Empowerment

Empowered Women Empower Women- Beri Gebrehiwot Author, Creator, and Entrepreneur

This month's Empowered Women Empower Women series features an amazing woman who does it all. She is a writer who believes in preserving her culture and identity through storytelling, a creator and an entrepreneur and these are just a few of the titles she holds.

Beri is the mom we all want to send our kids to, in order to ensure they know and understand our culture and heritage.

Enjoy reading all about Beri Gebrehiwot’s journey and how she became the amazing supermom she is today!

 

1)  I love that you are so into your culture and want to share it with the world- Tell me about your journey- What inspired you to go into the wedding industry and then become a writer for children’s books and start a podcast for habesha moms?  

Growing up, preserving our Eritrean identity and language was a big part of our narrative for my siblings and I. We were raised with that, and education, at the forefront of our upbringing. As immigrants to this country, my parents feared losing their children to a new culture, with no ties to their roots.

Starting a wedding business was a no brainer for me, as I struggled to find cultural vendors online while planning for a large, 1,500 guest wedding and living 3,000 miles away from home at the time. I was tired of reaching out to past couples and elders in the community for contact information and reviews on vendors they used for Melse (the traditional wedding day). About 1 month after our wedding, in 2012, I started to plan out my vision for an easier way to connect with cultural vendors. At the time, my business was named Bella Bride Africa, focusing mostly on Eritrean and Ethiopian brides.Today, it is called Her Big Day and incorporates cultural brides from all around the world. We connect brides to both western and cultural vendors and highlight their work at our annual wedding show and website. A part of that vision was to preserve our cultural heritage in the form of weddings and be able to help couples showcase their heritage on their big day. 

In 2014, I had my first born and I was flooded with the same sentiments as my parents, of wanting to pass on my heritage and preserve language and identity in my own children. It was just a natural reaction for me; and the first thing I did was to look out into the world- my environment-to see what resources were available to help me do that. And surprisingly, I found little to no resources.

With my first born, I was a stay at home mom for the first two years. During that time- of juggling how to be a new mom, discovering the new person I was becoming and finding moms to connect with, I couldn’t help but realize that my son was never surrounded by kids who looked like him. Don’t get me wrong, the mommy-and-me activities, mommy playdates, library story times, etc.were all fun… but I kept desiring to meet and connect with moms who looked like him, and like me- Habesha moms who shared our culture and language.  

For the same exact reason, I wrote and published my first children’s book, The Adventures of Noah and Sabu: Mornings with Grandma; to create a resource that my kids could identify with and see themselves in.

At the end of 2014, I started a closed Facebook group under the name Habesha Moms, with the hopes of connecting with Eritrean and Ethiopian moms who can relate to my season of motherhood and relate culturally, especially when it came to preserving our heritage and passing it down to our kids.

Today, that group has grown to over 6,000 Eritrean and Ethiopian moms around the world- with a safe space for us to share/discuss/seek and give support to one another, and find moms in our own cities to connect with. I found some of my best mom-friends/sisters on this platform and, miraculously, they all live within 5-10 minutes away (I say miraculously, because never did I think I would find Habesha people near me, let alone young moms with kids the same ages as mine, same values and a real connection!).

Recently, I have started transitioning our platform to Instagram with preparation for our upcoming Podcast and website, under a new name: Almaz+ co. Almaz, in the Tigrinya, Amharic and Russian languages, simply means Diamond. I wanted to choose a name that represented all of us in our different seasons of motherhood and the women we were becoming as a result of it. Just like diamonds, who start off as ordinary rocks until they are put under intense heat and pressure before becoming the beautiful diamond we all love.

 

2)   What are some of the hurdles you faced when you first started your journey and some that you’re still facing today? 

My background is nursing, so when I ventured out to start my first business in 2012, I was completely lost. It felt like learning a new language. However, I quickly discovered that I enjoyed the process of creating and executing so researching and learning was a big part of my journey. I spent countless hours watching tutorials, reading articles, connecting with different people, joining some groups, and so much more. It felt like I was going against the grain at the time, because it was a new world for me, but eventually, things started to click. I spent a lot of time figuring things out on my own instead of reaching out for help and mentorship. That’s one thing I tell people all the time now- don’t waste your time recreating the wheel; seek mentorship from people who are willing to mentor you and share their journey with you. And not everyone is willing to do this, but keep looking- there are genuine people out there who want to see you succeed!

One of my major hurdles once I had my kids was dealing with mom guilt. Days when I sacrificed time with my kids for my business, I felt guilty about it for days on end... and it was something that would really get to me- causing me to feel like I had to "make it up" to them with something ridiculous like too much ice cream or buying them something they didn't need.

I remember sharing this with my mom and the way she put it into perspective for me has always stuck with me. She asked me if she or my dad ever "made it up" to us kids every time they worked late hours. I laughed at her response and quickly said No.

She reminded me that it was actually good for our kids to see their parents working hard and putting in extra hours. When we make them feel like its something that we have to "make up" to them, they associate our action as bad. Instead, we should just explain to them that mommy or daddy has to work hard to accomplish x, y, z and remind them that we love them and are always here for them. It reminded me to share my mission and purpose with them, even at this young age- using language appropriate for their age- instead of making it into something bad that I did. I want them to look to their parents as inspiration and understand what  hard work ethics look like. While still loving them and being here for them.

