Ethiopian Immigrant Couple Start Home-Care Business in Minnesota
Date: September 15, 2021
Abraham & Aster Giorgis Dalu
Owners of A&A Reliable Home Health Care
In the 1970s, Abe and Aster Giorgis Dalu attended the same high school in Ethiopia — then, a decade later, they reunited by chance in the United States, where they had both settled. Now married, the pair run A&A Reliable Home Health Care, employing 70 people and providing in-home care for scores of senior and disabled people across Saint Paul.
Abe first left Ethiopia to study agronomy in the former Soviet Union. As a Christian, he struggled in the USSR and would have faced persecution in his native country. “It was completely incompatible with my faith, so I decided not to go back,” Abe says. In 1984, after receiving an MS in Agronomy, he walked through a Berlin Wall checkpoint and requested asylum in West Berlin. Eventually, he came to the U.S. with the help of American missionaries.
Upon his arrival, Abe reconnected with Aster, who had arrived a few years earlier to train as a nurse. They married in 1986, and after Abe gained a PhD in pharmacology and toxicology, they settled in Minnesota, where Abe worked for federal and private-sector research laboratories, while Aster worked as an RN at a local hospital.
When Abe was laid off in 2012, the pair decided to launch their own business. “Home-care is something we had the knowledge and experience for — and it was an area where we felt we could make a difference,” Aster explains.
The pair took a 10-week Neighborhood Development Center course to learn the basics of entrepreneurship, and received tech support and book-keeping training advice from African Economic Development Solutions, a local nonprofit that assists African immigrants. “Any time we needed help, we were able to get it,” Abe says. “Knowing we had these groups on our side was a real morale-booster.”
Running a healthcare business during the pandemic was challenging. “We got a forgivable PPP loan and some other financial support, and we’d love to see the City doing even more to help businesses,” Abe says. Abe and Aster say they’re upbeat about the future and determined to keep working to support those in need. “There’s an assumption that immigrants and refugees want hand-outs,” Abe says. “But the reality is that we’d all 100% prefer to be working to support ourselves, building businesses, and making a productive contribution to our community.”