According to an article on Branding Statistics You Should Know For 2019, there will be 5-7 brand interactions before a consumer remembers a brand. Ethiopia’s Rama Solutions not only understands the importance of a strong brand but also the value of creating visibility for it. We spoke to one of its co-founders, Rahwa who is a trailblazer in female entrepreneurship in Ethiopia and an advocate for building lasting customer relations. She is an avid learner who was drawn to apply to GrowthAfrica Accelerator to expand her knowledge on effectively running a sustainable business. This is her story.
Background and history of Rama Solutions
Ever since childhood, Rahwa knew that she wanted to run a business. After completing her studies at the university, she decided to first find a job to learn how businesses run and create networks. It was in 2011 that she left employment and founded Rama Solutions, financed by her own savings and contribution from friends and family. She admits that it was very difficult for her to secure loans to raise capital since she didn’t have collateral.
The name Rama is a combination of the Founders’ first names, Rahwa and Matthias. They picked the first two letters of each name, “Ra” and “Ma”. While Rahwa has experience in graphic design and brand promotion, Matthias is experienced in software development. Founded 8 years ago, Rama Solutions first offered graphic design and website design solutions. Today, they have expanded into events planning and have a fully-fledged marketing, public relations and communications team. Their expansion in services was triggered by demand from their clients. Their aim is to provide sustainable and working solutions for their clients who include NGOs, SMEs and large-scale companies.
NGOs, international organisations and SMEs are some of her biggest clients and to reach them she has hired marketers who visit companies that are in the pre-qualifying season for new marketers. To maintain their unique profile and keep their clients coming, they ensure not to compromise on quality.
Unique selling point
Rahwa believes in affordability, flexibility, quality, timeliness and lasting client relationships. At Rama Solutions, maintaining lasting relationships with clients is at the core of what they do. Clients give feedback stating that Rahwa understands their current challenge and provides them with a lasting solution. Some of these clients have been using Rama Solutions services for 3 years. She also considers her personality as a contributor to building interpersonal relationships with her clients.
Rahwa admits that handling the finances has been no easy fit and this has largely affected her company’s growth and expansion. Part of why she joined the GrowthAfrica Accelerator was to equip herself with financial management skills. Hiring the right people has also posed as a continuous challenge. She realised that for a long time she had been trying to “find herself” instead of finding the right fit. She says,” You can’t search for you in the crowd”. With this in mind, she is willing to invest in getting the most suitable fit for her company. In relation to hiring, she also said that Ethiopia’s education system doesn’t really prepare most people for the job market and so they must constantly train them which could also take up time. Currently, she is working on solving the challenge of passing the vision to the team.
Most proud moments
She prides herself in running a business as a woman in Ethiopia – something she says is not so common. Rahwa now fully understands how the system works and has managed to transfer this knowledge to other people, especially women. One of the major milestones she points out is how the company has grown from sole proprietorship to a private limited company.
Her company’s ability to create jobs for different individuals in Ethiopia marks a great step towards growth and impact. Rahwa is also passionate about helping other women start and run their businesses through sharing her experience and lessons learnt. She is proud of how some of these businesses have been in existence for more than 2 years now.
Industry opportunities and challenges
After realising that very few Ethiopian companies invested in branding, Rahwa’s main purpose was to bridge the gap by helping small businesses run their PR and publications and reach out to international companies to enhance their brand positioning locally. She however believes that as a country, they are still a long way from investing in promotions, publicity and advertising and technology remains a big gap.
Joining the GrowthAfrica Acceleration Programme
Rahwa likes looking for opportunities to learn as this helps her see things from a different perspective. Her interest in joining our programme was triggered when she met with one of our Growth Catalysts in Ethiopia. She over-heard her talk about the programme to someone else and she didn’t hesitate to grab her and find out more. To Rahwa, at the point of joining the programme, her priority was on the knowledge she would gain, not so much the money. Her biggest problem was on how to manage her finances and how to improve her business strategy. After joining the programme, Rahwa has learnt about leadership and about the underlying needs for her clients. She admits that she thought she knew what her customers needed but after going through one of the workshops that touched on customer insight, she learnt that she needed to adjust how she segmented her customers.
“Be open to share your journey, mistakes included,” she said.
Future of Rama Solutions
Currently she is focused on investing in clients who are in need of her solutions. She will refine her company structure to ensure that it covers every area of the business. Finally, she commits to investing more in her employees and pay attention to improving HR processes.