Respondents’ Stories Shared by the Field Team: 23 July 2021 – 01 August 2021

posted in: SFD Blogs - Ethiopia | 0
ET 437: This firm is owned by a family and the respondent is her husband. The firm owner had negative thoughts on all NGOs and research institutes, but she has started showing a behavioral change gradually since the SFD project study started, with the intension to know the SFD project study’s final result. Now, she is gradually showing commitment for this research study, she has started to record by herself. She was the one interviewed on the Record Keeping Survey.
This family had once opened an Infant food complex business a decade ago which got closed as a result of other firms being opened around it which eventually polluted the infant food production. 
Then she started “Baltena” (spices and food preparation) because she understood that there was no other small or medium firm in Dire Dawa working on this sector at the time. Mostly, these spices were brought from Addis Ababa. 
The society do not have trust for products made inside our country, especially for Dire Dawa products whatever best quality it has, hence she worked a lot to breakthrough in promoting her firm products and she became successful. 
Side by side, she started producing detergents for sale to support her family to cover up consumption and other household expenses so that she doesn’t get to take money out of the “Baltina” business. 
In the long run she plans to upgrade the firm to a wholesale level. But, she is not transparent on some accounts she has and money transactions.
ET977:This firm is one of my respondent, age 55 and who is engaged in leather shoes production works since 2015 G.C. He started this business 6 years ago by being 6 co-owners. They produce different types of leather shoes which are suitable for all ages in the society.
Once in a while, different customers might visit their place to buy their items but mostly they take their products to traders for sell. They have signed a year contract with Hello-Cash market and they sell their products to them and receive their deposit through “Anbessa” Bank. Afterward, Hello-Cash sell the commodity through online market.
Additionally, they participate in different kinds of holiday festivals (“Bazar”) at least 4 or 5 times annually so as to promote and sell their products.
My respondent has a desire to improve and enlarge their business activity thus had asked for loan money. However, they found the process to be very hard, long and complicated in order to borrow. Still, they are making themselves very busy and working hard everyday so as to be satisfied and reach their future goals.
ET358: I have written about this firm before, but now I want to add some of my observations and what I think will enhance our understanding of the firm.
When I arrived there this week, all the staff members were busy by producing beautiful cabinets, beds and shelves. My respondent greeted me with a big smile and I asked him “you are doing a lot, so do you have a special order for this week?”. He said, “No, we have no orders, but we are working to ensure that no workers are laid off and dispersed. On the other hand, it is to grow our product and business. My wife and I have been married for 18 years but we have no children and if I buy a taxi and give it to a driver, it will bring me enough income for my family. But this job will help me create jobs for other citizens. There are two people who have trained with me before and started their own business. I still don’t want an employee to stay with me for more than two years. But they don’t work hard. I try to set an example for them at work, but they often waste their time and money by chewing “khat” (leaves that are chewed for stimulation).” 
What I have mentioned in this firm and what I mention as their weaknesses is their record keeping. They do not keep track of income and expenses. They don’t try to record as much income and express as they try to produce there products. I also encourage them to pay attention for record keeping.
ET316: is one of our respondent which engaged in their own tailor business with her husband. She is 23 years old and a mother of one child. Previously, they stopped working in the middle for almost two months. However, they have reopened it with the intention of starting to fix things again.
She was born in “Mendida”, and after finishing elementary school, she did not pass the 10th grade, so she went to a place called “Meda Welabo” and went to college to study computer science. As soon as she finished it, she went to a place called “IKA” and worked on a machine for two years, but the work was exhausting so she left. She could not find a job immediately, so she stayed home for three months without working. But then, with the help of her friend, she got information that a female manager was needed in a sewing business, and she got in and started working there. When she started this work, many things challenged her. At some point, for some unknown reason, all the staff left and the house was closed indefinitely. This had a huge impact on her and her work, and it was a holiday season at the time and she has suffered a lot.
