alem

Photo credit: Dreaming Out Loud fellow Molly McFarland

While strolling through the Southwest Farmer’s Market on a Saturday morning, you can often smell the distinct fragrance of coffee pan-roasting at the Sun World Sun Market stall. There, customers steal quiet moments together over a plate of Ethiopian food and traditionally prepared coffee or iced ginger tea. Owner Alemtsehay Adnew frequently sits with her customers during their meal, sharing tidbits of her life story while answering questions from passing customers about the spice mixes, imported textiles, clothing, and jewelry colorfully arranged on her market tables.

Alem is originally from Dessie, Ethiopia, where her mother taught her to cook at a young age. Alem’s love for feeding others influenced her entrepreneurial pursuits in her home country before seeking refuge in the United States. Selling Ethiopian wares in DC was just a dream when Alem approached the Latino Economic Development Center in 2015 to seek business development support. That’s when she met Chris Bradshaw, Dreaming Out Loud, Inc.’s (DOL) executive director and founder of the Southwest Farmer’s Market. Alem joined DOL as a market vendor last year, and has been working with DOL ever since to develop Sun World Sun Market as a viable business and income source for her family.

Earlier this year, Alem asked Chris whether there was a way for DOL to help her expand the business. Chris told her about DOL’s Ready for Entrepreneurship Accelerator Modules (DREAM) program. DREAM aims to create an ecosystem of support that provides access to the human, financial, and social capital needed to help marginalized community members create economic opportunity for themselves and their neighborhoods. Alem’s first step as a DREAM-er was securing DOL’s endorsement for a KIVA Zero Interest Loan. DOL offered technical support to Alem during the application process, and she received a $2,500 crowd-funded KIVA ZIP loan to obtain essential supplies for her business. Alem purchased new market and catering equipment to use at farmer’s markets, as well as at catered events.

For Alem, the real motivation behind Sun World Sun Market is providing for her children in the United States and Ethiopia. She hopes to eventually run the business full-time, so she has more financial freedom and free time to spend with her family. In her words, “I am proud and grateful that I have been able to follow my dreams and start this business. DOL has helped me take my business to the next level and truly demonstrate to myself what I and my business are capable of!”

So if you’re craving freshly roasted Ethiopian-style coffee, you can find Alem at the Southwest Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (425 M St SW, across from Waterfront Metro Station). She is sure to greet you with a smile and a gracious offer to sit, relax, and and commune over the best cup of coffee in Southwest DC.

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