Rahel Mohammed: A Beacon of Light
Rahel was born in Addis Ababa. She attended Nazareth School and finished her last two years of high school in the U.S. She then studied Business Administration and Accounting in the state of Michigan. “I had some difficulties when I was abroad. I was a kid away from her parents,” says Rahel. Her mother wanted her to come back to Ethiopia, but Rahel getting used to the comfortable life in the U.S. was reluctant. Nonetheless, respect for her parents made her change her mind and she joined the family business. However, she found out the family business was not her reality and wanted to go back, at which point her parents suggested she could start her own business.
She started an electric shop like her father’s. Business was slow. Rahel made the incisive observation that Ethiopia was not familiar with Christmas decorations. She started by decorating her small car and put it in front of her shop. She imported Christmas trees from China and decorated the outside of her shop, lighting up the neighborhood. Passersby and customers from surrounding businesses became curious about the decorated car and all the commotion. They started asking questions and visiting the shop. When she realized her marketing strategy worked, Rahel, wanting to try new things, opened up a gift shop.
Rahel then got married and moved to Gerji. The newlyweds bought a piece of land at a time when the area was undeveloped. Determined to change this, Rahel approached a well-known supermarket and offered to lease them her land. Her husband, Nur Hussein, and her parents wanted her to operate a supermarket herself. When the supermarket didn’t commit, Rahel made the bold move and asked for a bank loan. “I didn’t even know what type of shelf is required for a supermarket!” Rahel reflects. But her experience as sales, cashier and finally supervisor at the famous U.S. department store chain, Kmart, gave her the motivation that she can do it—and she did! She imported items from Dubai and China…All Mart was born!
Rahel’s face lights up when she recites the events of the opening day. All Mart was coined The Moon of the Neighborhood by the locals. Rahel, as a woman of giving, brings light to others. Having 50 employees under her wing on the first run was rewarding to Rahel. That number has increased 10-fold and All Mart has created employment opportunities for 500 employees. All Mart is also highly engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Her father was a believer in giving back to the community. “My dad used to go to rural areas and feed those less fortunate. That…stuck with me.”
With her innate character of supporting the less fortunate, and her husband’s passion for helping those in need, the power couple organized a talent show called All Mart Idol with prominent figures as judges. Of the 150 kids that took part, the top ten were awarded and celebrated at a dinner held at the Sheraton. The winner, a street kid by the name Tinsae Assefa, was awarded 10,000 birr and is still part of the All Mart family. Motivated by their success, the couple with the collaboration of the local government started “Rewarding the Outstanding” program. First launched in 2016, the program is an academic competition in which 12th graders from every public school in the city are given Math and English exams and the top 10 students are awarded cash prizes. The closing ceremonies are held at prestigious venues with the intention of boosting the morale of the finalists.
With the aim of reaching less privileged kids and creating awareness among the private sector about Corporate Social Responsibility, All Mart has undoubtedly set precedent in community work and changed the lives of many young people. Among many other philanthropic activities, All Mart planted 5,000 trees in the neighborhood, provided elderly people around Gerji and Jommo with a month-worth of groceries during the Covid-19 pandemic. All Mart also provides food every holiday and Ramadan.
“I feel blessed when giving to my community,” reflects Rahel. She attributes her success to the blessings and prayers she has received in her life. Making people happy is what makes her happy. Rahel feels her employees are her family and friends. “I empathize with my employees because in the U.S., I also worked as a waitress; I had been ‘there’,” she says. She also points out she has a strict work ethic such as coming to work on time and not missing work unnecessarily. She wants to bring a strong work culture to Ethiopia.
Rahel is a shareholder of Keko Coffee, a sister company exporting coffee beans and planning to eventually start coffee roasting. Her business partner, another hardworking woman, is one of Rahel’s role models. Other role models are Opera Winfrey, her compassionate father, and her indefatigable mother. Her mom, Rahel explains, brings balance to her life whenever she faces a dilemma.
Rahel values health, longevity and changing peoples’ lives. She is a strong believer in having a purpose. Rahel says “If you put God first and put in some hard work, nothing will stop you from achieving your goals.” She is most proud of her marriage, her family and the rewards that came from her businesses.
Her advice to the younger generation: to not be discouraged by hardship for most lessons in life come from our failures. Even if it feels bad at the time, it teaches us something important. She reflects that we should be persistent, always push for more and “Be the best you can be.” For Rahel, success is happiness and leadership is leading by example while looking at the big picture. Her husband testifies that Rahel is a strong woman and a great role model.
“I like working with women,” says Rahel, “because I believe we have to excel together.” Rahel attests that AWiB is an organization with a strong purpose. She appreciates AWiB bringing out hidden role models for the world to see. She applauds how AWiB develops the younger generation by involving them within the organization to become responsible leaders.
Rahel says she still has a long way to go and so prefers staying behind the scenes. Rahel Mohammed is a light source for many, and will continue to radiate.
AWiB wishes this beacon of light much success in all her endeavors.
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