keep in our heads and if that doesn’t work, you have to adapt. As long as you have a growth mindset in your head, you come up with new ways to get things done. It was actually good for my business. It [the pandemic] helped me think a lot.
Are you familiar with the phrase “Standing Ground”? What does it mean to you as an entrepreneur?
Standing ground was actually something I was contemplating in 2020 as I was working on our Entoto project because I was working among trees. It’s a matter of having deep roots in the community. Also as you grow, you have to fortify your system, thicken your trunk, then you can weather the storm. You always sway. That’s why a tree doesn’t break. When you do that, you can consider yourself standing ground. But a tree cannot be healthy by itself, you need to support the entire ecosystem. You cannot stand on your own. You have to support others around you. That tree provides service to the community.
Note: Entoto Mountain overlooks Addis and has recently been remade into a beautiful, tree filled recreational area where visitors can take a long hike on a paved bike path and enjoy some of Ethiopia’s best brands, including Effoi Pizza.
What is the current state of your business?
Business is higher by 50% [compared to] pre-pandemic. We are used to seeing improvements on a weekly and daily basis. We are always breaking records, which means we are always improving. Pandemic slowed down our improvements, but now we are back, and we are breaking records.
As you look forward, further into 2021, and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, what dreams and visions do you now have for your business growth?
In the coming 5 years, life will continue. The vaccine will help with that. For Ethiopia, once the vulnerable portion of the society is vaccinated, the cases will go down. This will continue and we will go back to normal. And the young people will always want to go out and dine and enjoy.
What did you take away from RENEW’s Exec’s Program?
I am grateful to have attended [The Exec’s Program]. I now know how Effoi can and should grow. I may not have had the time to sit and implement everything we were taught, but I now know what is needed.
Make sure to check out our Impact Report which will feature more stories of resilience in East Africa.
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.