Breaking the Glass Ceiling: The EBS TV Story

Nowadays, entrepreneurship has become the goal for millions of millennials worldwide. As many have found, building a business from the ground up is not as simple or easy as it seems on social media. Beyond just attempting a new venture, breaking into a previously established field and succeeding has become a distant memory for many creators. Television, especially, has already had its field molded with iconic channels such as ESPN, TLC, HGTV and more. Breaking into the world of media seems nearly impossible but a couple from Washington, DC managed to do it, and create their own niche simultaneously. 

Helen Mesfin and Noah Fissehazion created Ethiopian Broadcasting Service TV (EBS TV) in 2008 and have grown their audience to over 30 million viewers worldwide. Synonymous with EBS is The Helen Show, hosted by Mesfin, which was created to “inspire… and entertain” Ethiopians and Africans, living both in the diaspora and in their respective countries. Here is their journey and insight into creating a successful channel. 


Merry: What is EBS TV and what inspired you to create it? 

Helen & Noah: EBS is a privately held media company established in 2008 in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA to provide niche transmission programming that targets the booming Ethiopian market globally. EBS TV has 30 million viewers globally. EBS aims to promote Ethiopian and other African countries’ values, cultures and traditions on a global scale. The much-needed information provided by EBS would help bridge the cultural divide and narrow the communication gap for Ethiopians residing in North America and around the world. EBS prides itself on providing quality programs pertaining to the rich cultural heritage of Ethiopia, its history, tradition, socio-economic development, business, tourism and current affairs.


Merry: How were you able to fund the company in the beginning years? 

Helen & Noah: EBS was funded by a personal investment of its founders which includes us along with our co-founders who also happen to be our relatives. 


Merry: What is the goal of EBS TV?

Helen & Noah: EBS’s mission and goal is to be the leader in the entertainment and “infotainment” mass media, serving Ethiopians residing in Ethiopia and around the world. The television platform has and will play a great role as a tool for businesses and various organizations to reach the Ethiopian community globally.


Merry: What is The Helen Show and what was the goal behind this show?

Helen & Noah: Helen Show is about celebrating and inspiring Ethiopians, Ethiopian -Americans and Eritreans by facilitating honest conversations and in-depth discussions to inspire, inform, entertain, educate and empower viewers to transform and improve their lives. With wit and compassion, Helen engages her guests to share their thoughts and expertise, discussing relevant everyday issues ranging from family, career, lifestyle, health and nutrition, geared specifically to Ethiopian and Africans in the continent and Diaspora. The show is a weekly program.


Merry: How has creating EBS and The Helen Show impacted your lives? What has been the most rewarding part of starting a business? 

Helen & Noah: The Helen Show has completely changed and transformed my life. First and foremost, it taught me a new set of skills, journalism and TV show production. By trade, I’m in business development and sales. Doing the Helen Show has stretched my thought process and pushed me out of my comfort zone to learn and understand a new industry. The show connected me to the Ethiopian community to understand the needs and struggles. It opened doors for me to meet so many influential people in academia, business, politics, art and various industries. I have an opportunity to engage them, learn from them and give them a platform to share their knowledge and expertise. I spend a lot of time researching topics and questions for the show which has expanded my knowledge base in general. It has strengthened my oral, listening and, in general, my communication skills. I have learned how to be comfortable and confident in my own skin. My passion is to connect people, to motivate people and inspire them to be the best they can be. The show is not about me but about the audience.


Merry: What has been the most challenging part of starting a business?

Helen & Noah: The biggest challenge for me when I first started doing the program is that I didn’t know anything about TV production or journalism in general. It was a big learning curve. The fact that I didn’t have mentors or trainers made the learning process a bit harder. 


Merry: What advice would you give future entrepreneurs in this field? 

Helen & Noah: My advice for anyone interested in becoming a TV host is to find yourself a good mentor and be willing to put in the hard work needed to learn the skill. Be confident in being you. You must have a passion to connect with others. Having a thick skin to accept rejection and good improvisation skills will also be extremely helpful. If you are a college student, degrees in communication, broadcasting or journalism all give you a strong foundation to pursue your dreams. These programs typically cover research techniques, media writing, reporting and communications. You may also take additional courses in public speaking or English or drama which will immensely broaden your knowledge in the field. 


Merry: Where can everyone find both EBS and The Helen Show? 

Helen & Noah: If you’re interested in learning more about EBS TV or watching any of our programs, you may visit our website or our youtube. You can also find The Helen Show here on Facebook or on Instagram.