In 2002, in Washington, DC, Tebabu Assefa met Mr. Tadesse Meskela, the founder and manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU) at a forum organized by Oxfam International and Global Exchange to draw publicity to a campaign designed to bring awareness to the coffee crisis. Mr. Meskela was a keynote speaker at the event.
Mr. Meskela introduced Mr. Assefa to the world of coffee, the growing tradition, the history of the farmer's cooperatives union, the global coffee business and the challenge the union faces as it strives to get a better price for coffee in the global market. Mr. Assefa, who has had an extensive educational and professional experience promoting and marketing Culture and Arts, was fascinated by the coffee culture and inspired by the small farmers' collective effort to bargain for a better price in the global market. But he was also baffled by the unfairness of the market and in the end was highly motivated to develop a promotional campaign to create market awareness for the culture of coffee and share the story of the farmers with coffee connoisseurs and specialty coffee consumer in the US market.Mr. Assefa traveled to Ethiopia several times to visit the coffee growing region where he met with coffee growers and their cooperatives. He learned first hand the impact of the coffee crisis on the lives of the small coffee farmers. This led to a six year market research that immediately revealed that the global market access challenges the coffee farmers face is also true for other value chains in the agricultural sector and in the end it hinders Ethiopia's global market participation.
The research sought advice from policymakers, including US Congress members, the Ethiopia's Ministry of Trade and Industry and other trade related governmental and NGO officials. Survey methods included face-to-face interviews with Ethiopian coffee farmers' cooperative unions, small to large scale Ethiopian manufacturers and Ethiopian businesses and community leaders at home and in the Diaspora. Critical analysis and inputs were provided by prominent scholars and experts in the field of international finance, economics, trade and marketing.
The research produced a market and business strategy titled, "Ethiopia Essentials" (EE), which is a cultural and economical convergence to dynamically bridge Ethiopia with the Global market. Coffee, which instigated the research, was selected as a leading product to implement the EE strategy.
In the end, the implementation of the EE strategy regarding coffee resulted in the formation of a business model which, through trial and error, finally evolved into Blessed Coffee, which is established in association with OCFCU. OCFCU is a small holder, coffee growers owned cooperative union in Southern Ethiopia with 180,000 small coffee farming members, including over a million extended families.