For those of you who know me, you know that I love sugar cane. I often refer to it as milk direct from God’s teet. It is sweet but not overly sweet. By some divine chemistry, the juice is both frothy and smooth at the same time. It has an earthy taste that you never knew you needed until you try it. And once you try it, it’s all over. You’re hooked and hooked for life.
Now that I have finished my sugar cane rant, it is time to tell you about the sugar cane business I got started in Ethiopia. If you are tired of reading you can just skip down to the video, but stay here for a little more background info of the business.
So, basically, as you now know, I love sugar cane, I can’t stress it enough. However, the problem in Ethiopia is that they only sell sugar cane raw. What this means is, unless you have a sharp knife on you, you are forced to gnaw at the cane until you’re bleeding from the gums.
And so, I ended up doing this more times than I can count.
“Westerners love sugar cane, but no tourist is going to buy it here if it means they risk losing a tooth or bleeding from the gums,” I realized.
That’s when it hit me.
On the way to Lalibella, a village host to 13 holy churches carved from stone, our mini bus stopped to buy sugar cane. I had a feeling that since Lalibella is located at a high altitude that sugar cane would not be grown there, so I bought three bundles, around 24 foot long sticks, for 4 Birr, that’s under fifty cents. When I arrived in Lalibella, my presumption was confirmed by much higher sugar cane prices. If I had just sold the sugar cane raw right then and there I would have doubled my money. But that was not my plan.
My plan was to introduce cut and packaged sugar cane to the tourist filled village of Lalibella. And that was exactly what I did. I cut up the sugar cane, put it in clear air tight plastic bags, and hit the market. Needless to say, the locals thought I was completely nuts and so did the foreign tourists. However I stuck at it and managed to sell 5 bags for 10 Birr a bag.
However, the success of the day had little to do with the amount of money I made. The real success was measurable in the number of locals who approached me and appreciated my introducing the idea to the town. And through the 13 year old entrepreneur who recognized the potential of selling clean cut sugar cane to tourists, and became my intern.
It is my hope that that kid keeps it up and is profiting well, and that the next time I am in Lalibella, I can buy fresh, clean, bit size sugar cane from him.
This business venture was made possible by Lotus Honolulu.