New Somali restaurant shows entrepreneurial spirit of the immigrant community

Raniya Sheikh, left, and her mother, Sahra Hassan at the counter of Mama Sahra's Kitchen on Glenwood Avenue.  Photo by David Pierini

Raniya Sheikh, left, and her mother, Sahra Hassan at the counter of Mama Sahra's Kitchen on Glenwood Avenue. Photo by David Pierini

By Abdi Mohamed Staff Reporter

North Minneapolis has seen steady growth in its immigrant population over the years, namely from the Somali community, however there have been few Somali businesses in the area.

Sahra Hasan and her family have been living on the Northside for 15 years but operated her food business in South Minneapolis for over a decade. Now, she’s brought her business closer to home. Hasan operates and manages Mama Sahra’s Kitchen, a restaurant newly located on 1825 Glenwood Ave. which specializes in Somali cuisine. The restaurant serves an array of dishes that include rice, spaghetti and an assortment of meats such as chicken, goat and beef. Hasan’s specialty has been her sambusas that rest fresh on the counter each day.

After a three year search for a place to open her business, Hasan found her current location on the corner of Glenwood and Morgan. She has been in business there for nearly seven months.

Although there is a growing Somali population in the Northside, many travel outside of the area for their cultural needs. Hasan’s daughter, Raniya Shiekh, shared her family’s reasoning for opening their business in North Minneapolis. “We see people traveling all the way to South Minneapolis but live in North Minneapolis. We want to make it more convenient and help make the area more diverse than it already is,” she said.

Hasan sees her business succeeding in the Northside to encourage other Somalis to launch their own ventures. “Now that I’ve opened a business, there’s a chance a lot of people will follow my lead,” she said.

One obstacle to the success of Somali entrepreneurs could be the language barrier many like Hasan face. Ann Fix leads the Northside Economic Opportunity Network’s (NEON) food business incubator program and has worked on fostering a communication with Somali entrepreneurs despite these barriers. “We want our space to be inclusive of the entire community,” she said.

Last year, NEON took their Food Business 101 class to the Heritage Park Apartments in order to serve the Somali community directly. Fix says that she has been working with other organizations in order to gain support for interpreter services to the Somali community and other immigrant communities living in the Northside. “One thing I’ve been leaning on now is the Minneapolis small business team,” she said. NEON also conducted a cottage food certification training and received Spanish interpreting services through the Farmers Market Association to address the need for the Hispanic community.

The effort to uplift the immigrant community in the Northside will rely heavily on the success of their businesses. As NEON and other organizations seek to assist these communities despite the language and cultural barriers, it will take a collective effort for an economic impact to be felt.

Abdi Mohamed