By Arabella Stewart

Published in What’s Out Addis

Before the concept of a Social Enterprise was really fully understood or appreciated, Salem’s Ethiopia operated as a social enterprise right from the onset. Determined to showcase the skills and crafts of artisans from all across the country, Salem sought them out, commissioning them to create products to display in her shop, which soon evolved into a “one stop shop” and became known for selling beautiful items of quality from Ethiopia among the international community. The shop set in its own attractive and welcoming compound primarily specialises in basket ware, jewellery, pottery and textiles.  Many of the items are created on site and customers can enjoy observing artisans at work -weaving scarves on traditional looms or baskets from natural fibres and women creating unique earring production.  Salem prides herself on running a fair trade organisation with the profit empowering the lives of the artisans who sell their crafts through her shop. Salem cares for her staff as “extended family”; in addition to fair wages, she supports students of staff members with educational needs and enables mothers with small children to bring them to work.  

Salem was raised as a child in Addis Ababa before going abroad to attend college in the USA where after graduation she married a fellow Ethiopian already settled there. It was always on both of their minds however to return one day to their beloved homeland of Ethiopia. In1993 (and long before majority of diaspora began returning to their homeland) they decided to return to Ethiopia with their young family.

Before Salem’s Ethiopia became the large enterprise that it is today, the idea actually started out as a hobby. Salem enjoyed craft projects and began by simply making and selling hand made jewellery, needlecraft items and basket ware from her home.  As the popularity of her products grew and encouraged by friends and family, she decided to turn this hobby into a business which she called “Salem’s Ethiopia”. That was 11 years ago. Today this enterprising Social Enterprise now employs more than 50 artisans and exports items to a variety of countries.

Today Salem has also made a name for herself as the co founder of the hugely popular bi annual Designers and Artisans bazaar.  This bazaar remains a firm favourite for residents and visitors in a convivial outdoor marketplace setting displaying and selling the varied products created by Ethiopian artisans in Ethiopia. Just as Salem’s Ethiopia is keen to highlight the rich heritage of Ethiopia and support the wide array of talented artisans producing these handicrafts, this too is the ethos of the Designers and Artisans Bazaar.

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