How Onion Sauce added extra spice to my life

Maheder Abebe is a client of MEDA’s EMERTA project in Ethiopia. She recently shared her story with Helal Ahsan-Ul-Haque, MEDA’s Sr. Director, ESCA Programs about how her journey to become a successful entrepreneur began with a simple question.

10 years ago after completing my master’s in business administration degree, I was thinking, “from where should I start my career journey?”

The beginning was interesting, I participated in a business plan competition and became one of the top 13 entrepreneurs. My business plan was unique, producing onion sauce.

I started a small factory with a business loan. My husband at that time was not supportive of this idea. He was expecting that I should do some corporate-level job, be well dressed, and have a nice office room. But I was adamant to build my own identity. That is the start of Maheder Foods, small but ambitious. It took me 10 years to have a strong footprint in this industry. I am now producing not only onion sauce but also Paprika powder, Shiro, onion powder, and expanding.

Above: Maheder Foods products

I had a dream to buy an automatic onion sauce cooker machine that will allow me to go for bulk production. I searched for different options but due to the pandemic and a political crisis, it looks like a shattered dream. But suddenly, I met with MEDA people, explained to them my business, and invited them to my factory. MEDA granted me 2.1 million to buy an automatic onion sauce cooker that can cook 350 litter sauces a day. This machine just arrived, and we are in process of installing it. I have 3 children and this machine is my 4th child. I am so happy to have this modern technology added to my factory.

I attended different trade fairs including the Berlin agriculture trade fair to promote my products. Everyone showed interest in my products but asked for certification which I didn’t have. Recently I got the FSCC22000, 5.1 version certification which is a robust, ISO-based, internationally accepted certification scheme for auditing and certification of food safety within the food and beverage manufacturing sector.

I am covering only the domestic market but planning to enter gradually to neighboring countries and then reach to an international market. Now it is time to further expand my business. I have already started talking to Ethiopian Airlines and some other big corporate houses to sell my products. I have opened 3 branches of my products. As of today, my total investment is about 11 M Birr ($212,000 USD) and my annual turnover is 4 m Birr ($77,000 USD). But with this machine and new branches, I am expecting to increase it to 10 m Birr ($193,000 USD) annually.

Above: Maheder with the Maheder Foods team

I don’t have any competitors in this market, I am the only entrepreneur. Though I am not afraid of competition, as an entrepreneur, I want to show a path for others. That will be my success. My simple motto is “Smile, keep silent, and work for success.”

To read more about how our other clients in Ethiopia are doing amazing things to lift themselves out of poverty, check out our Ethiopia page. Also, read more client success stories from around the world.

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