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Ethiopian entrepreneur with big plans for her bakery business

Female entrepreneurship

Yodit has one clear goal for her business: to grow. The entrepreneurially spirited bread and pastry baker is a frontrunner in the Ethiopian baking industry with her wide range of delicious snacks, and she aims to expand into other countries across the Eastern Africa region. To make this possible, PUM expert Jan Bosch assisted her to extend and improve her product range.  

The presence of a bakery at the end of the street explained the ever stronger sweet smell of freshly baked bread. Beside the entrance, a young woman stood in the baker’s shop, where local residents and nearby restaurants purchase their baked produce. Suddenly, the entrance gate swung open and Yodit Hailu Weldemdhin welcomed us into her bakery, where ten staff were working on a production line making and packing pastries. Before the Ethiopian entrepreneur sat down behind her desk, she prepared coffee and cakes, freshly baked in her own ovens.  

“We employ a team of 30, divided into three shifts, so the bakery runs 24 hours a day,” began the female bakery boss. This was, she suggested, because the business now supplies products to around 130 supermarkets and needs to provide a number of its own stores with freshly baked produce. Yodit started her bakery business, Kalos Confectionaries, in 2004. The owner of a bakery and two baker’s shops started on a small scale, in her parental home, but now her products can be found practically right across the Ethiopian capital city. “The idea for this business was born when my aunt discovered she had no cakes to sell at her café, with the coffee.” When the talented baker went on to discover that other bars and restaurants were facing similar problems, she decided to take her bakery business to the next level.  

It turned out to be a smart move. Despite the lack of support from the banking sector that refused to take her seriously as a businesswoman, the business has grown steadily. Even without financial backing, Yodit has become a respected name in her field. She is constantly working on innovation and expansion to keep ahead of the competition. That is one of the reasons why she decided to call in assistance from PUM, last year. “I wanted more variation in my product range, and Jan Bosch was able to help.” Together with the PUM expert, she visited her bakery, baker’s shops and customers, as she explained her plans. During the visit, Yodit and Bosch worked on new breads and pastries, and the existing products were improved. “On Jan’s advice I also opened a baker’s shop next to the bakery, where we now generate considerable turnover,” concluded Yodit, with obvious pride. 

As our interview moved into the bakery itself, we discovered that the majority of the ten employees who produce 150 kg of pastry per hour are women. “It is purely coincidence,” suggested the Ethiopian entrepreneur. “But I am delighted nonetheless, because it is enjoyable working with women from the neighbourhood, and this job means they can take better care of their families.” In the bakery, Yodit pointed to a dough kneading machine, which she purchased on the recommendation of the PUM expert. “This machine has massively improved the effectiveness of the production process, and is invaluable for developing new types of pastry and bread.” Together with PUM, the Ethiopian businesswoman has planned the next visit, to come up with even more variety for her product range.  

It is her ambition to continue this approach in order to defeat the competition, and become an important player in the East African industry. “I am currently developing improved packaging for my products, and plan to open more baker’s shops just like the shop next to our own bakery.” Finally, Yodit explained her desire to achieve national distribution for her products, and possibly to even export to neighbouring countries. “Kalos Confectionaries, with its large and varied product range, is trying to establish a foothold in the national bakery sector, and to achieve the same thing in the future in such countries as Somalia, Sudan and Kenya.”

Text: Daaf Borren

Images: Flo Schepers