We had the good fortune of connecting with Mentwab Easwaran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mentwab, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When I started designing mugs, it was simply to fulfill my own needs of wanting mugs with substance in my cupboard instead of corporate and outdated mugs. I wanted something that represents me and represents the place I came from and the stories I related to. It was around 2020 Christmas time when I sat down and started developing stories and soon created a couple of mug designs based on the stories I wrote. Once the mugs were created, I filled up my own cupboard and with whatever was leftover, I took to my friends to see if there is any interest. The mugs were received very well and with excitement. Not only did my friend buy for themselves and for gifting, but soon they spread the word and I started getting more orders over the phone. The stories that I write and inserted into the mugs explain what the art piece is about and in a way become my unique proposition. Once I realized that there are a lot of stories to be told about one’s culture, I formed Coobaya LLC in January 2021. I picked the name Coobaya because it means mug or cup in Amharic (My native language from Ethiopia). Coobaya now sells online and events and has many more stories to tell and offers different merchandise.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a creative artist and designer who wears many hats. I love all forms of creativity. I have been creating art since I was a child. My profession started out as a designer and for the longest time, I have been working as Graphics, Motion Graphic, and User Experience Designer. I have worked in technology designing government applications for more than a decade. Understanding technology and digital art have given me the opportunity to experiment and apply my knowledge to different merchandise. At the same time, I have been painting and having popups around DC. My painting style has evolved over the years, and it has been a challenge to put it in one genre, but gears toward abstract expressionism, While I start painting each piece without a direction in mind, all of my work ties back to three central themes: migration, life as an immigrant, and love.
It is challenging to place myself in different types of creativity but will discipline, time management, and the right mindset I have been able to sustain my ambition to grow in the areas of creativity that I love the most. My professional background in Design and technology, combined with a communication design degree from Parsons School of Design has taught me the importance of visual expressions. I am keenly aware that what we see has a tremendous impact on our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. I hardly hear African stories being raised in a positive way, so I wanted Coobaya to be there to make sure that the stories are told and are making an impact in someone’s life. I want the world to know Africa is more than war and poverty.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I will start the week by arranging a nice tour of DC. The monument, the capital, and all the outdoor historical sights. I will also pick one or two galleries of contemporary art exhibits, and make sure we visit the African American Museum. When it comes to restaurants I like experimenting and going to a new restaurant and trying something new. There is an abundance of entertainment in DC. Some of the areas like the Warf, Union Station, Downtown DC, 14th street corridor, H street corridor, and The Navy yard to name a few have bars, restaurants, and sometimes even outdoor entertainment. We will have to check some of those out.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give my shoutout to DC 202creates team for mentoring me when I started my small business
Shoutout to DC Mayor’s Bowser Office for recognizing and Awarding Coobaya with Excellence in Visual Arts in 2021.
Shoutout to African Union, for making Coobaya part of A.U day celebration of Culture.
Instagram: @coobayamugs, @ethiogallery
Photo credit to Nate Jarvis Instagram @natejarvis