After traveling around Eastern Africa for some months visiting development projects on the ground, Swiss environmental scientist Nadine Guthapfel ended up in Ethiopia, the country that put her on the path to learning more about the origins of coffee and also introduced her to the man that would become her husband and business partner.
Some things are meant to be, people might say. While staying in the city of Arba Minch, Nadine met Kebede Dache Dalacho, an experienced tour guide and tour organizer in Ethiopia. Kebede is a person who loves traveling and showing visitors the land by giving them authentic and unique experiences.
“I make possible the impossible and I always try my best,” says the SINGApreneur Kebede who, along with Nadine, created KafiUndSchoggi Reisen. In an interview with Rossana A. Ammann, they not only tell the story behind their project but also about getting married, deciding to live in Switzerland and how they share a passion for traveling and supporting Ethiopian local communities.
Rossana: Share something about Ethiopia that not everybody knows.
Nadine: What is special about Ethiopia and what people might like to know is that they have their own calendar that is seven years behind ours! Here we have the Gregorian calendar and over there they have 13 months in the year and another way of counting the time as well. Something else: for Europeans that think that Ethiopia, being part of Africa, is a dry country, it’s a myth. Yes, there are dry areas but there are forests and green regions too. It is a very diverse country!
Kebede: Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that was not colonized. We have 86 different languages and ethnic groups. It’s a country that seems to be many different places at the same time (laughs). We are also one of the few countries in the world where Muslims and Christians have lived together for centuries without any problems.
What should people know about Ethiopia before going there?
Kebede: It is a safe country and everybody will welcome and integrate you very well. Also, we have many National Parks, green forests, wild animals and really good coffee.
After having a long-distance relationship, the couple decided to move to Switzerland in 2015. Nadine traveled to Ethiopia several times for different projects while Kebede was dealing with the visa and documentation process.
“It was really hard for me to leave my country. I hoped I could travel around the world, but not leave indefinitely,” confesses Kebede, while adding that the first days in Switzerland were difficult because he couldn’t communicate in English around the village or with the family. It was about persisting, learning the (German) language and looking for the next project to work on, as well as becoming parents for the first time.
Once in Switzerland, how did you start to think about the business idea?
Nadine: I had a project in Kaffa that I was working on, but I previously had the idea in mind about traveling and creating a business together. At the beginning, the trips were only to go to Kaffa, and with time we combined and adapted various ideas.
Kebede: As I had been working for my own business as a tour guide and tour organizer in Ethiopia, it was clear for me that I would love to continue the travel business because that is what I am passionate about.
What are your company values?
Nadine: We believe in another way of traveling that is closer to the people, based on mutual respect, with fair income opportunities for the locals and being especially respectful towards nature and the environment.
When did you offer your tour packages for the first time?
Nadine: 2017 was the year in which we did more marketing and communication to present KafiUndSchoggi Reisen to the open market, as well as with other people also focusing on Ethiopia. We had flyers, newsletters and partners who also wrote about us. That year we really started.
How many trips have you made so far?
Nadine: Until now under KafiUndSchoggi Reisen, we have made around five to six tailor-made individual tours, for which we organized all the logistics and meetings with locals at eye level.
Kebede: I have friends in Ethiopia that I also work with as a freelancer. Due to my long time experience operating with them, I preselect the agencies and if I cannot go myself, I send people there that do what I agreed on with the customers. I organize the trips according to what people wish to do.
The difference and ease of KafiUndSchoggi Reisen is having someone from inside the Ethiopian community and culture to provide travelers with real experiences that they would not to come across so easily by themselves. Visiting National Parks or having special and meaningful interactions with locals “is something people like and appreciate,” both SINGApreneurs confirm.
They want to support and promote a sustainable way of traveling that generates fair incomes for the community and is closer to the people. Everything is based on mutual respect between tourists and the local people, as well as towards nature and the environment.
What added value do you provide with your travel experiences?
Kebede: People can buy holidays, but they cannot buy a really good experience with locals if they don’t have the right person to contact them from the inside. Especially in a country like Ethiopia. I make peace and space with clients and locals. They feel like they are at home. They see and experience how people live, work, and go about their daily activities. This is what’s unique about us. I love creating beautiful experiences that people can tell their friends and families about.
