Start-up snapshot: Weddings can be costly… or an income source

Start-up: Mushira Entertainment

Rezene Gebresilassie

Rezene Gebresilassie

Rezene Gebresilassie, 28, is the founder of Mushira Entertainment, an Addis Ababa-based entertainment company that offers professional wedding services, including music, décor, catering and honeymoon packages. The psychology graduate tells How we made it in Africa about his passion for weddings, and how the diaspora and Ethiopia’s emerging middle class are driving new opportunities in the industry.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Traditionally weddings in Ethiopia are handled by the bride and groom’s friends and family. Quite often things go wrong because they are not professionals. There are also not many wedding planners in the country because there hasn’t been a business opportunity in the field. However, in Addis Ababa people with significantly greater spending power now want a well-organised wedding and are willing to pay professionals to get the job done.

The diaspora is also a good market for us because they don’t have contacts in Addis Ababa nor time to be running around looking for service providers. We are able to offer them everything they need, right to the honeymoon. We have a big customer base because people we work with pass on our services to friends in the US and Europe who also intend to get married in Ethiopia. Professionally managed weddings here can cost between US$7,000 and $60,000 depending on the wealth of the family. And the demand is growing because people are seeing what is happening in other parts of the world.

2. How did you finance your start-up?

I was a DJ for more than five years and I did a lot of jobs in clubs, radio stations and at events. I saved money because being an employee has never appealed to me. I am a psychologist so I used to do training as well to earn money. I used these savings to buy equipment, open an office in Addis Ababa and get my start-up moving.

3. If you were given $1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

There is so much opportunity here. The demand for services is growing and there isn’t much competition yet. So I’d expand this business. At the moment we are not able to provide all the services, so we sub-contract some from other professionals. Also we could expand into other areas such as our own fleet of vehicles and producing bridal clothes in-house.

4. What risks does your business face?

Weddings are seasonal so it’s an up and down business. During the fasting season (observed by Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians) weddings are not performed. But we have learnt how to plan.

5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

My family wanted me to do the usual 9 to 5 job at a big company. When I turned down a well-paying job my dad was upset. But since I opened Mushira Entertainment I have been doing well and was recently invited to speak to other young entrepreneurs and share my experiences with them. That was an exciting moment. It’s great to see my family and other people appreciate what I do.