 3)   If there was one thing you’ve done that you could go back in time and change, what would it be?

I’m a firm believer in process and the perfect timing of the universe. So, with that being said, I don’t think I would change anything in my journey to where I am now. Life is literally unfolding…I don’t see it as a linear path, but yet a bunch of layers that build upon each other and unfold to blossom like the petals on a flower. That unfolding happens when we embrace and live in our truest forms to become the women we were created to be.

Beautiful. Strong. Impactful. A path with many layers is an indication of a life LIVED.
4)   Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Recently, I’m consumed with my Podcast and vision for Almaz + co. Five years from now, I see women in our community having a resource of hundreds of women that look like them to look to and hear stories from. Our Habesha Moms platform is full of women with incredible stories, journeys, successes, failures, loss, impact, joy… 5 years from now, sharing our stories, the ups and downs, with one another, will be more natural and more acceptable in our community; and Almaz + co. will be just the platform to cultivate that type of boldness and courage from women in our community.

Our mission is to change the narrative for women in our culture. I’m excited!
5)   You own your own business, run a successful group on Facebook, plus you launched a children’s series.  How do you balance it all-motherhood/marriage/career?  

I have learned early on that there is NO such thing as balance. What I say to myself is: if you’re balanced, you’re not doing enough. Lol, and maybe I say that to make myself feel better… but in all honesty, I really do believe that the “idea” of balance is subjective. It looks and feels different for everyone. So, identifying what balance or peace looks like for you and your family, instead of adopting what you’re told it “should” look like, will probably save you a lot of anxiety in the future. Especially if you’re a creative and a go-getter with big dreams. 😊

I think having structure when you have a chaotic schedule or a full plate is the secret to making it all happen; not so much “balance.” When I think of balance, I think of a scale that is perfectly equal and that is just not the case here. There are days when the scale is completely tipped on one end or the other (between family and work), and with communication and teamwork with hubby, we make it through those days. Having a partner who supports me and helps out makes a world of a difference, so I won’t even pretend like I have it all together or do it all by myself- because I don’t.

6)   In your eyes, what’s your most significant accomplishment?  

This one’s hard, because I instantly want to say- my children.

But when I pause and think about it…. I would have to say my most significant accomplishment is my education and the woman I am today; only because my parents literally sacrificed Everything they had… they sacrificed their own desires and dreams to ensure that all six of my siblings had greater opportunities and access to a higher education. At a very young age, watching my parents work their tails off, I made up my mind to be successful, no matter what, because I did not want the fruits of their labor to be in vain.

I wanted them, at the end of their lives, to feel that it was all worth it. Everything they ever did was for us, and I am forever grateful. 

I watched my parents go from being on government assistance to living in middle class American in just under a decade.... and to add to that, they sent all 6 kids to college, with the eldest, myself, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and the youngest, finishing up his PhD in Neuroscience. It’s our story and accomplishment as a unit.   

To think that we are the FIRST generation… in the entire lineage of my family, to go to college and have access to higher education just blows my mind.

 

7)   What advice do you have for someone that wants to start her own business?

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that ideas are cheap. It’s the follow through and execution of that idea that is hard. No matter how perfect or clear your business plan is, it will not go as you have planned in your head or planned on paper, so be prepared for a bumpy ride. For that reason, make sure you have a strong Why. Your Why will be the only thing to keep you going when the ride gets bumpy, so be sure to look at your mission and purpose for starting your business and spell out your Why very clearly. 

Another thing I would say is, be sure to seek mentors who are in your field. Save yourself some time and energy wasted on recreating the wheel, and seek mentorship from someone who has already been there. This doesn’t take away from the work you have to put in, but your mentor can give you insight to things you haven’t thought about, things you didn’t know, connect you with people and resources you need and just help navigate you along the way.

It can be hard finding a mentor right away, so joining a Facebook group around your business interest is a good way of connecting with people in that field. Another way is reaching out to a specific business via email to offer your own time and skills in exchange for mentorship. Be specific on what it is you want out of the mentorship by stating what it is you are looking to gain or learn, what the structure of the mentorship would be, e.g., monthly phone calls, monthly coffee dates, time spent volunteering with their business, etc.

Last, put yourself out there. We often want to “protect” our ideas by keeping them to ourselves, but it’s actually counterproductive to your success. Especially now, in the age of social media, the best thing you can do for your business is start sharing your story and your mission. Remember, there is only one You and no one could ever recreate that. So, stay true to yourself and put yourself out there.

8)   What are some empowering words or quotes you often find yourself turning too? 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t- you are right.” -Henry Ford.

This quote has been my “guiding light” so to speak. Your mind is so powerful, and, for whatever reason, it’s not always rooting for you. Once you realize that, and learn to push through the fear, you will be surprised at what you are actually capable of.

I hope you enjoyed reading Beri's amazing journey and more importantly I hope it has inspired you to go out and follow your dreams. Make sure to follow Beri's journey on social media .

Please be sure to stay tuned for monthly featured posts from other empowered women. Contact me if you would life to share your story and empower our readers. As always, I'd love to hear from you.

Yours,