In today's challenging economic climate, keeping a small business alive
is no small feat. But for Korad Abdi, known as "Sadia," founder and CEO
of Sadia's Gourmet Sauces, it is barely a bump on the bumpy road of her
life. Rather, it is the prize for years of persistence, patience and
prayers. It is, she said, "my dream come true."
Abdi, who left her native Somalia while still a teenager in 1991, has
weathered problems much greater than those that plague a start-up
business in a troubled economy. She has overcome war; separation from
her family; the premature death of her father; the threat of rape;
mental and physical abuse; and life in a refugee camp.
Not only has she survived, she has triumphed.
42-year-old mother of nine owns a successful business that sells its
spicy sauce in 86 locations, including local farmers markets, grocery
stores and online.
Using her grandmother's recipe, Abdi created
the hot sauce of all-natural peppers, tomatoes and more, plus her
"secret" ingredients of tamarind and dates, which provide health
benefits, she says. The sauce can be used in soups, dips and dressing,
or with sandwiches, eggs, rice or pasta.
Although the public
recognition and financial rewards are sweet, it's the philanthropic
aspect of her work that most excites Abdi. The business donates 10
percent of its proceeds to the American Refugee Committee's humanitarian
efforts in Somalia.
"I have good business now and God has given
me so much," Abdi said. "I want to share my blessings and give to
others. I want to help people who suffer, especially the children."
Fleeing war-torn homeland
Suffering is a concept Abdi knows intimately. Her road from Mogadishu to Minneapolis was marked with peril.
she was 19, her mother insisted that she leave her home in Mogadishu,
the capital of Somalia. At the time, the country in the Horn of Africa,
which separates the Gulf of Aden from the Indian Ocean, was embroiled in
a civil war. Rival clans had toppled dictator Mohammed Siad Barre's
government and Mogadishu was overrun with marauding warlords.
than have her daughter be subjected to the threat of rape, Abdi's
mother arranged for her to steal away in the night with a few trusted
Terrified, Abdi recalled that she "had never been away
from my home. But my mother was afraid for me. She said, 'Honey, I will
pray for you-nobody will touch you.' " Her mother fasted and prayed for
seven days and Abdi arrived safely in Beled Hawo, a town bordering
Ethiopia and Kenya.
A year later, Abdi set off again, this time
making her way to Utanga, a refugee camp just north of Mombasa, Kenya.
There she would spend the next eight years. In this dirt-poor and
malaria-infested squalor, she would marry, give birth to six
children-one of whom was lost in childbirth-and dream about her new life
"I know in my heart that I was going there," she said. "I never lost hope."
spite of evidence to the contrary-Abdi had been refused permission to
emigrate several times-she did not give up. She wrote letters to the
U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, two times a month, every month, for
three years. Discouraged but not defeated, she continued to write and to
trust in God. She recalled how she looked up at the full moon one
unbearably sad and hot evening and saw a plane above and thought, "Soon,
Lord, we will be on that plane."
In the spring of 1999 she was
suddenly-and inexplicably-granted an interview. That September she, with
her husband and five children, finally boarded that plane bound for the
Although Abdi has had her share of struggles, she
is quick to point out the blessings. A devout Muslim, her mother
instilled in her a strong faith and a belief in God's goodness.
"Some bad things have happened, it's true," Abdi said. "But God has always been there for me. God has blessed me."
among those blessings is her family. "I have a very good husband and I
have my children-they are kind kids. Smart and mostly good," she
laughed. "I am proud of them."
Abdi counts her family's health and
well-being, good schools and doctors among God's gifts. And she is very
grateful for the opportunity to work and "to do something good, to
support my family and to help people who are suffering."
Sadia's Gourmet Sauces was born of her own suffering. The inspiration came to her in the wake of the death of a second infant.
reciting her prayers on a steaming August night in 2006, she asked God
to lift her "from the darkness." As she bowed and touched her forehead
to her prayer mat, inspiration struck. "At that exact time I think,
'I'll cook!'" So excited was she that she rushed to an all-night market
and returned home to begin cooking.
Although the idea to market
her hot sauce came in a flash, Abdi had been preparing-in one way or
another-all her life for this. From hawking vegetables on the streets of
Mogadishu as a girl to foraging for food from garbage in Utanga as a
young mother to cleaning nursing homes in Minneapolis as a new
immigrant, Abdi forged ahead toward a brighter future.
Typically, however, Abdi refused to take credit for her success.
As she smiled and pointed upward, she said: "Alhamdulahlah [Thank God]! He remembers me."