Salem is a delightful businesswoman in Addis who runs what would be considered a ‘boutique’ shop back in the States. It is full of handmade, one of a kind Ethiopian jewelry, scarves, blankets, cotton floor mats and other such items. She started with very little in 2000, working by herself from her home. In 2006 she officially decided to make her hobby a business and since then has been growing the business as opportunities present themselves. She now employs 12 workers directly, producing many of the items displayed onsite (including beaded jewelry, woven items: floor mats, table clothes, scarves). She also indirectly employs a substantial number of other crafts men and women by providing them a venue in which to sell and market their handmade goods (on commission, of course). She is in the process of determining what it will take to produce beads onsite and hopes to have this operation up and running by the end of the year.
Her shop is really quite incredible, as is the quality of the items displayed. It seems that if Salem was connected with the right person back in the states (ie, another boutique store owner who is in touch with this market) there would be demand for many of her products. Her store is not centrally located at all (in fact, it’s behind a gate very much off of the main road) and even still she says that 95% of her customers are Westerners who are simply knowledgeable of what they are buying and have sought out her store. Evidently, beads (which are what her jewelry is crafted from) have a rich history in Africa. Some of the beads were original known as ‘trade beads,’ intended for currency, and others are simply known for being from a specific area such as Uganda or Ethiopia. She also has beads originating from India, China, Italy and other countries, that have somehow found their way to Africa.
Jonathan Page and I will be working to establish a partner for her back in the States that would benefit from having such quality work in their shop. As I receive more details from Jonathan’s friend and others working on creating a market for these goods Stateside, I will post their information so anyone interested may place orders.