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Conversations with Jerdeen’s Team

Today we’d like to introduce you to Abiel Zewolday and Yared Habtemariam who are the co-founders of Jerdeen, a site dedicated to making African diaspora businesses discoverable. Can you briefly walk us through your story.

Our co-founders Abiel & Yared come from humble immigrant households. Both of their parents escaped the East African nation Eritrea during the 1990s, avoiding a brutal war for independence in hopes of a better life for their children. Their parents settled in the Pacific Northwest, adjusting to a new country, culture, and language while instilling in their children the importance of hard work, strong family values, and serving their communities. These values would later play an important role in the building of Jerdeen.

Abiel & Yared crossed paths on their first day of undergrad at the University of Washington in Seattle. They quickly became friends and shared a close-knit friend group which helped them navigate the obstacles faced by students of color in a predominantly white institution. Upon graduating from the Foster School of Business, Abiel entered a career in tech, and Yared entered a career in consulting.

When the pandemic hit, they were deeply concerned about the impact that it had on businesses from the African diaspora community and wanted to use their skill sets to do something about it. After brainstorming and researching for several months, they decided that building a platform dedicated to serving the African diaspora would be the best long-term solution to support businesses in their community and elevate the community as a whole.

For nearly seven months, they worked endlessly building the first phase of the platform, which would be a directory that made finding services, online shops, and stores that were owned by people from the African diaspora easily discoverable. They met with tons of businesses and professionals to ensure that they built a platform that solved issues they were facing, and in November 2021, they launched Jerdeen.com.

Since the launch, they have had tremendous support from the community and businesses across the states. The team is now focused on continuing to grow the platform with more businesses, engaging with their community of businesses, developing the next phase of the platform, and getting the word out about Jerdeen.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It hasn’t been a smooth road for our co-founders, but the journey has definitely been worth it. Building a new startup requires an immense amount of patience and diligence as you figure out what are the proper steps toward achieving your mission and vision.

Our co-founders first struggled with not having the experience in launching a startup but leveraged any resource they could find to help guide them through the process. For example, free and subsidized legal clinics and speaking with other startup founders helped them hit the ground running. It is essential to vocalize the needs of your business to your network because you never know what resources or knowledge they will share that can help guide you along the way.

Building a startup while maintaining a career full-time is no easy feat, but the co-founders work tirelessly following their 9-5s, sacrificing late nights and weekends. To them, it’s worth it because they are determined to make Jerdeen the best platform for their community.

The co-founders have also been bootstrapping the startup using their own funds to run the business. Every cost associated with building the platform such as making enhancements and marketing has not been cheap, but they understand the importance of delayed gratification and have really focused on investing all they can into growing Jerdeen.

Challenges are inevitable, but our co-founders believe that if you have a strong mission and vision to guide you, then ultimately, you will overcome them. As we continue building Jerdeen, we are ready for any challenges we may face in the future and know that the ones we are dealing with today will pass. We just have to keep going!

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Jerdeen is an online platform that brings together African diaspora businesses to one place to make them easily discoverable. It is our mission to bring to stage the products and services the African diaspora pour their hearts into. We want to elevate African diaspora commerce into the 21st century which will enrich the lives of our people. We believe that establishing fruitful relationships between African diaspora businesses and consumers will create a strong circle of wealth within our community that will uplift us all.

What sets us apart from others are the products and services that are discoverable on Jerdeen. Although we have a wide variety of partners that provide all types of products and services, we strive to identify businesses that provide the cultural items, clothing, and foods that remind us of the motherland. We also have the ability to find a professional by language which ensures our community can find professionals who can best serve them.

Another thing that sets us apart from others is our branding. We are very proud of how we were able to integrate our co-founder’s origins into the mission. Jerdeen in the Tigrinya language which is spoken in Eritrea & Ethiopia means a garden where plants are cultivated. In that same fashion, Jerdeen is a place where businesses can come and grow together while serving the needs of our community.

To the VoyageLA community, we’d love to invite you to check out Jerdeen.com and support the businesses on our platform! If you happen to identify with being from the African diaspora and have a business, we’d love for you to join our platform for free! We are currently offering free promotion across our social media channels, so don’t miss out on that!

What makes you happy?
There are many things that have made us happy throughout our journey with Jerdeen. Seeing the joy people have when they find a business from the African diaspora that serves their needs is probably the biggest one!

In addition, connecting with the entrepreneurs on Jerdeen and hearing their stories about what inspired them to start their business and how they have persevered has been very energizing. This fuels our team to push harder.

Another source of happiness for our team is knowing that we are financially empowering our community. Circulating our dollars within our own businesses will help elevate the African diaspora, and will promote a behavior change within our communities to support our own businesses as much as possible.

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