Meet the Ethiopian startup selling African jewellery to the world

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Ethiopian startup Yenaé is building a fashion jewellery brand that offers culturally curated and African-inspired collections to customers all over the world. 

Launched by two female Ethiopian-American entrepreneurs, Felekech Biratu and Seble Alemayehu, Yenaé was established in December 2015 but officially launched in November 2018. 

Biratu is based in Addis Ababa while Alemayehu lives in the United States (US), with Yenaé looking to connect the two.

“Our brand aspires to create an experience for shoppers by taking them on a journey inside Africa. Our exquisite jewellery collections are inspired by deeply rooted culture, with an added twist of modern design appeal. We work with historians and storytellers to learn about the stories of our collections and share it with our shoppers,” Alemayehu told Disrupt Africa.

The e-commerce startup, which outsources manufacturing of its products, was launched as a result of the personal experiences of its founders while living in different parts of the US.

“We saw the magnitude of the lack of awareness that existed about Africa, especially in a positive light. We knew there was an opportunity to contribute in changing this perception and the narrative, especially with both of us having been born and raised in Ethiopia and knowing first-hand the creativity, craftsmanship, and resources that exists,” Biratu said. 

“This intersected well with two other factors – our interest in the fashion industry, particularly in jewellery, and a time when consumers have started caring more about their products and where they are made.”

Self-funded thus far, Yenaé is selling its products in the US and Ethiopia, and though it is giving no numbers away Alemayehu says it has had a “great reception”. 

“We have been overwhelmed with the reception in terms of our collection’s modern design appeal, the versatility concept, our branding and gift-ready packaging. There has also been appreciation for the product’s historical background,” she said.

Yenae has been able to expand its reach beyond North America to parts of Europe, Australia and Asia.

“We are also working to finalise our brand establishment for the Ethiopia market,” said Biratu.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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