Founder and CEO
Michael Tilahun Belay was born and raised in Abi Adi, a small village in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia. His father fought Mussolini’s Fascist invasion in 1935 and continued occupation. In 1974, the Communist Derg revolution erupted in civil war. The Communists misused generous foreign aid intended for "starvation" to purchase weapons for use against Ethiopian citizens. Belay's father, a top judge, and many key national leaders were assassinated and burned. The Derg destroyed his brother’s eardrums. Without ambulances, his sister died in childbirth walking to a large city.
In 1975, prior to the passing of Belay's father, he was among those fighting the Derg. His father told him to immediately hide and leave Ethiopia. Obediently, at age 13, Belay began what turned out to be a 3-month journey through the jungle, only during nightfall, en route to Sudan. His shoes eventually worn out that he had to wrap his feet in leaves. Once in Sudan, he worked to cover travel expenses to Germany. Eventually he received his passport to America in 1981 and became a U.S. citizen in 1985.