After a decade in business, Dinkinesh had little to show for her efforts. For over ten years she’d owned and operated a café from her house in Yirga Chefe, a small town in central Ethiopia. Like nearly 33% of Ethiopian businesses, Dinkinesh’s café was in the informal sector, neither taxed nor monitored by the government.
Despite her years of work, Dinkinesh’s business was unable to substantially provide for her family of seven. With a husband, four young children, and a close relative to provide for, she knew her situation wasn’t sustainable.
Something needed to change if she was going to be able to provide a better future for her children.
A Community to Rely On
Fortunately, Dinkinesh wasn’t alone. She met weekly in a women’s self-help group organized by a partner of Partners Worldwide, Tearfund. Unable to access traditional financial institutions, members of the group pooled their savings to provide for each other during hard times.
Desiring to further empower these women, the partnership sought ways to provide business training and further access to capital. One of these ways is facilitating business training using Partner’s Worldwide microenterprise curriculum. Through the program, Dinkinesh graduated from the PW microenterprise training course. What she learned changed her life.
Using Her New Skills to Meet the Needs of Her Customers
Upon completing the PW training, Dinkinesh began to think big. Business as usual wasn’t going to cut it.
Dinkinesh realized that by meeting the needs of her clientele, she could grow her business. She began to interview her customers, asking them if they were satisfied with the service she was providing and what suggestions they had for her.
After expressing their praise for the café’s warm atmosphere and delicious beverages, Dinkinesh’s customers recommended two things. First, they suggested that she start selling food. Doing so would enable them to stay longer at the café instead of leaving after their drinks to eat elsewhere. Second, they advised her to install restrooms. Public facilities weren’t commonplace in the rural village, and by offering toilets, she could further distinguish her business.
Determined, Dinkinesh began to implement her customers’ recommendations. Understanding that most of her clientele had low incomes, she started baking and selling homemade breads, food which would be in their price range. Seemingly overnight, the number of customers at her café increased. They also began to leave tips for Dinkinesh as a way of saying thanks. Using her profits, Dinkinesh built the restroom her clients suggested.
Dinkinesh’s dreams don’t stop there.
She plans on hiring an employee and renting a bigger space to further expand her business. Doing so will require a loan from a financial institution. Before completing microenterprise training, Dinkinesh wasn’t comfortable taking such a risk. Now she is confident she can pay back the loan because she knows how to run a business. Taking out a loan will require an official business license, but with the combined strength of her self-help group, the Partners Worldwide network, and her own determination, Dinkinesh has all the support she needs.