Versions of this story were originally published in unoeth.com and pacificcommunityventures.org.
After a trip to Ethiopia to visit family, Dagne Tedla brought a leather messenger bag as a gift for his daughter Xiomara. After countless compliments and inquiries from friends and strangers about the bag, Dagne suggested the two should start a business. Initially, Xiomara resisted as she was focusing on her corporate career and busy personal life. Soon after, friends and co-workers asked when Dagne was heading back to Ethiopia and asked if they could place pre-orders!
After her initial hesitation and the growing demand for her leather messenger, Xiomara said ‘yes’ and hopped on board! She then designed several bag styles and Dagne helped their current artisan partner obtain his export license. Thus, UnoEth was born.
While continuing to work full-time, Xiomara dedicated herself to the development of high-quality samples and designs for her business. Despite having already secured funding through multiple avenues, this venture did not come without significant sacrifice on her part. One of the biggest obstacles that she faced was obtaining the necessary capital for production and operations. From the onset of establishing the brand, obtaining funds proved to be an expensive endeavor. This was due to exorbitant interest rates and limited funding options. This hindered their initial growth projections and resulted in a slower pace than anticipated. When asked how her team managed while seeking capital, Xiomara stated, “as entrepreneurs, we’re resourceful and determined, so we kept pushing through the rejections and the no’s while keeping close tabs with our business community and finding alternative options for our brand growing.”
As her search continued, she discovered Pacific Community Ventures through a networking resource. This connected her to a business mentorship program. Through this program, she found out about the Oakland Fund 0% interest loan. She successfully secured this in the summer of 2022. The additional capital from PCV assisted her with growing the UnoEth team, acquire additional inventory, and establish a more stable monthly budget. UnoEth products are currently available for purchase online, as well as in 65 retail stores.
Xiomara and Dagne witnessed the dramatic impact of UnoEth’s partnership and investment with artisans and small businesses in Ethiopia. The duo made it their mission to keep duplicating their business model across the globe, one artisan at a time.
Since then, Xiomara and Dagne have partnered with additional leather artisans and cotton weavers in Ethiopia and jewelry makers in Tanzania.