THIS IS MY STORY AND THE STORY OF MILLIONS OF FIGHTERS
My name is Marta Solomon. I was born and raised in a small town called Babile in Eastern Ethiopia. Ethiopia has over 80 different tribes, each with their own language, culture, and way of life. In addition to growing up in one of Ethiopia’s most diverse towns, I also had the privilege to visit and live in different cities around the country, where I experienced the beauty of different cultures and the joy of sharing our experiences with each other.
When I was 18, I moved to Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, to live with my aunt Tadelech (we call her Tadu). 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.