She got married after working for about a year. Her husband is the owner of the sewing house. It’s been 3 years since they started working together. What is often difficult at work is the fact that the work is seasonal and most importantly, the current situation in our country that has led to its closure in the past. This is because most of the time they used to work in various destinations outside of Addis Ababa, but now due to the problem, the road is often closed and the work is not good, so they were forced to stop in the past.
But now they are just starting out. In terms of the New Year, they are not only keeping the order as before, but they are also working in large quantities because Ethiopia has many cultures, one of which is our holiday dress. So they are preparing now for the festival, saying that there will be a good sale.
ET935: is one of my respondents, which has been involved in handicrafts. He is 36 years old and the father of two children. He started his work in 2021 G.C. Before starting his own business, he was hired by someone else. He developed his skills from his work. After saving some money, he started his own business and created jobs for others. He makes various statues, foundation stones, and tombstones. But he doesn’t have his own (private) work place, he told me that renting would have a greater impact on his work. Sometimes, I lose customers when I move or change work place. It takes time to find new customers and influences my work and keeps me unmotivated. He told me that the goal was to expand the business by adding new businesses, but he said that he could not afford to buy a typewriter machine to make the job easier.
History of a respondent who owns a metal work business with ID Number ET535: 
This respondent is engaged for more than ten years in this Metal work business and has willingness and interest for sharing information. For this respondent, individual customers do not take that much significant both in number and order amount. The trend in the past is that during summer, metal work business becomes sluggish. His customers are mainly government organizations and private limited companies, as a result summer is not good for him due to that this month is a closing period for the fiscal year 2020/21. Bids are not frequently open during summer. Lack of specification i.e. telling quality and price threshold (limit) is also another hindrance and a means for embezzlement by Procurement Departments of government and private organizations.
This respondent prefers to use profit maximization through being loyal and making quality products with relatively high price rather than cost minimization ( make products using less qualified raw materials). But he allows customers to choose what they want.
Major obstacles he is facing now includes: no bids at all which is aggravated by the closing period for the fiscal year 2020/21, non existence of some raw materials which is dangerous for his reputation as he agreed to work beforehand, lack of transparency in bid results as well as organizations that invite for biding not specifying the price and quality threshold, electricity problem also raised as a major constraint for their business since they may employ workers on a daily basis without considering how much he or she works even if they also make contract employment weekly and when they are unable to work due to electricity absence, and the problem of inflation particularly on raw materials used to make metal works.
The story we are going to share today is about our hard worker respondent ET391, who is working on woodwork business. He is 32 years old and a father of two children. He was born in “Metu”, where he studied for a while and then moved to Addis Ababa to live with his family, later completed his education in Addis Ababa. After graduating, he was forced to leave the country due to unexpected political reasons. He has traveled to many places, such as Tanzania, Kenya, Djibouti and others. He saw so many problems during his time there, going out to the city itself was long and difficult at that time for him. After three years and eight months in such a difficult situation, he returned to Ethiopia and spent two months in “Meakelawi” Prison for suspicion of conspiracy to a criminal act. Until then, his family had no idea where he was. When things got tough, he sent someone he knew there to let his family know. It was then that charges were filed against him, but for two years and eight months without a decision by appointment alone. After many appointments, he was sentenced to 6 years and appealed for 4 years. 
While in prison, he learned many things, including his skills. He was able to choose and learn what he wanted, but our respondent was interested in seeing his older brother doing some things in his hometown while he was in his hometown, so he chose a carpenter here. He was able to get to know a lot of people because there were so many different people entering the prison from time to time. One of them was a man who had been imprisoned for 8 months and had a lot of work and a lot of big jobs. The man had his own carpentry house before he went to prison, and after he entered he was also the supervisor and trainer of the inmates there. Our respondent also had this opportunity and the good behavior he showed from the moment he entered was the reason for their good communication. He learned many things from him, but then the man’s imprisonment time was short, and he promised to work with him as soon as he was released. After spending 4 years there, he was released in 2003 and spent only a few days with his family, he made many plans, so he went straight to the man and started working.