What does coffee mean to Ethiopians?
Kebede: Ethiopia is, in fact, the country of origin of coffee, more precisely, coffee Arabica. We celebrate coffee for different reasons. People normally drink coffee three times a day and it is freshly roasted and held under the nose of the visitor. The smell of the coffee is incredible! The taste is totally different and it is a tradition for us. Coffee is drunk during a normal afternoon, to celebrate festivities (New Year’s Eve, for example), to welcome guests or even to resolve a conflict!
Nadine: In Ethiopia the coffee ceremony is like a tea ceremony in Morocco, for example. That’s why it is connected to the trips we organize.
Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
Nadine: There is a growing market and interest in Ethiopia. We want to continue offering a few group trips per year and continue doing the individual tailor-made ones for couples or single travelers.
People can buy holidays, but they cannot buy a really good experience with locals if they don’t have the right person to contact them from the inside. That’s where we come in and what is unique about us.
Kebede Dache Dalacho
Many unforgettable experiences are part of the packages and trips of the SINGApreneurs, who are always delighted to talk about coffee, traditional Ethiopian ceremonies, and the idea of “treating guests not just like tourists, but like friends or family members.”
In addition, they have a social project with which they improve the living conditions of children and women in southern Ethiopia, by supporting the “Saware Dicha” association with 4% of all income they receive from the tours.
What have personally been some of the best traveling experiences you have ever had and why?
Nadine: One of the countries that is still in my heart is Ecuador. I just love the place. And Ethiopia, of course, is just amazing. My most wonderful experiences were when I got to know and had closer interactions with the people, went to villages, visited families and experienced the little details. That’s what we want to offer with the business as well.
Kebede: I had my best experience when I went to Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. It is a unique place, you can expect such natural beauty, the landscape, the wild animals, the endemic trees… It was just amazing for me. Here in Switzerland, one of my personal highlights was when I saw the Aletsch Glacier for the first time. I am a nature lover.
Until now, what do you find to be the most useful guidance inside the SINGA Factory?
Nadine: The big network they have and getting to know people from different backgrounds. It has been great with the coaching sessions as well, the workshops and receiving support when we got stuck.
Kebede: The ladies in the SINGA team – they are amazing. Really dedicated, hard working people and honest. They also provide quality workshops with experts and professionals in their areas; people who know what they are talking about.
What drives and motivates you every day?
Nadine: I love what we do. It isn’t always easy with family and trying to keep the business running but in the end, I know it is right because I love being an entrepreneur, living my dreams and creating a positive impact.
Kebede: The WHY. I know why I am doing what I am doing. My WHY: I love supporting and solving the problems of others and of course being an entrepreneur myself, being independent, making my own decisions. I love taking risks and seeing things when they are working and growing.
What is your daily motto?
Nadine: Even if I have a bad day, I will tell myself afterwards: you can always take something out of that experience. What can I learn from it that brings me forward? I always take something positive out of everything.
Good to know:
The next trips from KafiUndSchoggi Reisen are coming in:
- February 2019: visit the origin of coffee, fascinating National Parks in Southern Ethiopia and experience local culture and village life.
- September 2019: explore nature, visit Southern Ethiopia and see one of the biggest religious celebrations in the country: the “Meskel Festival” or the Finding of the True Cross.
- November 2019: visit Kaffa (the origin of coffee during the harvest season), nature and villages and experience Southern Ethiopian culture.
- January 2020 (3 weeks) and three nature highlights: Kaffa Biosphere Reserve, Bale Mountains and Churchura Chebera National Park – with the “Epiphany/Timkat Festival” and culture in Southern Ethiopia.
You can contact Nadine Guthapfel and Kebede Dache Dalacho via phone 056 555 20 70 or write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org
This interview was held in English by Venezuelan journalist, storyteller and volunteer Rossana A. Ammann, who is passionate about multiculturalism, people’s stories and organizational talent development. You can find her work and more about her via LinkedIn