How One Ethiopian Entrepreneur Jumps Barriers and Builds Bridges Wherever She Goes…

Debritu Mogese is an Ethiopian entrepreneur that lives and works in the Netherlands. She sometimes works with IOM Netherlands to connect the Ethiopian community with CD4D, thus contributing to the development of her country of origin. She is currently participating on establishing an Ethiopian Foundation, bringing together Ethiopian professionals living in the Netherlands.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I arrived in the Netherlands for what seems like a lifetime, almost thirty years! When I first moved to this country, my life was family orientated. Prior to my life in the Netherlands, I was working for ILO Addis Ababa and later for Ethiopian Delegation office in the UNESCO Paris. Once in the Netherlands I was a stay-at-home mum to start off. As my children started going to school, I created an importing business. I started importing Ethiopian products and distributed them to shops and restaurants. Office hours were from 9h to 15h, the same hours my children were at school.

The products were often arts and crafts and food. This is what I knew from my life in Ethiopia but it was interesting for me to bring these products to the Netherlands. To bring Ethiopian culture to the Netherlands.

I did this for 10 years and then decided to focus on one unique product: coffee. This is how Meleya Coffee Brand started. I lacked the know-how and marketing skills to enter the market properly, however, then I met Guido Van Staveren van Dijk, the Founder of Moyee coffee. I am part of the five founding founders of Moyee Coffee.

Guido has a background in corporate finance compensating for the skills I lacked. Having started Meleya, I had three years of experience in the coffee market and together we started a strong brand. Compensating each other's gap in knowledge and skills. Moyee is the world’s first fair chain coffee company in which Ethiopia and Europe share 50% of the returns respectively.

In my spare-time, I also organize trade missions to engage/invest in African companies – matching networks and institutions together. Therefore supporting other companies to do the same as Moyee.

What drives you?

My origin plays a ninety percent role in my motivation. Meleya means identity.

People don't know Ethiopia, to be understood we need to explain who we are, how we live. The easiest for me is to ring out my culture, show people the products we use, we eat. I try communicate what it means to be Ethiopian and hope that we learn from each other. Many Ethiopian products are interesting for Europe, not just coffee.

In the future, I’d like to succeed in promoting other products like Sesame, teff (gluten-free) and turmeric. Ethiopia has a lot to offer the Netherlands and vice-versa.

What are your hopes for the future?

When I first moved to the Netherlands, I faced many barriers, the weather, the language… but wherever you go there is a barrier. I learned how to jump barrier and it is not hard to jump barriers. In two years, I will be moving to France for my husband’s retirement. I hope to do same in France, as I achieved in the Netherlands. That is bringing people together and building bridges between Ethiopia and Europe