Most successful Africans entrepreneur always have a background story to tell of when they were of little age and how they started as an entrepreneur at a very young age. Addis Alemayehou, the CEO of 212 communications, a top PR and communications firm based in Ethiopia and with several media and production stations. Addis Alemayehou is very dogged with a strong drive for success in his business venture started making money at a very young age from veggies at the back of his family house.
In an interview Addis Alemayehou shares insight about his business venture, encounters and journey so far;
Q: How did you venture into entrepreneurship?
During a visit to see my family, it exposed me to the vast opportunity there, i though about how much i can contribute to my nation and that led to the beginning of my journey.
The war between Ethiopia and Eretria was just coming to an end and the conomy at the time was in shables. I saw the need for goods an services and my first business venture was starting the 1st English Speaking FM Radio station in Addis Ababa. This happened when i lost my Ipod which i use to lisen to songs and keep me together, that is when i realised that the radio stations don’t do justice.
Doing a bit of research, I realized that there were thousands of people in a similar dilemma that lived in the city but did not speak the local language and so were left out. That was the start of my first venture. A good business is always one that finds a need in society and fills that void for a fee.
Q: While growing up did you think you would go into entrepreneurship?
Growing up in Nairobi, Kenya gave me the ability to recognize opportunities when i come in contact with one. I have always have a heart for business, not necessarily knowing as a good but i realized as grew older.
Q: Tell us a bit about your professional background and 251 Communications?
251 communications is a six years business venture in PR and communications company established to bridge the gap in the marketing space in Ethiopia. The company was established as some major breweries were coming into the country for the first time. The first client for the company was Heineken as our first client where they took a chance in us. I told them, “We’re only a start up but if you give us a chance, we’ll prove to you that we can deliver” and lucky for us the management at that time did.
From the Heineken deal, it became easier to get other brand to use our services without too much persuasion as the staff grew from 3 to over 50 in a number of years and expanded into production and media as well as venture into South Africa in PR as well as Communications.
Before 251, I was managing a USAID Trade project supporting Ethiopian firms export to the US under AGOA. The USAID post gave me an early lesson into how the country worked and the key challenges faced by the local private sector.
Q: What has had the biggest impact in your career?
My career has been impacted by people around me, friends, family, colleagues, the ordinary Joe, meeting them, talking to them, and learning from them. My failures have also had the most impact in my life and my career since without failing I would not be able to learn.
I don’t think there is any business that originates with it’s own blueprint, there are challenges and lessons learnt during the whole business process. The one thing that I tell my employees is that I expect them to make mistakes, if they don’t make mistakes then they are not really taking chances and pushing themselves. Just don’t make the same mistake twice is my mantra.
Q: Are entrepreneurs born or made?
I would dare to say entrepreneurs are born not made. Entrepreneurs are forged through hardships and through the wanting of a better life or a better world. Entrepreneurs get their fuel from the people around them. An entrepreneur has to be willing to work hard, learn and develop to succeed. He must be an optimist, sees the light where everyone else sees darkness.
Q: In your own opinion, what traits define a successful entrepreneur?
The right words to qualify a successful entrepreneur would be passion and commitment. An entrepreneur should be willing to learn from others, be a risk taker.
I know people with great ideas that never saw daylight because they didn’t take the right steps and sacrifices to actualize those ideas. Not everyone can handle the stress of not knowing and the pain that failing brings.
Q: How a typical work day like?
Usually i shuffle between work and family, dropping my kids off to school and that’s most times the only time I have with them in the day then rush to work for my manage mt business venture. It starts with a brief meeting with my management team to go over the key deliverable for the day and any major issues.
The rest of my day is spent at various meetings handling and or giving direction on different aspects of the business. At the moment, I have over six new start up’s that I’m overseeing at various stages of growth and thus most of my time is spent on strategy towards giving my team the tools and ideas to take our company to the next level.
Q: What piece of advice would you give to entrepreneurs aspiring success in their business venture?
work hard and equally work smart. There are a lot of business venture opportunities in Africa, with commitment nothing would hold you back from success. Being an African is awesome an if i was to come back to this world, I would want to come back as an African since NO OTHER place on earth offers the opportunity and the dynamics that Africa offers.
Africa is in line to shine and our generation of African people is at the cusp of History on the continent. We have lot of opportunities to do remarkable things in our continent and for he continent.