The versatile businesswoman
Tiliksew Gedamu is a noted entrepreneur involved in a wide range of business interests across Ethiopia, notably in the hospitality industry. Here, she reflects with Samuel Getachew of The Reporter on her new expanding business, including her most recent acquisition of Bellevue Hotel and Spa, the legacy she wants to leave behind and some of the noted projects she wants to fulfill in the years to come. Excerpts:
The Reporter: You have had much success with a number of business interests across the nation this year. Share with me the highlights?
Tiliksew Gedamu: That is indeed true. I am lucky and I am excited with what we were able to do in the last few years. However, I am more excited with the future. As you know, our Grand Resort & Spa in Bahir Dar is being transitioned into a Radisson brand hotel. I like to note this is the first time the international brand has made a move outside of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. We plan to close it this year temporary, for about six month and refurbish it so that it meets the high standard of the brand.
I want to see the hotel became a landmark hotel in Bahir Dar. The city has much to offer and its nature is something to embrace and it can and I see it as an opportunity to lure tourists to the city and that is what we intend to do with it. I have always envisioned operating an international hotel in Bahir Dar. Most of the people that visit the city come back refreshed and being impressed with what it offers and can offer.
We also have the Grand Hotel in Gambella and Debre Markos, which we are very proud of. Our clients who travel to both cities seem to enjoy the service we offer. That is important to me. Both hotels remain useful to the respective cities and they bring added value to each.
So in a nutshell, there are more investments I am set to announce in the coming year and we do that by doing due process and studying how we can complement the industry, not just make money out of it. For me, that is not what it is all about. Service and competence is what I like in what I do and I hope others see that in all my efforts.
I understand you have also bought Bellevue Hotel and Spa in the capital in recent weeks?
Yes, I have. The hotel is my most recent acquisition and I plan to invest in it and build on it. We will be adding more rooms to it and build an extension building to the existing hotel. I believe we do have an ample space to do that. I hope this will complement our other hotels across the nation. It’s a hotel situated in a beautiful part of Addis Ababa and is something that is valued and appreciated by many and personally, I take to heart the special and unique hotel it really is.
My ultimate plan is to fulfill the promise of tourism in Ethiopia. In that order, I am also planning to start a tour and travel agency to make tourism easy and convenient for travelers across Ethiopia. I plan to do that by building partnership and also building hotels per international standards. While the work seems to be plenty, the opportunity afforded to me is great and I intend to take full advantage of it.
I hear there are also more hotels on the horizon for you.
There will be. There is a hotel I am building by “22” that will have 64 rooms, a big enough hall and all the facilities afforded to a good hotel. I like to say, we are almost finished with it. The structure part is finished and we are doing the interior work and the finishing part currently. This is to be a 13th floor building and we built in carefully and I personally wanted it to have character. I did not just want it to be a big box hotel. As well, I am also building a real-estate company that will be building apartments and we will soon by selling units.
Your rise to the person you have become is quite impressive. How did you end up from being an educator to the corporate leader you are today?
It really is by luck. Yes, I was a teacher but I have always had interest in entrepreneurship and many saw that in me. I had always been encouraged to get in to it. I waited long before I did. The first investment I started with was in the transportation sector. When I planned my first hotel in Debre Markos and then the one in Bahir Dar, I had to borrow money from the Commercial Bank like most people.
At that time, there was an attractive offer made to those people who wanted to venture into the sector courtesy of the Amhara Regional Government. Some say coincidence, but it was luck. I simply took advantage of the opportunity afforded to everyone and here I am. While I have traveled a long road, I have also been tested and tried by many challenges and that has made me a better person. Here I am, standing tall and still interested and excited with where my destiny may lead me. There is no day I do not appreciate and be conscious of the fact how lucky I am and that is why I want to build a legacy that extends beyond me but others. I stand on the shoulders of the people that came before me and I often reflect on that and learn from their experiences.
What other business ventures are you involved in?
You know, in today’s world, you cannot just rely on one set of business especially in Ethiopia where the opportunity remains plenty and tempting not to ignore. Having said that, I am also involved in the export and import business, bringing a wide range of products at home and sending quality products abroad to a number of nations and there are still more. It would be premature to announce them now, but I will do that soon and stay tuned.
You are a super busy woman with a super busy life. How do you want to be known in such a demanding and male-dominated sector (s)?
As the “Iron Lady”! (Laughs). I want to associate my brand with products people can rely and depend on. I want it to be seen as exceptional and where people are proud to use. Also, I want the people who work with me, to be able to grow with me and learn things that are not just useful for them at work, but where ever they choose to go in their professional and personal lives.
You know, in everything I do, what brings excitement is not just the money but also the opportunities and contributions that I bring to the community where I work in and operate a business as a socially conscious person and the mentorship I provide to others. (Perhaps that is the teacher in me). Doing such things is important to me and I hope that is my everlasting legacy that people will know me by.