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Bringing a New Age of Events to Ethiopia

It wasn’t enough for 2017 Changemaker Yoadan Tilahun to bring her dedication to excellence to the event company she started in Ethiopia. Now she’s working to bring that country’s supply chain up to her standards, too.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Yoadan Tilahun
Managing Director
Flawless Events
For bringing her passion for quality events to Ethiopia, working to bring meetings in that country up to international standards, and encouraging the next generation of event entrepreneurs

Making Change
When I moved back to Ethiopia from the U.S. in 2008, the events industry here was really in its infancy. There was only one major player in the market; the rest were freelancers. The more events I did, the more I realized I didn’t know enough, so I would attend international industry exhibitions and sessions to learn the latest trends. I tested and adapted these to my events to ensure every event I delivered was up to international standards.

As I started hiring, I would drill staff on the need to respond to every query, turn every stone, turn every “no” to a “yes,” and challenge the status quo. In a country where delivery of service and products is at times unreliable and plagued with under-delivery and contract defaults, we have shown that it’s possible to not just deliver, but deliver to our brand name—flawlessly.
Hotels came to respect our work and gave us the freedom to experiment with layouts in their space, and vendors grew to accept our quality demands as their standard praxis.
This growing network of partnerships had two key outcomes. As our clients spread the word to their colleagues, our client base expanded to include international associations and global corporate companies. These entities, which would have previously not given Ethiopia a second thought, started to bring their events here. So the market grew to foster space for new events startups.
We also made the event market more accessible for young entrepreneurs by offering advice and giving internships to university students hoping to start their own events businesses after graduation. We are proud to have shown that the pie can expand.

What’s Next?
I have recently decided to establish an association in Ethiopia that will look after the interests of those in the meetings and events industry so as to have a stronger voice on issues and policies that affect us. Other projects in the works include:
• The supply chain in the industry is still very minimal. This region doesn’t have sufficient vendors with various presentation technologies, stage, lighting, and rental items for conferences and trade shows. The upfront financial investment is tremendous, which is the biggest challenge. While we are exploring ways of carrying our own stock, we are also encouraging existing vendors to upgrade their stock by sharing with them images and videos of what other countries within Africa are providing.
• We also want to develop a training initiative for those working in the hospitality industry. We envision it will be big enough to service neighboring countries as well as Ethiopia.

Change Management
Acknowledge the fear that comes with the idea of change—don’t fight it. Then prepare by reading, talking to others, and being honest about each challenge. Stay tuned to how the change can and might affect each staff member and have regular conversations about it.

Got a Spare Hour?
Nap or watch a favorite show.


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