“Business Training I underwent at WISE helped me change the way I previously conducted my business activities, which was based on habit”

(taken from Let Me Narrate My Story Issue No. 148, July, 2017)

She says her parents educated her to pursue a career in business. She was born in 1970 in the town of Assab (Eritrea). Her parents were involved in the hotel business, obtaining a good income and thereby ensuring that their children were brought up properly. During the Ethio-Eritrean war of 1997/8, her family was forced to flee their country, ending up as refugees in the town of Adama in Oromia Region of Ethiopia. While her family members engaged in various business activities, Frewoini resumed her education. During her pursuit of a computer science course at an institute of higher learning, she was fortunate to get a job in an international organization operating in Gambella Region, and thus discontinued her education. She worked in the organization for 3 years and then returned to Adama. This is when Frewoini’s business activities commenced. She recounts what happened, as follows.

I left Adama for Addis Ababa in 2004, married my childhood friend and we jointly established a stationery where we also carried out other activities such as renting out videos, providing telephone services, and repairing electrical machines. The income obtained was sufficient for our daily needs. However, we had no idea which business activity was more profitable, as we lacked the relevant information and skills which could only be obtained through formal training or education. In 2007, I happened to overhear some of my friends talking about an organization called WISE. Although I was not all that keen, I nevertheless accompanied them to the organization, registered and undertook a 12-day training course in business skills, receiving an amount of 5 birr a day to cover transportation expenses. At the time I did not think that the training would impact very much on my business activities.

Discarding my previous business activities which were more-or-less based on traditional and day-to-day experience, I began to implement a planned business schedule or regimen. I previously had difficulty dealing with income and expenditure issues. All this changed after the training, which put my life on what I believed was the correct path. I began to pay proper attention to my work. After carrying out an informal market survey regarding the profitability of video renting, I took out a loan for this purpose, subsequently obtaining income which exceeded all expectations. I also purchased a computer. After working for a few years in the video rental business, I had the opportunity to be re-employed in my former international organization in Gambella. I realized that I needed to obtain some money to engage in various future business activities I had been planning for, and the monthly salary from the international agency was very good. I did not, however, cancel my membership in my cooperative. I had my sister take care of my business activities in my absence, instructing her to regularly pay the amount of savings required of me. I returned to Addis Ababa after 2 years and prepared to start a bakery, purchasing some required items. My husband was at first skeptical regarding the profitability of such a venture, but I managed to convince him otherwise. We then bought a baking machine and a dough mixer and began our activities in earnest. The bakery was very successful, bringing in very good income. While working on this activity I heard that WISE was in the process of organizing a “capital accumulation” competition, so I went to the organization’s office to register for the contest. After first receiving some orientation relating to the contest, I had the opportunity to compete and came third, winning prize money of 3000 birr. I should state here that the training I receive from WISE, I feel, was without parallel and changed the course of my life profoundly.

I recently opened a second bakery using money from my savings and with the loans I took out from my coopertive, and have recruited 6 workers. In addition to posting my monthly income figures in a ledger, I also post my daily income figures. Working hard and without regard to time has brought me to this successful point in my life. I would have gone broke if I had carried on with my way of doing business before I joined WISE. The training I undertook has formed the basis for my present, successful life. I now own 3 baking machines, 3 dough mixers and some other related machinery. I try to produce and sell clean and quality bread, taking into account the community’s ability to pay, as well as the type of bread required. At present I have thousands of birr in the bank, and there is no more thought of going broke!”.

(Frewoini takes care of her family using the proceeds from her 2 bakeries, both named “AMEN”. Her husband maintains full confidence in her and leaves all decision-making to her. Frewoini advises her employees to save money and establish their own business ventures, pointing to her own business experience. With this in mind, she and her employees have established an “Equb” (saving group), with Frewoini herself collecting money from members each month.

Frewoini plans to widen the scope of her activities to bake cakes and cookies to sell not just to her immediate community but also to the general public. She is looking into the idea of obtaining transportation facilities to help in selling her products far and wide. She stresses that women really do possess good administrative skills to engage in business activities, and ends her interview with the following observations).

It is not necessary for any women to be economically dependent. She can manage everything wisely and adeptly. All underprivileged women should break free from socio-economic constraints. The road to success is open to any women who is able to do away with fear and pressure. I am amazed to note that age does not prevent a woman from attaining success. I observed this during the capital accumulation competition where many of the contesting women were of advanced age, but they possessed untapped skills within them. Any of us should be willing to grasp and embrace knowledge and skills whenever possible. I wish to express my greatest appreciation and respect to WISE, whose training activities enabled me to save my dying business activities I had undertaken before joining the organization. I urge and invite all of you be become beneficiaries of WISE’s activities!”.

Frewoini Berhe
Alegnta Self Employed Women Saving and Credit Cooperative
Nifas Silk-Lafto Sub-city, Addis Ababa