Tadesse Edesa submits an online application to the 2015 African Entrepreneurship Award. At the time, the post-doctoral student saw the need to deal with the 88,000kg of daily solid waste generated by the city of Jimma, Ethiopia (200,000 people). In his studies of the problem, Tadesse finds that over 50% of the waste is biodegradable, and another 16% is recyclable. And the problem: Only 25% of this daily tonnage is dealt with by municipal collection services, causing health and sanitation problems in the city.
Tadesse saw the chance to turn this problem in to potential. GreenJimma was born. In Jimma, Tadesse sees a huge market need for affordable, natural fertilizers in the largely agricultural region. With all of this biomass left dumped, the opportunities for organic fertilizers were huge.
At this point on the Journey, Round 1 mentors encouraged Tadesse to clearly explain his financial and marketing models, as well as how he would integrate technology into the business idea.
Tadesse’s GreenJimma is selected as a “Business Idea most needed in the region.” He soon follows with his Round 2 submission. At this point, Tadesse pitched the potential scalability of his idea. He mentions Kenya, the rest of Ethiopia, and other East African countries where the “waste management burden” is heavy.
In round 2, Tadesse more clearly explains his business model. His waste leasing strategy means that “households supply both sorted and unsorted waste” and in return participants receive discounts on finished compost and fertilizers.
Round 2 mentors pushed the scientist/entrepreneur to clarify some areas. “Statistics quoted are old. We are in 2015. Has the situation changed? Please work on getting current situations in that region.” And another, “You mentioned income generation, but you didn’t mention the jobs that will be created. What type of jobs?”
Round 3 opens and Tadesse finds himself still in the game with a Business Idea Most Likely to Succeed across Africa. The scientist turned entrepreneur has continued to clarify his idea for mentors and future investors. He further explains his revenue assumptions, and also the science behind GreenJimma. Tadesse says that “I use mechanical turning technology and scientific mix of feed stock to produce compost in 3 to 4 months’ time.” This expedited procedure will allow Tadesse to get out more products and process more biomass.
Later on in September, Tadesse received a Site Visit from an African Entrepreneurship Award Team. The Team learned more about GreenJimma and experienced Jimma life first-hand.
In early October, Global Mentors selected Tadesse’s idea as “Most Significant and Sustainable in Africa,” which earned him an invite to the Boot Camp in Morocco. Tadesse joined 33 other Finalists in the 2015 edition’s Presidential Week. That week saw Tadesse transform into a scientist with a high potential idea, into an entrepreneur with a confident pitch for investors. And, with flashbulbs all around, Tadesse’s name was called and he won $150,000 to scale up GreenJimma.
That fall, the work continued.