He graduated from high school in Ethiopia and obtained employment in the supply department of a construction company where he worked for around 15 years. During this time he began to dream of creating his own company.
This man with a huge dream but a wise thought is Hailu Tessema. He was born in Addis Ababa around 63 years ago.
In 2003, Hailu’s dream came true when he launched a family business called Mama Fresh. His wife Konjit is the Mama in Mama Fresh, and their son Miraf Selassie runs the marketing of the business. Hailu also has a daughter, and believes that in time one or more of his grandchildren will also join the Mama Fresh administrative team.
Mama Fresh obtains the nutritious grain teff from a local farmers’ union with approximately 300 members. The teff is then turned over to the nearly 100 employees that work in the Mama Fresh kitchens and bakeries making the spongy pancake-like flatbread known as injera. Though injera is a staple food in Ethiopia and is eaten by people of all backgrounds, it is also enjoyed outside the country. Countries including several dozen in the USA, Europe, and West Africa are supplied by Mama Fresh.
Hailu views Mama Fresh not only as a way to share Ethiopia’s traditional foods with the world, but also as a means to provide employment for people, especially women, in his home area. Around 95 percent of his workers are female. They work at Mama Fresh Injera in Addis Ababa and receive free meals at work, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Mama Fresh Injera is already one of the largest commercial manufacturers and exporters of fresh-baked injera. Mama Fresh not only supplies major hotel chains like Sheraton and Hilton in Ethiopia, but also exports around half of the injera it produces to Ethiopian shops and restaurants.
Mama Fresh is built on good relations with the local community, local investors, and the national government. In 2014, Mama Fresh received a substantial investment from RENEW, an early stage venture capital company based in Addis Ababa, with US-based headquarters. RENEW is bankrolling the construction of a new export-focused factory for Mama Fresh that should allow the company to triple its production, which is already substantial and includes Ethiopian Airlines flying 3,500 fresh injera and traditional spices to Washington, DC from Addis Ababa four to five days each week. Injera is also being flown by Mama Fresh to Sweden, Norway and Germany.
Demand for injera is on the rise and the Ethiopian government has actively helped Hailu build his successful business. Ethiopia has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and teff has the potential to be a new ‘super food’ due to being gluten-free, and high in iron, calcium, and protein. Teff flour also is versatile and can be used to make any flour-based food, including bread, pasta, pizza, cookies, and tortillas.
In 2012, less than ten years after Mama Fresh’s founding, Hailu and his innovative business were recognized by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister for their contributions to society. In 2015, Mama Fresh and its founder Hailu Tessema were recognized once again, this time by the country’s Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Construction, as the number one small enterprise exporter in all of Ethiopia. He was presented the award by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn at a national recognition and award ceremony.
Hailu is such a realistic person with positive attitude. When he thought about creating his own company, he started looking for something which is near to him. In a day to day life of most Ethiopian people Injera is a number one food choice with no doubt. Running a business related to it would definitely bring an enormous outcome. But for Hailu not only the business was his concern but also it was a means to provide employment for people in his home area.