Everyone was happy because he was diligent in his work and after a while he got a better job and gained a lot of experience by changing to different carpentry houses. While he was working on the third house, he discussed with his friend who has his own furniture selling shop to start his own business. Then first he organized himself by storing and buying all needed materials, machine and instrument for wood work before he resigned from his regular job. When it was time to start, he quit his job and started renting a small house. At that moment their main challenge was that the working place was not that much enough and not easily visible for customers. So he decided to apply to “kebele” (government office) to get better and good enough working place for wood work. After a long wait, he was given the house where he is now working and is doing well with his brother. Currently he provides job opportunity for about 5 employees permanently and 6 piece rated workers. What he shares to us is that he believed whether life is bad or good, the experience is useful for the next move of our living journey. Now he is satisfied because he is glad for being a reason for some youth having a job. His plan is to expand his business and providing more job opportunities. Also, he told us he ordered a big wood machine from china and it is on cargo and will arrive after a couple of months.
ET677 owns a carpentry firm at “Kotebe” in Addis Ababa. After he finished his secondary school, he got employed in a small carpentry place. While he was hired at this small firm, he learnt how to make wood furniture. Then, he got premises from the government and opened his own business. When he started the business, he hired one of his friend and he has been working with him for seven years. Then, his employee opened his own small carpentry. ET677 is very happy for him and still they are friends. Then after, he hired two new employees.  
The current market fluctuation put ET677 in a dilemma, i.e. either to expand the business or to switch the business. Whenever he sees the demand for his product improving, he wants to expand his business by using his maximum potential. On the other hand, when the demand for his product decreases, he thinks to switch the business to a  more profitable business. Regardless of the fact that he is facing many challenges, he is hopeful abut the future.
Today let me share the story of a respondent with firm ID ET467. This respondent was married and has one child. He is engaged on a carpentry work. Before establishing his own business, he was employed in one carpentry workshop working for 5 years. It was 4 years since he had established his own business. As I understood from the tone of his voice, he has a big problem of controlling his transaction. After he has became a respondent of the SFD project and understood the aim of it, he had  welcomed the study and hopefully accepted the study. Since then, he is very eager to learn every thing that help him to change the way he used to manage his business. After I explained to him how to register his transaction, this man who had no idea and experience of recording business transaction previously became an expert in controlling his daily expenses and profits. Before joining SFD, he borrowed raw materials from suppliers and producing materials. But now, since be learned different types of savings, he is directly buying raw materials in cash. He is also engaging in bidding, winning, producing different products and delivering for different organizations. Since then, he prohibited himself from having unnecessary expenses and managing his business transactions in a way that can transform in to a higher business in the near future.
ID ET-662 (Dairy Firm): This firm is registered by the wife’s name, but the respondent is the husband. He was a merchant for slaughtered/meat livestock and one day he unknowingly bought a pregnant cow. One of his friends suggested to him to give it to his wife and rear it; that’s how the business started and lately expanded. At that time he bought the cow by 4000 ETB, then after, by rearing and purchasing additional livestock, the business expanded.
Since the livestock rearing area was a residential area, opposition arose from the residents because of the smell and lack of a drainage system to avoid the manure. For that reason they changed the dairy firm location from their residential area to a remote area which is located at the border of Dire Dawa town. This location was suitable and they also had many plants in addition to livestock rearing. 
The family was pleased by their business type. The dairy firm produces around 140 litters of milk daily. Even though, they are producing this much amount of milk per a day, they expect to get more. They are facing a challenge as a result of the cost of inputs to feed the livestock. They have sufficient amount of clients to buy the products from them. Currently the husband is controlling the business work because the wife has just delivered a baby.
ET196_Metal Work: This Respondent is 40 years old, a hard worker, married  and has 4 children. He graduated with a degree in auto mechanics, and immediately after graduation, he began to work in a metal work place. After some work, he bought some machines with the money he had saved and started his own current business in 2005 G.C on the outskirts of the city.
