Abdirahman Kahin came to the United States in 1996 seeking asylum from Somalia. Today, he is a successful entrepreneur and the owner of Afro Deli, a fast-casual restaurant that serves a fusion of African, Mediterranean, and American food, with two locations in Minneapolis. He also co-owns Campus Cafe, a Turkish restaurant.
Kahin, who is now a U.S. citizen, says he has been welcomed by his local community in Minneapolis. In fact, Minneapolis ranks number five in New American Economy’s Cities Index, which rates the American cities most welcoming to immigrants. Minneapolis particularly stands out in the category of Economic Empowerment.
City officials here are more supportive of small businesses than a lot of cities. Therefore, all the skilled people come to Minneapolis. That’s a huge advantage.”
“City officials here are more supportive of small businesses than a lot of cities,” says Kahin. “Therefore, all the skilled people come to Minneapolis. That’s a huge advantage.” Kahin notes that entrepreneurs, including immigrants, can access technical assistance, low interest loans, classes on financial literacy and programs that help them set up new businesses. Immigrants also have access to vocational training. “The city has translation programs, brochures in your language and people you can talk to on the phone,” Kahin says.
Minneapolis also fosters a culture of established entrepreneurs mentoring newcomers, which Kahin says creates a positive cycle of economic empowerment. “When I started, I met others who had started their own businesses and they guided me through the process,” he says. “I do the same thing now. I guide young entrepreneurs to where they can get resources.”
All of this has allowed Kahin to employ 50 people between his three restaurants, about half of whom are American-born. He joins a growing class of immigrant entrepreneurs in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which is home to 2,253 immigrant business owners, according to New American Economy.
Kahin has found local residents to be similarly welcoming. “My restaurant’s customers are mainstream,” he says.“People consider Afro Deli a local restaurant.” He adds that Minneapolis residents are also curious about trying new flavors. “America is all about ethnic food,” he says. “Immigrants like myself are just the newcomers today.”
Kahin hopes Minneapolis will continue embracing immigrants, because attracting a diversity of cultures and skills gives the city an edge. “Immigrants come to the States with a lot of values, experience, assets, and ways to help the country compete globally,” he says. In this city and nationwide, he says, “we cannot lose our competitive advantage.”