Mamit, from Ethiopia: Hollow concrete block making

Thirty-four year old Mamit got her idea for a hollow concrete block making business while participating in an ILO-supported Improve Your Business training in late 1996. During the training, a group project exercise on the block making industry helped her to see the increasing demand for the material resulting from the booming construction sector. Equally important, she learned how to establish a viable business, manage staff and “identify business expenses from household ones and put in place the right financial system in my business.”

Spurred on by her entrepreneurial spirit, she quit her embroidery business in 2003 and started producing hollow concrete blocks from her home in 2004. Mamit began with just one manual machine and cement and gravel purchased from local suppliers. “My product was really fast moving - I was only constrained by lack of capacity responding to orders of my old and new clients”, she says. As her business progressed, she moved her enterprise from her home to a larger rented location and installed a second manual hollow brick making machine. To meet rising demand for her product from clients in Bahir Dar - her hometown - and neighbouring rural towns and maintain cost effective production, she set up a second operation in Woreta about 50 kilometres away. There, she procured a crusher and other necessary items and began supplying her own gravel from her newly acquired quarry in 2006.

Starting with only 15,000 Ethiopian Birr (ETB) (approximately US$ 1,600) from household savings and credit from family, Mamit grew her business to an annual turnover of ETB 500,000 (approx US$ 53,000) in less than four years. She employs 63 people in her two block making plants and a quarry. As general manager, she pays herself a salary of ETB 2,000 (approximately US$ 212) every month. She says she combines this with her husband’s salary to pay household expenses, adding “all my profits are used to expand the operation of the business. I am now planning to open a supplementary business to set-up metal windows and doors.”

A recently elected board member of the Bahir Dar City Chamber of Commerce and Executive Secretary to the Amhara Women Entrepreneurs’ Association, Mamit sees ample business opportunities, saying “I would like to advise women, particularly housewives, to get some business enlightenment through training. Money matters, but what factors most in business is knowledge and this is precisely what my experience is.”

Source: Voices of Women Entrepreneurs, ILO in Partnership with Irish Aid