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Entrepreneurship at the intersection of business and social change

Welana - Handwoven textiles from Ethiopia

We started Welana with the aim of building a business that is centered around joy, consciousness and empowerment – qualities that we love and are not often found in the corporate world.

When Anna Papadopoulos and I first talked about starting something that matters we took a trip to the Wenchi Crater Lake, which is located 155 km outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We were taken aback by the beauty of Ethiopia and its people and fascinated by the great potential of this East African country.

Growing up with the Ethiopian culture in Berlin through my family, Anna and I naturally connected with what we experienced in Ethiopia. We were particularly intrigued by the traditional textiles and weaving culture, which we saw in and around Addis Ababa. The craftsmanship of the local women and men who weave different kinds of textiles, their creativity to invent new patterns and to combine them with traditional forms and their dedication to detail were inspiring to us.

Although in recent years the country has gained worldwide recognition for its rich history, multifaceted traditions and great food, we know that there is still so much to do to change Ethiopia’s narrative. And which better way to do that than to embrace the culture and to let people experience it for themselves?

With Welana we want to connect and transport the Ethiopian culture to Europe, the US and beyond by offering handmade textiles, which are produced locally, under fair conditions and with great appreciation of the weavers and local producers.

In October 2015 we launched our website and we vividly remember what a new exciting endeavor the build-up was. We still live that excitement to this day.

Starting your own company in your twenties with only a few years of work experience under your belt and little capital may seem risky. As new entrepreneurs ourselves we can attest to both, the enthusiasm and uncertainty, of starting your own business from scratch.

We found that setting uncompromisable core values in the very beginning stage has helped us on many levels. It helped us with selecting the right local partners that share the same vision, it helped us with the way we communicate amongst ourselves and with our partners and customer around the world and on a broader spectrum it has helped us to define how we want to do business.

Secondly, we believe that actively seeking for mentorship and inspiration can guide you especially through the beginning stages of establishing your own company. We have received great mentoring from people in our professional lives and we have been inspired by other young people with similar journeys. Seek mentorship and inspiration in forms of books, meetings, events conferences or youtube tutorials – anything that could possibly inspire you to get started and keep going.

Thirdly, we believe that your network is probably your best asset. We must shout out our family and friends who have supported us and Welana from day one. Your friends, family and network bear amazing potential. As an entrepreneur you won’t be able to do everything yourself. There are many aspects of the business for which you may need to rely on external support, be it with the branding, the logistics of your business, with contacts or just emotional support along the way.

We started this journey almost 2 years ago and we hope that with Welana we can represent a holistic approach of doing business and we hope that we can inspire people the same way we have been inspired.

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