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Ethiopian’s Invention Leads to Business Success
November 30, 2014

“I believe perseverance will lead one to triumph.”

YALI Network member Biruk Girma Bedane entered the security alarm business in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, after a disaster in his first business. In search of a solution, Bedane took the initiative to turn the situation around by creating an invention that would help other Ethiopians avoid the same disaster. With innovation, creativity and dedication, Bedane built BG Electric and Security System Enterprise.

Biruk Girma Bedane speaking as others watch and listen (Courtesy of Biruk Girma Bedane)
At an Information Communication Technology exhibition, Biruk Girma Bedane introduces government ministers to the security device he invented.

Credit: Courtesy photo

How did you enter the security alarm business?

Bedane: I was motivated to invent and create a new kind of security system after an incident of burglary I encountered. My wife and I ran a shop, which was a game center and a movie-rental service. This shop was looted by our own guard, who used a similar key to get in and took every item we had.

After the robbery, I looked for a security device I could use to prevent such incidents. However, I could not find a system that suited my interests and my budget. I decided to do it myself. It took me two years to make the device, but I did so.

I’ve been tinkering with circuits and machines since I was a boy. My parents allowed me to work in a mechanic’s garage when I was only 14 years old. I was at school half the day, and at the garage the rest of the day, learning electrical installation in vehicles and electrical maintenance. The skills I developed then have helped me quite considerably for work today.

Describe your business today.

Bedane: The BG electrical security system is used to secure households, businesses, fences and vehicles. When the alarm is disturbed by an intruder, the system 1) dials or texts to the client’s phone number or 2) triggers an alarm sound or light in the premises.

This product and service is registered by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office, and I have been granted two certificates of patent rights.

Biruk Girma Bedane sitting at work bench, working on electronic item (Courtesy of Biruk Girma Bedane)
Bedane works on preparing an alarm for installation.

Credit: Courtesy photo

What were some of the challenges you had to overcome in building BG Electric and Security System Enterprise?

Bedane: Transforming my plan into practical implementation was a serious challenge.

I had a shortage of knowledge, so I attended a private electronics school for six months’ training on maintenance of electronics.

I had lots of other startup problems: shortages of work space, materials to build components and a lack of financing. I didn’t have office furniture and tools, working clothes, raw materials, or encouragement from individuals and government offices. People rejected my proposals and looked down on my plans.

With my own business plan, over about three years, I managed to overcome the problems and become a success story for myself and others.

Presently, my enterprise has increased its capital to 1.5 million birr [almost $75,000 U.S.], and I am preparing to transfer the enterprise to a middle-level industry. We have now eight salaried employees working with us. I have recruited experts of business plan research and I am about to apply for an investment license. I will also apply for additional loan and a work site.

I am providing trainings to other young people at my work site.

How would you advise others who want to turn an idea into a business?

Bedane: I think the prerequisites of starting a business are self-reliance, vision and an unwavering spirit of work. After that, I’d say a person must identify gaps in the marketplace, work effectively with customers, promote the product, be adaptable and take quality issues seriously. One can begin small and transform the business to a big industry.

In my country, [government delays, high taxes, favoritism are all obstacles]. Corruption and mismanagement are rampant. However, one needs to follow his ways and means to overcome these problems. I believe perseverance will lead one to triumph.

Lastly, the support from and experience exchange made possible by YALI will help Africans have better lives. Your continued support to young people of real dreams will help us Africans to stride to a bright future.

Interested in taking the next step with your business? Check out our #YALIEntrepreneurs page.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blog posts contributed by members of the YALI Network.