Entrepreneur’s story of refugee hardship results in success

Immigrant uses family recipe to create Sadia’s Gourmet Sauce

By Khymyle Mims

Contributing Writer

Have you ever met someone, and before they even introduced themselves you knew there was something special about them? From the moment they walk into the room, you can sense that this person does not know the meaning of “can’t” and wouldn’t accept it as an excuse from anyone close to them. Well if you haven’t, then it’s about time you meet Korad Abdi, also known as Sadia, who fits the bill.

Abdi is the CEO and founder of Sadia’s Gourmet Sauce, a mother of nine, and an immigrant from Somalia. “I come from [a] refugee camp,” Abdi says. After leaving her country as a teenager, she would spend seven long years in the camp before coming to America around the age of 29.

While in camp, she met her husband and together they began a family. Abdi speaks of the struggles that most wouldn’t relate to, having no money, barely any shelter, and no hospital for birth deliveries.

“I was eight months pregnant with my second child, my daughter. My husband, he [was] running every [day] outside.” Abdi says, telling her heartfelt story of how her strength was tested. “He’d go, he’d knock [on] the door. He’d go to his friends, he’d go everywhere and he could not find food. On the seventh day, the last day, he came and he gave me two [pieces] of bread.”

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Korad Abdi with one of her sauces Photo courtesy of Korad Abdi

Abdi explains that this bread came from his pocket after running for four miles in 100-degree weather. “He [was] running because he wanted to save me… I was sitting down in the floor and I put my head to the ground and I cried because I prayed to God. I said, ‘God, I know you. You can feed me, but you’re testing me [to] see how strong and powerful [a] person I am.’ When I said that, [my husband] came inside to the room and he saw me and he cried… When I [ate the] bread I start vomiting because my stomach was bare.”

When Abdi and her family came to America, they lived in California before moving to Minnesota. While there she recalls living with no automobile and walking from the grocery store with her children and pushing the cart home.

“That was not the life I wanted.” She explains that she did not come to America in order to struggle but rather to reach a level of success where she could send support to her family back home.

So she sent her husband to Minnesota for a fresh start. He worked hard and sent money back to California for Abdi and the kids until he had enough to send for them. Once in Minnesota, she and her husband worked alternating shifts in order to make ends meet and ensure someone was always home with the children.

They struggled from one paycheck to the next. “My dream is more than paycheck to paycheck,” Abdi says. “I couldn’t sleep many nights. I saw, oh, housekeeping, paycheck to paycheck, my family still in Somalia. They needed support. I couldn’t help them.” Sadia says. “I couldn’t help my own children, tough life. I say, ‘This is not the way I want it.’”

That’s when Abdi took the initiative to change her outcome. Revisiting the entrepreneurial skills she picked up at the age of 12 while selling tomatoes to take care of her family, she got up as early as two in the morning and went to the store. She bought some supplies and began to make sauces derived from a family recipe — Sadia’s Gourmet Sauce.

Sadia’s Gourmet Sauces are sweetened with dates, have no sugar, salt, or preservatives and are naturally gluten free. Currently offered in three flavors, with more variety on the way, the sauces have a two-year, eight-month shelf life.

After eight years in business, Abdi says the biggest hurdle for her was trying to raise capital in order to go into mass production. Due to sharia law in the Islamic faith, Abdi was not (and still is not) allowed to take a loan which has an interest payment. Struggling to raise capital to move her dream and new product, she did what she has always done when she got stuck — dropped to her knees and prayed.

Her answer was to sell shares of her company. She says the Islamic community responded saying “What took you so long?” According to Abdi, the Somali community was willing and ready to support someone of their own descent.

Abdi’s ultimate goal as of today is for her sauce to become an international brand and for people across the world to be able to taste it. Abdi says referring to her seven days of no food while pregnant, “Look at me today. I have more beautiful kids, my husband is there for me. I work hard.”

Sadia’s Sauce can be found in Uptown Market, Cub Foods located on Lake St., the Northeast Minneapolis and St. Paul’s Farmers Markets, and online at sadiassauce.com.

Khymyle Mims welcomes reader comments to mimsk@my.normandale.edu.