When Afro Deli & Grill owner Abdirahman Kahin opened his first restaurant in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood 13 years ago, he never imagined being celebrated as the National Small Business Person of the Year.
That day came on Monday at the White House, when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris awarded him with the national title.
“I believe the American dream,” said Kahin, who emigrated to the U.S. from Djibouti. “I believe everything's possible if you work hard. And especially if you work hard and as a small business, there is no limits.”
On Wednesday morning, second gentleman of the United States Douglas Emhoff and federal administrator of the Small Business Administration Isabella Casillas Guzman visited St. Paul to tour one of Afro Deli’s locations as part of National Small Business Week and honor Kahin’s national recognition.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Kahin, also Minnesota’s Small Business Owner of the Year, runs Afro Deli’s four locations in the Twin Cities specializing in African cuisine. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced restaurant closures across Minnesota, Kahin’s restaurants were hiring staff and delivering free meals to the elderly and disabled in South Minneapolis’ East African immigrant community.
“They fed thousands of people during COVID and what's amazing is they're still doing it,” said Emhoff. “So all those things that brought our communities together for vaccinations and food, this community with this small business owner, who is also a leader in his community and wants to be a leader and a mentor to others. That's what I'm going to take home with me.”
Emhoff will be spending the rest of his time in the Twin Cities meeting other small business owners in the area before flying back to Washington D.C.
After receiving the National Business Person of the Year award, Kahin said he’s motivated to open new restaurants and stay engaged with the community. He hopes to continue the growth of his business with the help of the SBA and the Biden-Harris Administration.
“This is for the community, for East Africa, for the Somali community and for the people of color,” said Kahin.