Ethiopian refugee wins entrepreneur of year prize

Zelalem Gemmeda arrived in Buffalo in 2005 as a refugee from Ethiopia. The mother of two had to slowly rebuild her life, eventually opening Abyssinia Ethiopian Cuisine in the West Side Bazaar two years ago.

That business, its growth and Gemmeda’s overall resilience have earned her the inaugural entrepreneur of the year award from the Westminster Economic Development Initiative. She will be honored Friday during the organization’s annual Winterfest fundraiser at Foundry Hotel and Banquet on Elmwood Avenue.

The award, sponsored by Rich Products, includes a certificate and a $500 prize.

“I’m very excited to be honored for my hard work and success,” said Gemmeda, who is receiving assistance from WEDI to open her own restaurant.

Rich Products and WEDI selected Gemmeda because of her business that adds diversity to the community’s food choices, her drive to succeed and overcome obstacles and improve her condition. Gemmeda has emerged as a leader among vendors in the West Side Bazaar on Grant Street, WEDI’s international incubator, which houses food and retail booths. She’s also advocating for the bazaar to open seven days a week, instead of five, and incorporating more of the business owners’ culture into the incubator’s decor.

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