This is part of a series of profiles showcasing the talented entrepreneurs of NCRC’s DC Women’s Business Center’s ShopHER, a pop-up incubator for women-owned small businesses in the DC Metro Region. Kelem is a women-owned business that sells clothing, jewelry, and accessories from Ethiopia. Co-founded by Tensae Haile and Winta Teferi.
What is the name of your business and what kind of products do you sell?
Winta: The name of our business is Kelem, and we sell handmade African clothing, jewelry, accessories and some home goods. All of our products have a cultural, traditional and artistic element.
What does “Kelem” mean?
Winta: Kelem means color in Amharic, which is an Ethiopian language.
Why did you choose the name Kelem?
Winta: We love wearing colorful things, and both of our houses are super colorful. Also, African crafts and fabrics typically have lots of colors and patterns.
When did you start Kelem and why?
Tensae: We started in 2017 and we were in Africa shopping for ourselves when we came up with an idea to start selling goods, which would help out the artists as well.
What advice do you have for other women business owners?
Tensae: It’s much easier to own your own business because you have your own schedule and time for your family and personal life. I think it’s a better choice than being an employee.
Winta: I appreciate being in a partnership. I know I couldn’t do this by myself. So, I appreciate that there is someone else to think things through with. Of course, the key is that you have a similar vision and similar desire for what the business can become. There’s a lot that goes into it. Communication is also important. If you can work all those things out, I think a partnership is a good option because it’s hard to do everything on your own. Even for us, there are two of us and there are still way too many pieces to think about so having someone definitely helps.
How has ShopHER helped you and what do you think of the program?
Winta: Our participation in ShopHER has been magical and we honestly enjoyed every minute of it! Joining the program revived our passion for the business, and made us feel that our long term goal of owning/sharing a brick and mortar is actually attainable and within reach. It pushed us to formalize the business, and in the process visualize the full potential of how much more we can grow given the right infrastructure and opportunities.
Briana Shelton a MPE Intern at NCRC.
Photo courtesy of Tensae Haile and Winta Teferi.