Tigist Kelkay, who supports ECMAA with Design needs, currently works as a Graphic Designer
and is based in New Jersey. Her family recently created Red Fox Spices with the goal of making
authentic spices easily accessible.
Authentic spices, like shiro and berbere, are staple ingredients in any habesha home but quality spice blends are hard to find. One standout from the crowd, Red Fox Spices, is hoping to change that by making spices available for purchase online and at pop-up shops.
A family-run business, Red Fox Spices fittingly uses recipes of spices passed down from generations. “My mom, Mesrak Alemu (pictured on far right), has been in the food business for over 20 years running a successful restaurant and recently the preparation of spices and catering,” explains Tigist Kelkay. “Her business gained so much popularity after a short interview was aired by Ethiopian Broadcasting Station (EBS) back in December.
A natural hard worker, Mesrak takes pride in overseeing the production of spices from start to finish. “It all starts from sourcing quality ingredients. My mom often travels to farms to source the peppers for the berbere as well as the legumes for the shiro she prepares,” says Tigist. Overtime, Mesrak was able to create solid relationships with reliable suppliers. “My mom uses recipes that have been passed from generations before. She mainly depends on the recipes her mom has taught her. My grandmother, who we lovingly call Nuniya (pictured on the far left), is the namesake behind her business based in Addis Ababa, Nuniya’s Kitchen.” Run by a very small team, Tigist and her family feel fortunate to work on something purposeful while honoring Nuniya.
“We are learning as heavy and painful as it is losing someone, honoring their legacy fills you with so much comfort and a reason to keep going,” says Tigist.
Ultimately, Mesrak’s dream is to grow her business so that she can create more opportunities, especially for women.
And the meaning behind Red Fox Spices? “The name comes from the Red Fox mainly found in the Bale Mountains. We wanted a name that is purely native to Ethiopia and Red Fox, an endemic and rare animal to Ethiopian Highlands, embodied so much,” says Tigist. “The Red Fox lives in large family packs with tight social bonds, led by a dominant female, facing threats and risks, struggling for survival. And not to forget, Bale mountains is a magical place.”
The Red Fox population is on a decline and considered an endangered species. There are ongoing efforts to make sure they don’t become extinct. For Tigist and her family, this video “sealed the deal” in terms of supporting this effort. Once the soft launch for Red Fox Spices ends, there are plans to support the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program.