Afro Deli owner named National Small Business Person of the Year
A Twin Cities restaurant owner is being honored by the Biden administration for his leadership and business success.
Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli & Grill, was named the 2023 National Small Business Person of the Year on Monday at a Washington, D.C., ceremony marking National Small Business Week.
He was named Minnesota’s Small Business Person of the Year back in March.
From the bright colors down to the food that’s rich in flavor, African culture is the main ingredient at Afro Deli and Grill.
“In Africa, there is no frozen food. We cook every day, so we wanted to bring that concept here,” Kahin said. “It’s delicious.”
Kahin immigrated to the U.S. from East Africa in 1996 with a suitcase and a dream.
He cooked up an idea to create a fast-casual restaurant serving healthy, fresh African fusion cuisine.
In 2010, he made it happen and opened the first Afro Deli & Grill in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, which is home to the East African community.
“We create this space for people to meet and to come together,” he said.
The growing business now has four restaurants. At over 25 locations in the Twin Cities, customers can grab the food to-go.
Eventually, Kahin’s talent caught the attention of the White House. The National Small Business Person of the Year Award recognizes entrepreneurs with exceptional leadership who create thriving businesses in their community.
“It’s overwhelming and it’s a big deal. It’s like winning the Super Bowl,” he said.
But the win came with some losses.
He calls the COVID-19 pandemic his biggest challenge. It forced him to close his doors.
“We didn’t know what to do, but we had to pivot and see how we can be helpful to the community,” he said.
He shifted his focus from the restaurant to people in need.
He teamed up with Meals on Wheels and Minnesota Central Kitchen to provide food for vulnerable communities.
“Sometimes, when God gives you that kind of privilege, you have to be able to help and do as much as you can,” he said.
Kahin stayed true to his cultural roots and made his dream a reality.
“Sometimes, if you work hard, you can accomplish it or get close to it,” he said. “Believe in yourself.”
Kahin said his goal is to keep growing his business and create more jobs across the country.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman will be in Minnesota on Wednesday to host a roundtable discussion with small business community leaders. Emhoff will also present Kahin with his award.