by: Megan McPherson
This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the eight student startups who are participating in the Terp Startup summer incubator phase of our Fearless Founders accelerator program. Participating student entrepreneurs received $3,500 stipends that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over six weeks in the summer.
Washington D.C. contains the second largest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia, with a community of over 250,000 people. Little Ethiopia is peppered with restaurants and shops that sell imported goods, but clothes are few and far between. Saron Asfaw, an Ethiopian-American and rising junior at University of Maryland, discovered the niche for her online Ethiopian clothing store East Habesha while on the hunt for a dress to wear to a party that required traditional Ethiopian attire. In the end, she missed the party but gained valuable insight into the market potential for what would eventually become East Habesha.
Inspired by her promising business idea, Saron enlisted the help of her mother, Etsegenet
Gebre, who owns several stores in Ethiopia that sell imported goods from Dubai and America. Since her mother often travels back to Ethiopia to manage her businesses, it was easy for her to bring back some traditional dresses to help her daughter test the market. Word of mouth began to spread, and before too long they started looking into forming direct connections with manufacturers in Ethiopia who could produce customized dresses in whatever style, fabric or size they needed. With an infrastructure in place, Saron built their website and orders started coming in.