Yoadan Tilahun, a Bold Leader Who Turned Her Passion into Business

Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Yoadan (Yoyo) Tilahun, Founder and Managing Director of Flawless Events, finished high school at Lycee Gebremariam and left to the US for further education.  Upon completion of an MBA, she worked as a marketing agent at a commodities marketing company. She also worked for World Bank in HR department. After 15 years in the USA, Yoadan decided to move back to Ethiopia. “When I moved back, it was like I never left.  But it also felt like, finally, real life began,” she says. She was energized by Addis, by its chaos as much as the people she came across on the street.

While she was living in the USA,Yoadan regularly attended events in the DC metropolitan area. Many of the events gave her the impression that there was much amiss in how they were organized and how the logistics were handled. Her drive to deliver flawless events is what eventually brought her events management company to life, with its aspirational name.

Flawless Events, established in 2008, is an event planning company organizing international and local conferences and corporate meetings in sectors such as trade and investment, among others. The goal is to deliver quality events by providing a comprehensive planning and management service, including concept development and execution to on-site supervision to final production in Ethiopia and the rest of Africa.

Yoadan’s first event was organizing a medical conference in Addis for over 500 people attending from all the over the world. “Imagine how challenging it was to communicate internationally in the dial-up times,” she adds. It is her passion for impeccable delivery that keeps her going. She asserts that such a drive gives one the ability to see above daily challenges to where the opportunities are.  At the time, people were telling her it is tough business to be in.

Yoadan says, “Sometimes we undermine our capacity as Africans in general and as Ethiopians in particular, and we should not expect someone from somewhere to come succeed in the tough businesses [on our behalf].” She hopes that Flawless Events elevates our expectation of ourselves as Ethiopians that indeed, if we try and do to the best of our ability, we can meet our own expectations and deliver services in a highly professional manner and up to international standards.

Yoadan’s most important and core values are honesty, loyalty, quality, integrity and maintaining relationships. “We tell our kids not to lie and not to do things that we do not want others to do to us. What I tell my kids not to do, I make sure that is congruent with my own action.”

Also quality service delivery comes from understanding clients’ needs, which fosters network-wide relationships based on trust. Creating and cultivating a great relationship help any business thrive.  She asserts that one cannot sustain a business without having a great relationship with each and every one that is involved: from vendors, clients, the daily laborers who carry and put up banners to the highly influential UN and governments officials. “Literally from top to bottom. People lift us up. We do business with people and for people.”  She adds.

In response to how Flawless stays marketable, she said her team stays open to learning new skills and new ways of doing business. “Business is like marriage and more. You have to constantly work on improving it and everyone involved should give a 100% of themselves for it to work. We should be open to learning from our experiences as well as from others.” Yoadan and her team visit trade shows and events organized by others to see and learn best practices in delivering great events, including incorporating new technologies.

Yoadan is proud to have built Flawless Events and is considered by many as a woman business leader. She is a model to young entrepreneurs, having championed the truth that women are capable of following their dreams and realizing it.

How she gives back to her community is by mentoring young business women and also supporting the “Yellow Movement”, a movement that provides female university students with sanitary pads which seems a small gesture but helps capable young women become leaders if supported to finish their education despite seemingly inconsequential challenges.

What are you grateful for? Yoadan is grateful for everything in her life and most grateful for her husband, Mirafe Marcos, a staunch supporter, an adviser and a friend. She tells us that he is a great listener who uses his connection power to develop her business.  A rare character in men, Mirafe also takes care of their three boys with dedication and commitment so that she can focus on giving 100% to her business.  “He truly believes in me. He is my courage and my motivator. He helps me push the envelope. I would not have done what I am doing now if it was not for his support. He is my biggest cheerleader!”

Yoadan balances family with work by creating a community of support within her family. In addition to her husband, her parents support is crucial in her success. “I am not by any means a super- mom.  I am conscious of the role I play in raising my kids. I am there to pave the way and guide them to [becoming] their own people. Raising them to be great men who respect and treat women as their equals.”

Yoadan adds that having a standing date night with her husband every other week helps her balance. “That helps us both unwind, catch up on how things are in our respective worlds and just focus on each other as a couple, just time to cherish each other.” She insists couples need to make a conscious effort in spending time together as it is important to be conscious of each other’s needs.

Yoadan also enjoys spending time with her parents and friends. One of the social activities her family and her friends who have kids do is ‘know your country’ (‘agerihin ewek’) tour few times a year visiting different parts of Ethiopia.  She says, “It is important for our kids to know their country. Kids will appreciate it later and will have a great sense of identity and that eventually will help them discover themselves as responsible citizens.”

Any advice she has for other women? “As women, we need to make sure that we invest in and take good care of ourselves socially and financially” She says it is important for women to belong to a supportive community that helps us think and bring out the best of ourselves. Yoadan is a member of AWIB, Setaweet and belongs to a monthly girl’s book club– a fertile ground to debate and share ideas with like minds.

Yoadan is emphatic about women becoming financially independent for it helps us with most decisions we make in life. “A woman should be financially independent. If a woman is financially independent, her decision makings will be based from a place of equality not from a place of weakness.”

Her message to younger generation is to be assertive and to make sure their voice is heard. To have a “can-do attitude”.  To be okay asking for help. To know what they are good at and invest in learning to be an expert on the matter. Then, to keep pushing on expanding their horizon.  “Do not dwell on challenges. When roadblocks appear, we should tell ourselves that it is temporary and it will pass. Then we should quickly move on. Life is bigger than the obstacles we see now.

AWiB wishes this passionate and bold leader the tenacity to accomplish what she sets out to do.

The AWiB Team

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