West Meets East Africa in Frozen Food Venture
Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press. Recently we connected with presenters Matt Glover and Mariam Mohamed. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase on January 13, 2017.
According to IBIS, world frozen food production is a $35 billion dollar industry with $1.7 billion in profit. Burt Flickinger, managing director of New York-based Strategic Resource Group says “Frozen foods are going through a new renaissance this decade … we’re seeing a move away from traditional frozen entrees to popular ethic food.”
Hoyo, a local Somali food company, is certainly jumping on that bandwagon and is quickly discovering its audience. With a passionate mission to create needed jobs in their community and grow a greater appreciation and access to authentic Somali cuisine, the partnership of Matt Glover and Mariam Mohamed has flourished. They are not only filling the gap but our appetite, with delicious ethnic cuisine.
Name: Matt Glover, Mariam Mohamed
Age: Matt, 35; Mariam, 59
City you live in: Matt, Minneapolis; Mariam, Shoreview
City of birth: Matt, St. Paul; Mariam, Mogadishu
High school attended: Matt, White Bear Lake High School; Mariam, Banadir High School
College attended: Matt, Ohio State University; Mariam: Fresno State, State University of New York, Syracuse
Name of company: Hoyo
Business Start Date: July 15, 2015
Number of Employees: 8
Number of Customers: Currently selling in 16 Stores
Q. What led to this point?
A. Matt: I received a philosophy degree from Ohio State University and a Masters in Global and Cultural studies from Bethel University. I have always loved travelling and interacting with people from other cultures. I lived for a year in Rome and spent time in east and Southeast Asia. Since moving into the Phillips neighborhood my wife and I along with our three young children have had the opportunity to engage more deeply with members from the Somali community. It has been an honor to hear their stories and to learn about the wonderful things their community has to offer. In particular we have enjoyed their food and we began exploring ways to make it more prominent in the U.S.
Mariam: I received a master’s degree in plant science, Fresno State, California; Master’s degree in Statistics from Syracuse, New York.
Q. What is your business?
A. We are a Somali food company. We hire Somali mothers to make food they have been making their whole lives. We then package and distribute those products to grocery stores and delis throughout the Twin Cities. Our primary product is Sambusa, a triangular pastry filled with spiced beef or Lentils.
Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We have an advisory board of seasoned business veterans that are committed to our success. Partners in Food Solutions, a nonprofit affiliated with General Mills that mobilizes professional expertise to help food startups in emerging markets, has been a tremendous help for us.
Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. I, Matt, started a consulting company that consulted ethnic restaurants on western service standards. I was introduced to Mariam and her husband Ali for advice on working with Somali restaurants. My wife and I also had a desire to help create a more equitable job market for Somali mothers. When Mariam heard about our consulting business and our desire to empower Somali woman, she immediately identified a frozen Sambusa company as the perfect opportunity. I agreed that this sounded like a great idea and asked if she would consider co-founding it with us. She agreed and we enlisted her sister who is known as one of the best Somali cooks around. We have since used her recipes and techniques as our products.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. First, Hoyo solves the problem of lack of access to authentic Somali cuisine. Our vision is to make Somali Sambusa as common as tacos in western cuisine. In order to do so we will make Sambusa available everywhere. This is also giving Somali woman a tangible way to share a piece of their rich culture.
Second, we are providing a vehicle for employment for women who have not yet worked in the United States. By developing a product our employees have been making their whole life, we are a launching point into the greater workforce by providing skill training and career history….READ FULL ARTICLE
You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org.