AWiB Presents HER Gems: A Transformative Trio Recap

Guests & AWiBers started streaming through the gates of Hilton Hotel around 5:30 radiating joy through their eyes and smiles. They filled the cozy Harar Grill moving around to meet new people and share their stories and passions.

Samrawit Meressa, AWiB’s 2023 president welcomed everyone, introduced herself and AWiB. She asked for the men attendants to show hands and mentioned the objective of the discount offer is to have more men on these networking events. She introduced AWiB’s coming weekend activities which are treasured sessions where members get together to discuss, learn and practice different topics and skills.

Samrawit extended AWiB’s gratitude towards the esteemed partners, Wudassie Diagnostics, First Consult, Impala Communications as well as the media partner, LinkUp Addis. The Lead Sponsor, Yetem Trading and Emerge Sponsor, LonAdd Consultancy were invited to the stage to imprint their brands in the minds and hearts of the audience. The next invitees to the stage were the four AWiBers who were showcasing their products and services; OFLAD (Organization for Learning and Development), Lily’s Cactus, Maki Resin Jewelry and 2 children of an AWiBer who brought their hand-made decorations.

The time came for AWiB’s 2023 Gems to take the stage and it was with genuine excitement Samrawit introduced them. Sara Yirga, Founder and General Manager of YA Coffee Roasters & Aster Asfaw, a certified Executive Leadership Coach and a freelance trainer, coach, and mentor.

Who is Sara?

Sara went back to her 7-year-old self who was reserved but had a vision of what the future Sara would become. She believes that she is a work in progress and that little girl’s dream is coming to life.

Sara’s journey in the business world started 14 years ago. After realizing there was no career path where she was employed, she resigned and decided to start a business with her life partner, Daggy. Their first try was a grocery delivery service. Sara confesses that it was one of the most challenging times in life. It was messy and the profit wasn’t worth the time and energy. She strongly advises people to research thoroughly before starting businesses, especially when it comes to policies and markets. After extended research on Coffee, Sara & Daggy decided to join the sector. One of her findings was that less than 1 % of the exported coffee was processed, this was the gap they wanted to capitalize on and Ya Coffee Roasters was born.

Sara adds, “75% of the work in the value chain is done by women” and this initiated her and other women in the sector to establish the Association of Ethiopian Women in Coffee. Through the association she was part of policy dialogues that led to the improvement of an article that allowed women coffee farmers to pack and distribute coffee products. With all the accumulated experiences from all over the world, Sara considers herself a coffee library open to sharing her knowledge.

Who is Aster?

Aster described herself as a strong woman made in the image of God who loves her family, friends and her community. Her passion was visible in her eyes and the audience could hear it in her voice as she spoke about the thing she loves most “Sharing my experience, knowledge and whatever I have with others gives me great joy”. She is also ready to unlearn, learn and relearn.

Aster has an extended experience in leadership, working in Ethiopia and abroad. She initially joined the finance sector only to find out that it wasn’t her passion. Studying Sociology afterward led her to finding her true path. She joined the SOS Children’s Village after successfully negotiating to get the title she wanted. Joining the SOS as a Junior Program Assistant, her determination and commitment were obvious as she went up the ladder to becoming a country director in 9 years.

Studying her master’s in Leadership opened many doors of opportunities for Aster. She was a well-paid and well-recognized member of the International SOS team at the East and South Africa Regional office. She was a representative mentoring staff members from different countries in the regions. For the past few years, she discussed the idea of becoming a freelance coach with her late husband, Teddy. Though Aster was a bit hesitant about taking the risk, he encouraged her to do what she loved. Beginning of April 2023, she finally resigned to pursue this dream and by mid of April, a tragedy struck—Aster lost her husband, brother, and friend Teddy unexpectedly. She said, “He will always be in my heart and I’m determined to make our plans a reality.” She advised the audience to cherish every single moment with their loved ones.

On Success

Sara says all the work in the value chain, me and Daggy can do perfectly. Hence, our team followed our lead. She also added that her spirituality kept her strong & brought blessings to her and her family. Sara added that much of her success was a result of the 3 years she served AWiB as a board. She says it immensely contributes to her journey of self-discovery and improved communication skills.

For Aster her great successes were her 25 years of loving marriage, the youth she guided in SOS children’s village and resigning from her job to pursue her dream. She affirms that God is the reason for all her successes.

On Balancing life

Sara’s strategy regarding her relationship with her 2 children is – on the weekdays dinner times she listens as they talk about their days. When the weekend comes it is time for her to give them guidance and advice as she braids their hairs. This strategy is what keeps her connected to them.  

For Aster, it was just her and Teddy for many years so they created treasured memories. When they had their first son, her husband volunteered to stay home for her to pursue her career. Whether it is traveling the world or camping in their garden, they always made sure to have quality time together.

On following our paths

Sara sees the current generation romanticizing entrepreneurship and getting temporary motivation. She says motivation should be followed by well-planned action and meticulous implementation. We all have different paths, not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, finding our own path and pursuing it with grit is the way to success.

Aster admires the young generations for being bold and taking risks. She says, once we know what we want and start looking, there are many people who can help and guide us.

Samrawit concluded the discussion pointing out that we are always offered with opportunities if we look in the right places. She finally stressed on the importance of networking and closed the discussion.

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