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Fighting for Micro Food Businesses

Fighting for Micro Food Businesses

 Mubarakah Ibrahim of  I Love Bean  holds up the ordinance she drafted to improve local food business policies to better support micro businesses like her own.

Mubarakah Ibrahim of I Love Bean holds up the ordinance she drafted to improve local food business policies to better support micro businesses like her own.

Starting a food business is a labor of love, and a high risk endeavor, and Mubarakah Ibrahaim is good at it. Her delicious bean pies, rooted in her Black Muslim American culture have filled a gap in the northeastern US market, and her business savvy has gotten her pies picked up by a number of local grocery stores and chains, just in her first year. Already a successful fitness training entrepreneur when she started her baking business, she had appeared on Oprah, and has a large social media following through Fit Muslimah and her local, New Haven, CT practice.

But, starting her pie business wasn’t all brown sugar and spice… as she navigated the complicated certification and inspection process of starting a food business, some of the hoops she had to jump through seemed totally illogical, both for entrepreneurs, and for a city trying to support business growth and use it’s limited resources wisely. So, she is setting out to streamline the process and policies, and create a new designation for micro-businesses, like her’s.

“Frustrate me once, shame on you, frustrate me twice, shame on me”…was her simple explanation for what motivated her to draft an ordinance to change business certification practices that frustrated her a year and a half ago when she first opened her wholesale pie business, and frustrated her even more the second time around, as she prepared to move into a new larger kitchen. “We are our political system, we are our community, the people should put together policy, because we know what we need. That is what a democracy is. It is for the people, by the people, and we are the people.” said Ibrahim.

The basic premiss of the proposed city ordinance is to create a new “Micro Food Business License” that will remove financial and logistical barriers from food businesses that are cooking in another already certified commercial kitchen. It will also free up city employees from unnecessarily duplicating their own work. A micro food business is proposed to be defined as one that grosses under $250,000 annually, and the new proposed license would be offered only to businesses that rent from a commercial kitchen that is currently licensed, that they do not cook with fry oil or a lot of grease (which would require a grease trap and fire inspection), do not make structural changes to the space, or install major equipment. Essentially a small business that is starting out and wants to rent space in an existing kitchen because they don’t have the money for rent or buying new equipment, which can easily be $100,000. Currently all these types of businesses pay for and go through a permitting process for a space that is already certified. They also have to pay an annual fee to license the business, but this fee is not prorated, so if you pay in March, you have to pay the full fee again on May 1. The proposed ordinance requests a quarterly , prorated fee structure, to help remove this financial obstacle from small scale entrepreneurs. The ordinance drafted by Mubarakah has been submitted to the New Haven Board of Alders and will soon get sent to committee, and then be made public.

Mubarakah’s motivation is to help other entrepreneurs, and to build economic security and communities that really need it. “When you put up barriers for people, you discourage them…I honestly believe that entrepreneurship is the key to economic security and economic growth for many disadvantaged communities… and when people cook out of a labor of love, it’s something they can enjoy doing. If you can make money doing that, and you have the City’s support to remove barriers…it’s like a win win for the city and for the residents.” As a talented Black woman entrepreneur who has stayed the course through a number of businesses, I have full faith in future of her work on this policy change, and am happy to stand by her side!

For full disclosure, I happily consulted with Mubarakah on this ordinance, and have signed on as one of the supporters.

If you want to hear more about this fab entrepreneur, check out our 2017 show with Mubarakah, Fit & Feast, about the wild combination of being a fitness trainer and a professional baker.

Follow Mubarakah Ibrahim through Fit Muslimah, and I Love Bean Pies on all social media. You can order her custardy sweet bean pies at Mmm Pies and Gourmet Desserts on their site.

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