“An African Deli Owner Securely Claims SBA’s Highest Award for Elevating African Cuisine to the Mainstream – How?!”
Sunday May 14, 2023
BY MELISSA ANGELL
Abdirahman Kahin, who wants to create the nation’s first fast casual African food enterprise, is this year’s National Small Business Person of the Year.
Abdirahman Kahin with Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) Photo: Courtesy Minnesota SBA
How can one encapsulate the mind-bending magnitude and heart-pumping thrill of Abdirahman Kahin’s achievement? As the 2023 National Small Business Person of the Year, he has paved the way for the first ever fast casual African food establishment in the United States. The Small Business Administration’s top award is a symbol of excellence, of triumph over adversity, of breaking down barriers. And Kahin embodies all of it.
Kahin’s Afro Deli & Grill opened its doors 13 years ago in the Twin Cities. Today, the emporium of fusion cuisine spans across four locations in Minnesota, tantalizing taste buds with delicacies ranging from Somali sambusas to the mesmeric charm of chapati noodles and sweetly savory plantains. The restaurant is not only a manifestation of Kahin’s vision of a world where food can unite people of all cultures, but also a testament to his commitment to social entrepreneurship – delivering over 1.2 million meals since the beginning of the pandemic.
Kahin’s journey was not without its setbacks. He struggled to secure financing due to doubts about the popularity of his African fusion concept and the unfamiliarity with African food among traditional lenders. The pandemic dealt a further blow, forcing him to close down two locations and furlough the majority of his employees. But he persevered – leveraging the SBA’s finance and support programs to weather the storm. Seven PPP loans totaling $554,073 allowed him to keep his business afloat. Kahin also secured an EIDL loan of $335,300 in 2020 and another loan for $464,400 in March 2022, which he plans to utilize as the restaurant gears up to open another location.
As Kahin and his team look forward to future expansion, he remains grateful for the opportunities and resources the SBA affords him. “Our success has allowed us to be able to access SBA loans and other financial resources that have helped us open more locations and expand our offerings,” he says. “Now, we’re really excited about the opportunity to go national and become the first fast casual African concept.”