Enthusiastic Entrepreneur

Salem Habte is inspired by her parents' entrepreneurial example
Salem smiling

Get to know our people and you’ll know what UMKC is all about.

Salem Habte is a first-generation student who is inspired by her small-business owner parents. She shares what she's learned from them and how she's found entrepreneurial opportunities at UMKC.

Salem Habte ’20

Major: Bachelor of Business Administration, Entrepreneurship
SchoolHenry W. Bloch School of Management
UMKC organizations: UMKC Enactus
Hometown: Overland Park, Kansas

Congratulations, we hear you're traveling to London for a global business competition. Tell us about it.

Unilever is a company sponsor of Enactus USA, and in May 2018 at National Competition, we won an award called the Unilever Bright Future Partnership Accelerator for our FeedKC project. This honor was awarded to the best initiatives combating food waste, and we won first place in the nation. 

Each year, Unilever hosts the Unilever Future Leader's League, a business case competition for university students at their London Headquarters. As the winners of the Accelerator, Unilever invited three members from UMKC Enactus to represent the United States in the competition in England! This business case competition will be from April 10 to 12, and will host Enactus students from more than 20 different countries across the world. Andrea Savage (project leader of FeedKC) and Ali Brandolino (vice president of Enactus) and I (president of Enactus) will travel as the United States team. I'm thrilled that UMKC will be representing the United States in a world business competition, and honored to take part in it. 

Why did you choose UMKC?

I wanted to go to a college with a progressive, diverse student body. I was lucky enough to go to a high school (Olathe North) with every kind of student, and I didn’t want to go somewhere that lacked that. A family friend told me that this university was full of culturally diverse students who really thought outside of the box. I had the opportunity to meet with the chancellor before making a final decision on where to go. He was very welcoming, funny and such a bright guy. He advised that I join the entrepreneurship program and so I did.

What else inspired your field of study?

My father is a great influence on me. We have a family-owned coffee shop, Revocup Coffee Roasters, in Overland Park. He believes in attacking a problem in the world with a business model. He follows that belief with our coffee shop. We have been able to give back and fight the literary famine in Ethiopia— so far 25 libraries have been built.

What I’ve learned is that entrepreneurship is really a form of applied creativity and that the entrepreneurs who really flourish are passionate and willing to extend the limits of what is possible.

“I have access to one of the most entrepreneurial ecosystems around.”

What are the challenges and benefits of the program?

From what I’ve seen, to lead a successful project or business, you have to be crazy. The amount of hard work is impossible unless you’re relentlessly driven by a cause or a vision. It can be challenging to stick to something even when the going gets tough, or to try an idea that doesn’t work. But those become learning experiences.

The benefits are the people you get to meet and work with. Most of these connections have happened through an incredible organization that I’ve been involved in since my first day here, called UMKC Enactus. I’ve only been in Enactus for a year and have gotten to work on projects with so many unique individuals on and off campus.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?

That what I do in class will get me a job, and what I accomplish outside of class will get me a promotion. My extracurricular activities have shaped me and have given me priceless experiences and knowledge, and I think those are what will really open doors for me when I graduate.

What motto do you live by?

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something that you don’t.” –Bill Nye

Salem making espresso
What do you admire most at UMKC?

I admire the enthusiasm of UMKC as a whole. My school supports and sees me. My efforts are visible here. UMKC has provided me a platform and there’s a lot of love to go around.

Are you a first-generation college student?

Yes! The authentic first-generation experience is different for everyone and is very personal, but I think that basically we all live with something to prove. The dream for first-generation Americans, whether that’s joining the workforce straight out of high school, going to college or embarking on a new mission, is to realize one day that we’ve used our beginnings as motivation to transcend anyone’s expectations.

“Reaching my goals is a team effort at UMKC.”

 Salem smiling at her perfectly poured cappuccino
What are your life goals?

Michelle Obama is a huge inspiration. I would like to start projects, nonprofit organizations on a business scale. I would like to have a heavy influence on making lives better and put effort into making this world a better place. I want to give a TED Talk.

What is one word that best describes you?

Joyous! I’m pretty responsible for the energy I bring into a space and I’ve found that when I put out positivity, I usually get positivity back.

Published: Mar 29, 2019