Since Abdirahman Kahin moved to the United States, he has never stopped dreaming. Born in Somalia and raised in Djibouti, he immigrated to the United States in 1996.
Kahin worked for a media company before he discovered his passion was in food service. He opened his first restaurant in 2010 in Minneapolis to bring a taste of Africa to the Midwest. Customers can order Somali steak sandwiches and curry goat, among other options.
“In Africa, there is no frozen food. We cook every day, so we wanted to bring that concept here,” Kahin said. “It’s delicious.” He recently was named the 2023 U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Person of the Year. The award honors individuals who demonstrate leadership and build thriving community businesses.
He now owns four restaurants, all called Afro Deli, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and also supplies area stores. Continued expansion is on the menu. One day he hopes to have the first African restaurant chain in the United States.
“I believe the American dream,” Kahin said. “I believe everything’s possible if you work hard.” He met with President Biden and Vice President Harris at the White House May 1. Second gentleman Douglas Emhoff visited Kahin’s restaurant in Minneapolis two days later.
“He combines great ideas with hard work and diligence, and we are honored that SBA has been a part of his successful and ongoing journey,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.
Kahin obtained several loans from SBA, including support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency assists small business owners with financing that allows them to stay competitive. He also helps the surrounding community.
He is active in efforts to combat hunger. During COVID-19, he worked with charities to deliver food to people in need. “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.
Small businesses are engines for creativity and economic growth. There are more than 33 million small businesses in the U.S. In expressing his appreciation for the award, Kahin compared it to winning an American Super Bowl football championship.
“This is for the community, for East Africa, for the Somali community and for the people of colour,” he said.