THIS IS MY STORY AND THE STORY OF MILLIONS OF FIGHTERS
My name is Marta Solomon. As a young girl growing up in Bablile, a small town in the eastern part of Ethiopia, I grew up seeing the effect that poverty had on my community, especially the women of my community. This planted a burning desire in me to one day do something that would change the lives of the people around me and others like them.
My town in Ethiopia served as a major marketplace for the villages around us. So, I would witness first-hand the amount of sweat and tears that would go into families trying to maintain a sustainable income. Every Tuesday and Thursday (the two market days of the week), men, women, and children from the surrounding areas would walk hours in the heat, carrying their products and leading their herd to my town. After hours of walking, they would reach the market, and spend all day tirelessly trying to sell as many products as they could. Eventually, to limit the number of things they must carry back, these men and women are forced to sell their valuable items at a very low price.
One of the people affected by this was my aunt Tadelech (we call her Tadu) —a very talented artisan that made beautiful leather bags. When I was 18, I moved to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, to live with her and her family. In her bedroom, there was a sewing machine under a big plastic cover and a mountain of clothes that she was getting ready to wash. From that small sewing machine, she used to make leather bags and send them to me and my sisters. They were beautiful, leather school bags that would last forever no matter what we did to them. But I never understood why she sent us those bags so often. Coming from a family of business owners, I knew that she couldn’t keep giving away her products for free and stay in business.
Years later, the aunt who once sent us beautiful school bags that made us look and feel like “the rich kid” at school was out of business, and her sewing machine was out of work too.
Without wasting a minute, I asked her why she stopped making those beautiful leather bags. She replied, “I had to stop because I couldn’t get a good enough market to generate revenue and sustain myself.” She brought me to a room full of beautiful bags that she wasn’t able to sell. (I finally understood that she gave away her bags because she couldn’t sell them.)
From that day on, I have been trying to find her a market for her bags. But it wasn’t easy. Eventually, I was able to bring her some sales and connections that motivated her to get back into making those beautiful leather bags. However, it wasn’t enough to support her financially or advance her career. The most we managed to do was to get the products into some small tourist shops in the city.
About a year later, I moved to the United States. I promised myself and my aunt that I would do whatever it took to bring the world’s attention to her works and those of other talented hard-working artisans trying to support their families. She continued to sell a small number of products at the local market. In the US, I met people from different countries in person and through social media. All of them told me similar stories of family members back home who were struggling to find a market for their products. I realized that this problem extended beyond my aunt or Ethiopia to all underprivileged and underrepresented communities. This is the reality that keeps poor countries poor and the people of those nations in needless suffering.
That experience changed my view of my aunt and other talented creators like her. I no longer saw her as someone who made poor business decisions but as someone who has been fighting for her existence as a creator, fighting to sustain herself and create a better future for her family, as a businesswoman who dared to see beyond her limitations, as a great entrepreneur and fighter. This is the story of someone the world often doesn’t care to hear about, someone who is undervalued, someone who has to overcome not only her limited resources or capital but with political and socioeconomic adversity. These creators deserve an audience, people with open minds and hearts who look past the lack of a brand name and are interested in promoting the stories of individuals from little-known countries and communities.
That is how Skadmas was born. We are dedicated to bringing the precious works of my aunt and others like her to the global market. We are a platform for individuals to share, admire, and learn from every culture while making a lasting impact on the lives of our partners.
I now appreciate the beauty and the uniqueness of things that were commonplace during my childhood: the clothes I wore, household materials, and beautiful artwork that adorned our walls. And I believe that beauty is meant to be shared with everyone.
Update: I can’t believe I am writing this, but we lost Tadu on 12/23/2021 after fighting so hard against liver cancer for more than six unimaginably painful months.
I don’t think I can say this to many people in this world, but Tadu was a literal angle; She was selfless. She opened up her tiny house for anyone who needed a place(Family or not) and let us stay for as long as we needed to without making us feel like we were a burden. She refused to lay off her workers as her business struggled due to covid. She fought to work while fighting cancer and kept her business open till the last minute of her life, again just so she could keep as many people employed as possible. Shortly, she lived her whole life for others; she never had anything that was truly hers because she shared everything she had with others.
She was a hard-working mom who was determined to create a better life for her kids, a kind of life she didn’t get the chance to have. And she was very determined and sure that she was going to make it happen, against all odds. She was always optimistic regardless of the barriers and the challenges that came her way.
Skadmas will always be part of her legacy! And I said “Part” because she has many of them. Tadu has inspired everyone she met, and I believe she has a legacy in each and every one of those lives. She inspired people with her hard work, kindness, smile, optimism, selfnesses, and more.
I feel like I lost a piece of me with her and will always have that with me. However, I am dedicated more than ever to working hard to help Artisans like her who are selflessly fighting against their barriers to create a better life for their kids and communities.
I am at peace knowing that she has done everything she needed to do, impacted more lives, and helped a lot more people than most people with a longer life could. And that she is at a better place with Jesus.
Note: Part of this Legacy too is her husband Tadesse, who we also lost in August 2021 due to covid-19. He was just as kind and selfless as she was. He supported her in everything she did and stood by her every step of the way. Though a lot quieter and less bubbly than her, he was always a warm and welcoming person. He loved people and shared everything he got with everyone who needed it.
I guess good people don’t really last long!