SERA HELSINKI was born from love for handcrafting and design and has its roots in Ethiopia, practicality and empowerment.
Anna Suoheimo, the CEO and founder of SERA HELSINKI, lived herself five years in Ethiopia. She and her children fell in love with the country and its people. Anna loved to work with the local artisans. The nights of Addis Abeba are cold and she made woolen rugs for her own home. During that time her children were toddlers and spilled everything on the rugs. Anna was amazed that the wool was so easy to keep clean – even a white rug under the dining table. Anna started drawing the first collection and wanted to create a product that could give back to the country she loved.
Anna started working with eight women, who had been knotting rugs their whole lives. The beginning was hard because the artisans were used to making crosses on the rugs and they didn’t know how to use a measure. Anna didn’t speak Amharic herself so her driver and friend Abraham Hailemariam was helping and translating everything. The process involved lots of try and error, but finally we were able to make minimalistic designs.
Anna founded Sera Helsinki 2016 in Finland and Abraham started a business in Ethiopia. From the very beginning we knew that we wanted to work with the most vulnerable groups in Ethiopia. Every fifth person that lives in extreme poverty has a disability. Disability is also highly stigmatized in African cultures. We wanted to show that these groups are able to create beautiful products and are talented members of their communities. So the eight women started training persons with disabilities. We found out that we can make the rugs with many types of disabilities because every rug is a result of team work. If one person has vision, she can lead the ones that don’t have. Now we are working with several hundreds of persons with disabilities and the team is growing all the time.
Our aim is to improve the living standards of most vulnerable groups in Ethiopia – the people with disabilities and single mothers.