2013 Africa Braintrust

Africa Braintrust Panel

Representative Karen Bass and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation hosted the 2013 Africa Braintrust on Friday, September 21st.  The event was held at the Washington Convention Center and had as its theme, “50 Years of Unity and a Future of Progress.”

Tebabu was part of an afternoon panel discussion entitled, "African Diaspora:  Untapped Engine."  Other esteemed panelists included:   Reginald Maynor, Director International Sales, Luster Products Inc.; Kendal Tyre, Partner, Nixon Peabody; and Julie Ndjee,  VP Sales and Marketing, Neilly's Foods LLC.

The panel was moderated by Semhar Araia, Executive Director of the Diaspora African Women’s Network.  Ms. Araia opened the discussion with these remarks:  “The African Diaspora totals approximately 150 million people in the Americas.  With over $40 billion in purchasing power, the Diaspora, if properly leveraged, can have a significant and transformative effect on the growth of economies and local communities throughout the continent.  Today’s panel provides tangible examples of this transformative effect and is another example of the driving force behind Africa’s rise.”

For his part, Tebabu talked about the Virtuous Exchange business model, the personal story behind the model, and the exciting possibilities for, “changing the international narrative,” as it relates to trade. 

Please watch the video below to hear the full panel discussion.


Brewing Change at the 3rd Annual Ethiopian Festival

Coffee Ceremony Crowd Shot Blessed Coffee and members of the Brewing Change campaign team were among the more than 40 vendors at the 3rd Annual Ethiopian Festival held this past Saturday at Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring.

The Festival slogan, “Celebrating diversity—promoting the joy of unity,” could be experienced everywhere at the event.  Festival attendees from near and far enjoyed Ethiopian food, shopped for arts and crafts, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of Ethiopian performers.

Mannequin Kimberly and Gretchen Blessed Coffee’s tent was a popular destination.  A steady rotation of volunteers sold traditional and iced coffees as well as Blessed Coffee gift cards.  Seats were always filled for the coffee ceremonies that were held throughout the day. 

Multicultura Kids Statues Brewing Change campaign team members were at the event, in force.  They staffed a Brewing Change tent that was set up café style to promote conversation.  Team members answered questions about Blessed Coffee and the campaign.  They also managed to make time to sell specially designed “Ethiopia” t-shirts.

Family Lady in RedOf course, there were many people from the Ethiopian diaspora at the Festival.  But, downtown Silver Spring really embraced the event as well.  Many local leaders as well as individuals and families from the surrounding neighborhoods also came out to enjoy the culture and diversity.     

Mehbrahtu and Yared T-ShirtsPerhaps Dana Beyer of Progressive Neighbors Montgomery summed up the significance of the event best:  “This Festival represents what Silver Spring and Montgomery County have now become—people from all over the world are coming here and our community is being enriched by it.  . . .  Blessed Coffee and this Festival are part of the new way forward for a progressive economy.”    


Age-Old Ethiopian Spices, Offered in a New Way


Tebabu, Sara, Dawit, Stefanos


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 tebabu@blessedcoffee.us.