It’s not about business plans: it’s about being mentored
On a 2015 visit to Jimma, the African Entrepreneurship Award team met a bio-medical engineering student big on heart, but small on know-how. Habtamu admits as much and says, “Before I applied for seed funding, really I had no knowledge about business model development, financial projections, and feasibility.” Habtamu did not set out to be an entrepreneur, but to make a difference in some way. In Jimma, his prototype idea took shape. And, with Award mentoring, so did his knowledge of entrepreneurship.
Winning mentoring and funding from the African Entrepreneurship Award started Habtamu on the journey from idea to fruition. He wisely says, “Smart ideas by themselves can’t bring the expected impact that we spend our time dreaming about.” Award mentoring, along with fiery crucible of the 2015 Boot Camp and the Presidential Jury, made Habtamu into an entrepreneur, founder of the Simbona Baby Warmer business.
During 2015 Award Round mentoring, Regional mentors from East Africa and worldwide Global mentors advised Habtamu on his business idea. Mentors encouraged his idea and boosted his confidence, but another advised that he better forecast costs and his revenue. For Habtamu, sourcing high-tech parts in Ethiopia would provide a daunting, but not impossible challenge. As Habtamu passed from Round 1, to 2, to 3, and then as he hesitantly crossed the stage a winner, the challenges of material sourcing and prototype development confronted him head on.
It’s not about business: it’s about changing history
But is this confrontation all worth it? What is the Simbona Baby Warmer prototype that Habtamu hopes to bring to the market? Habtamu confidently states: “Simbona Baby Warmers can save the lives of thousands of pre-term babies in many regions due to its affordability in remotes regions of low and middle-income families.” Habtamu wants to bring his baby warmers to the nearly 700 underserved hospitals in Ethiopia. So far, he has four major institutions customers interested in getting the Simbona in their hands.
By recent estimates, Ethiopia has a population approaching 100,000,000, the second highest in Africa. And, while the access increases daily, according to the World Bank only 27% of Ethiopians have electricity, and, infant mortality is still too high.
With Simbona Baby Warmers, Habtamu desires to make preventable infant mortality a tragedy reserved for only history books.
His solar powered baby warmers provide life-saving care for rural clinics, and households with babies in need of special care as they enter the world. Habtamu eagerly anticipates the product on the market. He says, “When the product becomes available for market its social and economic impact will be high. The Ethiopian health facilities, government and non –government health centers and hospitals are beneficiaries of the project.”
Since winning the Award in October of 2015, Habtamu has been steadily navigating the challenges. He says that “due to some medical regulations of the country, the product has not reached the end users” and that “medical device manufacturing is difficult in the current situation of my environment.” But, he has kept pushing ahead.