After working for Ethiopian Airlines for four years, earning $150 per month, Senai Wolderufael, a graduate of business administration, embarked on the journey of owning his company.
Whilst working for the national career, he observed several travelers with large bags of local dry food items and spices, and that triggered his dream of starting a spices and coffee plantation company.
Born and raised in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Wolderufael then 27 years established his company in the summer of 2012, but could only start in January of the following year.
“I have always wanted to be dependent on my own, to be the decision maker of my fate, ever since I was a small kid, I had that wish. When the time came and the opportunity presented itself, I decided to seize the moment and go for it,” Wolderufael said in a report.
Wolderufael noticed the demand from the Ethiopian diaspora for spices such as Shilo, Berbere and for traditional Ethiopian coffee. So he began exporting Ethiopian produce to diaspora communities mainly in the US and Europe.
Along with his business partner, Eyob Weldegabriel, he got an export business license to start Feed Green Ethiopia and began delivering these items to Ethiopian diasporas.
Feed Green Ethiopia has expanded to new markets across Africa, and the most intriguing thing is that his company is fully staffed by women.
In his quest to alleviate poverty and see development in his home country, he has chosen to provide job opportunities for women comprising mainly single mothers and women from poor backgrounds who are often excluded from the job market.
According to the World Bank, youth account for 60 percent of all unemployed people on the continent, with young women bearing the sting of unemployment as young men are favoured for jobs.
Rather than acceding to fears of these statistics, Wolderufael has taken the entrepreneurship route, turning problems that he has encountered in his community into a solution-orientated business.
“We started with a capital of $2,000 and in just one year, we brought more than $100, 000 into the country,” he said.
Explaining Feed Green Ethiopia’s production process in an interview, Wolderufael said they process and export Ethiopian spice blends and other staples with added value such that they are ready for consumption immediately.
The company carries out production at two of its production facilities in Addis Ababa for its dry food items. However, it gets supplies of spices directly from farmers.
Its range of spices includes Berbere, Mitmita, Kundo Berbere, Mitten Shero, Tikur Azmud, Netch Azmude, Korerima, Netch Shinkurt, Tibs Kitel, amongst others.
“We collect the spices and then process them further – we wash them, dry them, inspect them by hand, and then we pack them,” he said.
Today his company, ‘Feed Green Ethiopia Exports’ plc (FGE) exports popular Ethiopian spice blends and does a number of charitable works already.
In 2014, Wolderufael made Forbes’ list of Top 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa. He was one of the 100 Most Positively Inspiring African Youths of 2017 and also a YALI 2017 fellow and a Mandella Fellow.
With Ethiopian coffee considered to be some of the best coffee in the world thanks to its high altitude growing condition, Wolderufael wants to position Feed Green Ethiopia to become one of the foremost food companies on the continent through their three projects: international spices, Ethiopian processed food products and now coffee.