Since then, more machines have been purchased and the workplace has been expanded to include cafes and restaurants. But he wants to grow and expand his metal work business. Currently, the work is not profitable; the prices for raw materials are risings sharply and so is utility expense. So if he earns between 20000 – 25000 birr per month, he will pay 12,000 birr for 2 employees’ salary, and then there is very little money left after paying for utility expense.
He is particularly concerned about the unlimited increase in the price of raw material. This is very harmful for him; for instance, the price that he agreed to do a work with a customer gets higher than what he agreed in the first place, this will affect his income and that is making him very upset. Still, he did not give up and search for something new. Recently he was trying to produce dry soap while reading online about it. He was also thinking about how to protect his metal work from getting into a bankruptcy.
ET676: Business sector: Husking, grinding agricultural processing. This small firm business is found at “Mojo”. The owner of this business does not live at Mojo and the business is managed by his employee who is working as a Supervisor – production. So my respondent is his employee. My respondent’s age is 30, married and has 2 children. He was employed in this business 10 years ago and he was working as worker-production. Now his is managing the business. This business has only business cash Account. So he uses income and expense transaction from this account. Weekly, he reports the transaction to the owner and transfer the income he got in cash to the owner. He is managing this business as the owner. He tries to face all the challenges he got with out participating the owner of the business .
Story of ET653: Business sector: A – Carpentry LM:
This business owner is one of my respondents who is engaged in a wood work. He is 38 years old, married and has 3 children. He started this business six years before. He produces home and office furniture. The sell point and production work shop is found at the same location. Until March, 2020 many customers used to come to his business and he has been busy with customers’ orders. But last year in March, 2020 he got a car accident and he has been in a hospital for four months due to this accident. During this time his workers were working customers’ orders but after recovering from the accident, when he returned to his business, he didn’t find his business like before. He has lost his customers and some of his working tools were stolen. But he never gave up with this problem, he suspended his employees and started to work like before. But it didn’t became to be like before, he has lost many of his customers. Currently, very few customers come to his business. During our discussions, he has told me sadly that his business is at risk. He has told me that there are three basic problems that are challenging him now;
1. First one is his health condition; his head has a problem and he needs surgery
2. Second one is, he has no good employees who can help him now
3. Third one is, he has very few customers. 
Starting for the10th – 15th, his workshop is open always but has no customers’ orders and business transaction is zero.
ET 253 – is a private school sector, who is working on kindergarten business. She is 45 years old and a mother of two children. Six years ago, this respondent was thinking about the idea of opening a private school. At that time,  she was teaching in a private kindergarten school for five years. After she retired, she planed to open her own business that matches with her previous professions, which is private school.  In the beginning, she collected some money to rent the house and opening kindergarten by 5000 ETB capital. At that time, she had provided a service with one  teacher for 20 kindergarten kids. After that, she understood the benefit of the business, and she planned to expand it by saving income that she had gained from the business. She bought some materials used for kindergarten and she rented other wide classrooms. Then after, in 2019, she added some employees and expanded the school. The number of students is increasing from time to time. Currently, 90 students are getting service from this private school.
The gross monthly income from school is around 40,000 birr. She  hired five employees working in fulltime and totally paying 10,000 birr per month. Today, the capital of this firm is around 200,000 ETB.
This respondent is critically facing challenges such as the late payment from the customers, and the payment for house rent is very high. The other challenge is shortage of classrooms.  Also no other Institution supports the firm by giving a loan and other type of help. These makes them not to furtherly expand the businesses. In the future, she has a plan to rent a wide compound with numbers of classrooms to increase the number of students and giving free teaching service for street children.
Since she has been very busy by giving teaching services and other household works, her son (one of her employee) keeps daily financial records in notes and box receipts. He is among the cooperative respondents of mine on data collection.