This past Friday (April 30, 2021) Colorado Governor Jared Polis visited Edgewater and had lunch with the owners and operators of Konjo Ethiopian, Yoseph Assefa and Fetien Gebre-Michael, at the Edgewater Public Market. Governor Polis spent the day touring small businesses throughout the Denver area.
Here’s our interview with Fetien Gebre-Michael of Konjo Ethiopian about the visit.
How did you hear the Governor would be stopping by Konjo?
We received a call from the Governor’s office wanting to confirm a time in the next 2 days for him to stop by Konjo. Ummm, let’s rewind a bit here. Yes, we would love to have the Governor stop by, but why Konjo? So, Konjo is a part of the SBDC and back in 2018 we particpated in Trout Tank, a pitch accelerator. We ended up winning for our pitch of a fast-casual Ethiopian restaurant. One of the judges at the time, China, who is now the director of the SBDC, threw Konjo’s name in the hat. How cool is that?? Full circle.
What was the message you wanted to the Governor to hear?
We wanted the Governor to know that even though we barely made it through the pandemic, our struggles as a small business are not over yet. Yes, people are getting vaccinated and starting to come out more and more, but no one in our industry has enough staff. We are all struggling to keep up with the overnight demand and lack of staff has been a big issue. Our co-founder Yoseph suggested some sort of incentive to try to get more folks back into the service industry by way of a signing bonus funded by the state or a way that small businesses can draw potential employees back with help from the state level.
What makes you hopeful for the future?
Business is already starting to pick up exponentially. This will be a busy summer across the board. People are antsy to get out and they have money saved up from staying home for so long. They want to be around other people and start socializing again. Failure wasn’t an option for Konjo. We’ve worked too hard to get to where we are. We diversified and did what we could to stay afloat. If we can make it through Covid, we can make it through anything.