Inspiration can come from the strangest places. For Manal Kahi ‘15SIPA, it was bad hummus. Hailing from Lebanon, she had high standards when it came to the beloved dip, and was disappointed with what she found in New York City. So she started making her grandmother’s recipe at home and got rave reviews from her friends. Kahi and her brother Wissam realized that they had found a market undeveloped: providing truly authentic foreign cuisine to the hungry masses of New York City.
And so Eat Offbeat was born. Wanting to create a service that not only delivers unique food but does good, Manal and Wissam worked with the International Rescue Committee to hire three refugee chefs from Nepal, Iraq, and Eritrea. Having experience with refugee issues in their home country of Lebanon, Manal wanted to find a way to help refugees in the U.S. The duo also noticed that refugees in America are underrepresented in the restaurant scene in New York, which made it all the easier to hire refugee chefs and fill a market currently underserved on both sides (hiring refugees and serving unique cuisine).
A fellowship provided by the Tamer Fund for Social Enterprise, a recently established center in the Columbia Business School was instrumental in providing not only the necessary funds, but more importantly, the support. Sandra Navalli and Bruce Usher of Columbia’s Tamer Center were especially helpful in encouraging Manal to pursue this venture by giving her the confidence to strike out and the guidance to refine her business strategy and improve her pitch.