Young Ethiopian entrepreneur

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Young Ethiopian entrepreneur

Unread post by Ethiopians » 16 Sep 2009 21:27

Young Ethiopian entrepreneur
As Ethiopian immigrant Michael Abraha will tell you,
age doesn't matter to customers when you work hard and offer quality service
Glen Kirby

The sun is just peaking over the rooftops as Michael Abraha pedals his bike to work. He takes an extra half hour to drop business cards into mailboxes, hoping to spark calls from new customers. By 8 a.m. he's at the top of a 20-foot ladder, brush in hand, repainting a grand two-storey home nestled near the Assiniboine River in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Abraha owns and operates his own business, Beee Best Painting, which has been serving clients in one of the city’s richest neighbourhoods. Business has jumped more than 100 per cent in the last year, driven by word-of-mouth advertising and his business card marketing. He employs three other painters.

Not bad for a 17-year-old high school student with no car, no driver’s licence and broken English, who came to this country from a remote village in northern Ethiopia.

“All we know there is how to hunt and look after goats and all that village stuff. You come here and you have to have attitude. You have to be able to talk with people, talk with customers. This is a completely different life. It took me quite a while to adjust,” explains Abraha.

Born into the famine and civil war of Ethiopia, he left home at the age of 12, spending several years in Uganda as he was waiting to immigrate.

“It was hard for my mom,” he recalls. ”But she knew if I came here, my life would be better.”

Sponsored by his uncle, Abraha arrived in Canada in 2007 with his older sister and cousin. Settling in Winnipeg, he began high school and tried to find work.

“I support myself, the rent and food and everything.”

His first job applications were nerve-wracking and disheartening. “I applied at some fast-food restaurants. I was dripping sweat because it was my first job interview ever. They never called me back.”

Undeterred, Abraha asked a painter for a job after seeing a lawn sign at a freshly painted home. The painter said no. Michael called again. The painter relented and offered him one job, then another and another.

A year later the painter retired, turning over his customer contacts to Michael, who promptly set up his own company complete with business cards, liability insurance and employees. Here was Abraha, a 16-year-old hiring workers in their 20s.

“I’m not bossy at all. They see me as their friend. I don’t tell them do this or do that because some of them know better than me!”

What's next for the young entrepreneur? Abraha wants to build up his business; buy a ladder and a truck. “I want it to grow by doing a good job. In 10 years from now, I want to be able to say at least 90 per cent of all our customers are happy with the job.”

He is also saving for university. “Education is important,” he points out, “because it makes you a better person.” His older sister is enrolled in her first year of university, where she's taking global studies. Abraha is thinking about doing a law degree, which he could never achieve in Ethiopia.

“I would be a soldier or maybe a cowboy. Here, I have [the] chance to do anything I want.”

Late in the day after his crew has left, Abraha walks around the half-painted house, visualizing what will need to be done tomorrow. Hopping on his bike, he heads home, stopping along the way to distribute business cards into more mailboxes, keeping his business going.
Source:canadian immigrant
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