Ambanesh Kebede, affectionately called Ambi, was born and raised in a small village called ‘Dande’ located in Raya Tigray region until the age of 5, when she moved to Mekelle to join her older sister and attend primary school. Her determination to succeed throughout her school years was demonstrated by the fact that she studied hard and stood among the top in all her classes, even while she was shuffled from one town to the other following the various postings of her brother-in-law across the country. Nevertheless, Ambi went on to receive her first degree in Pharmacy from Addis Ababa University.
After completing her studies, Ambi married her first husband, a Cameroonian Professor who was then lecturing at the faculty of Science in the Addis Ababa University. Shortly after marrying, Ambi’s husband got a new contract to teach in a University in Algeria and Ambi thus had to make the hard decision to travel to and live in a foreign country, where the culture and language is different from what she knew. Ambi soon started to feel lonely because she was left alone at the house while her husband was at work all day and being a stay at home wife and mother was not what she only wanted to do. But finding a job was not easy as well since she spoke neither French nor Arabic – the languages spoken in Algeria. A determined soul as always, Ambi made the decision to learn French and mastered the language in three month. Equipped with her understanding of the language and technical skills in Pharmacy, Ambi was hired as a Pharmacist & Head of the Diagnostic Laboratory at the largest public hospital in the city of Annaba, where they resided. Ambi boldly took the challenge using the lab work experience she had in school and managed the laboratory well while sharpening her skills through her daily duties and challenges.
After three years of living in Algeria her husband’s contract with the University was over and the family decided to settle in Cameroon. Again refusing to be only a homemaker and capitalizing on her experience in Algeria, Ambi landed a job as head of a diagnostic laboratory adjoined with a Pharmacy business. One weekend Ambi was invited by her new Ethiopian friends who were residing in Douala to come along for a drive to visit a small town called Buea, located at the foot of Mount Cameroun with a very pleasant weather. While visiting the town Ambi decided to take advantage of the trip and ask about pharmacies located in the town and quickly learnt that there was only one but that it was not well managed and stocked. Right there Ambi decided to apply for a permit to set up a retail Pharmacy business of her own in the same town while she was still working at the laboratory. Armed with her precious license and only a small bit of savings she had in her bank account, she resigned from her job in Douala and traveled to Buea to start the process of establishing a pharmacy. This she did despite the fact that she had never had the experience on what is required to establish such a business from scratch and that she also did not have anyone to guide her. “But God put the right people on my way to guide and help me” she says. So was born the famous ‘Mountain Pharmacy’ in Buea, signifying the majesty of the 4,500-meter high Mount Cameroon and her own name ‘Ambanesh’. The Pharmacy operated 24 hours all seven days a week until the time it was sold after Ambi decided to leave the country. During her stay in Cameroon Ambi had won the recognition and admiration of stakeholders including suppliers, government officials, clients, and her staff as a woman of courage, an honest and sincere business operator and enthusiastic provider of services.
Ambi met her second husband, Tilahun Giday, in Cameroon, a loving and caring husband with ample experience of working with several international organizations. She smiles heartily when she talks about how they met, which is a very special story by itself, and one can see the love she has for him after nearly 23 years of marriage. She says he is her biggest support and his love and confidence in her is the energy that keeps her going despite the many challenges she faces in running her enterprises. When it was time for Ato Tilahun to move back to the USA after his employment contract in Cameroon was over, that situation presented another major decision-making challenge for Ambi. A French saying shared by her friend that says: “The train of happiness passes only once, if you miss it, bad for you”, made her decision to eventually sell and leave her well established Pharmacy business and settled life in Cameroon and move to the USA following her new husband easy; before leaving Cameroon, however, Ambi traveled to Ethiopia to establish a Pharmaceutical import company. Later, Ambi would finally decide to return to Ethiopia for good and expand her company, Amba Pharmaceuticals importing and wholesale business.
Ambi’s great passion in life is driven bya strong desire to serve people sincerely and to change people’s lives. This is exemplified by the introduction of a brand new business model of multi-level marketing. She says of this endeavor, “Eight years ago I established a very powerful MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing) system, where the enterprise is meant to serve the dual purpose of ‘Health and Wealth’.” This enterprise (her second major business establishment)- ‘Prime Enguday’, is the first of its kind in Ethiopia whereby 6,500 people of all walks of life, young and old, men and women are members of the MLM engaged in consumption, distribution and marketing of the products getting extra income as part time endeavor. Those who understood the system well are earning good income and have changed their lives significantly. The number of members is increasing, and Ambi now has several service centers in Addis Ababa, Adama, Hawassa and Dire Dawa. “As Health and Wealth is the concern of everyone anywhere”, Ambi adds, “we believe we are touching and changing many people’s lives. Our powerful professional and motivational and self development training sessions locally and abroad in the programs are actually showing results in many ways than one and we intend to continue that way.”
Her succession plan includes her children and those in the management team of her businesses. She is now in the process of re-organizing the management of her enterprises such that her presence would not be needed on an on-going basis. Her children are already taking over different management activities currently.
Ambi encourages anyone that crosses her path in life to do great things by sharing her story, counseling and giving them time to listen and encourage them to get through whatever is challenging them. About her achievements in life, Ambi says she never took her potential for granted. She believes in herself and others who deal with her saw that and come to assist her as well. Ambi also feels that God’s grace is all that helped her keep her faith and integrity. Although she missed the life she never knew when she was little, she knew that small village was not enough to nurture and accommodate what was/is in her because she believes God’s light/guidance was within her since childhood.
As her community giving, Ambi is engaged in educating junior youth (10-16 years) on various topics other than academic subjects. She is also known to staff her company with 50% women, encourage women’s hard work through incentives, sponsor’s university girls to attend AWiB events, facilitates internships for young girls and continues to support skills training (for self reliance) for relatives and children of friends who need help.
What do they think/say about Ambi?
Those who know her testify that Ambi is a very confident, open minded woman who never stops working, loves and respects everybody, who stands up for herself, and does many things at a given time, can juggle so many balls with no sign of stress. They also remark that that she is very humble and feels this is only the beginning. Having done what she had done, she simply says “I haven’t done much, yet.” Her husband who describes Ambi as, “an angel on earth, who is the glue that held the family together” added that what inspires him about her is that, she is consistent with her love, kindness, smile, helpful radiance, honesty and integrity. She can influence others and bring the change required without pointing a finger on the government or anyone. This is how she contributes to her community.
We asked a few others about Ambi and they describe her as someone that believes in supporting people to become self-reliant; someone that attracts good things around her; trustworthy and trusting following a very transparent business management model; fair and just; respectfully shares her views and frankly with plain and simple communication; bold and daring; doesn’t like the status quo, loves change and is ready for it; very hard working; courageous. As someone that commands respect.