Where can you find some of the DC Metro Area’s most interesting and innovative young entrepreneurs? If it’s a weekday evening in Takoma Park, probably at a Brewing Change campaign team meeting.
The Brewing Change campaign team has been convening throughout the summer, meeting every other Wednesday in Sara and Tebabu’s living room. The team will continue to meet regularly through the campaign launch date of September 22nd.
Meetings are energetic gatherings full of ideas, planning, compromising, organizing and lots of good food and guests! Meetings are open to the public and all who are interested in learning about Blessed Coffee, the campaign, and Virtuous Exchange are invited to attend.
Stefanos Ghebrehawariat and Dawit Kahsai were among the guests at the team’s most recent meeting. By day, Stefanos is a technology consultant and Dawit works on policy issues for AARP. But the two are also aspiring entrepreneurs—hoping to bring high quality, traditional Ethiopian spices to the American market.
Stefanos and Dawit were drawn to the campaign team meeting as a result of an earlier conversation with Tebabu. After learning about Blessed Coffee, they’d sought him out for a bit of sage advice on business start-up. But, after an hour and a half meeting with him, they realized that they were getting a whole lot more. “We started off the meeting wanting advice on how to launch a business, but we walked away with a vision,” confided Stefanos.
First, their business idea: Stefanos and Dawit plan to sell high quality Berbere and Shiro (two Ethiopian spices) online in the US. Berbere is a spice blend of red chili and garlic. Ethiopian celebrity chef Marcus Samuelson calls Berbere, “the most essential spice blend used in Ethiopian cuisine.” Shiro is also a blend and has as its main ingredient dried chickpeas.
According to Stefanos, it’s very difficult to get good Berbere and Shiro in the US because manufacturers are focused on the bottom line, not using high quality ingredients and processing with care. The Berbere that they will be selling uses Stefanos’ mom’s recipe.
Now, here’s their vision: The guys will connect gifted women spice producers in Ethiopia directly to hungry consumers in the US. Using the Virtuous Exchange model, Stefanos and Dawit are moving from what was formerly a brokerage relationship with the women spice makers to a partnership with more benefit sharing.
“At first, we just thought it was enough to meet demand. But, the Virtuous Exchange model tells us that’s not enough. We have to genuinely serve each of these communities–producers and consumers,” remarked Stefanos. Stefanos went on to say that he and Dawit are still figuring out how to bring consumers into the process in a meaningful way, but added that just thinking about it has been a rewarding exercise.
Others will soon have an opportunity to meet Stefanos and Dawit and learn more about Berbere and Shiro than any resident of the DMV has a right to know. They will have a tent at the 3rd Annual Ethiopian Festival in downtown Silver Spring on September 15th. Join them and help celebrate the launch of their new new e-commerce website, happening that day!
Interested in attending a Brewing Change campaign team meeting? Please contact Tebabu at firstname.lastname@example.org.