DETROIT (WWJ) — Baobab Fare is the winner of this year’s Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest and will receive $50,000 to open a unique East African restaurant in Detroit.
The winner of the seventh annual Hatch Detroit contest was announced on Friday night with the finalists participating in a “Shark Tank” styled event. Baobab Fare is a restaurant, market and juice bar, offering an array of prepared menu items, groceries, juices and other retail products unique to East Africa.
“Each of this year’s competitors presented a new and unique business idea that Detroiters can get behind,” Vittoria Katanski, executive director of Hatch Detroit, said in a release. “Baobab Fare will be a valuable addition to Detroit’s growing independent small business retail and we are proud to support them as they work toward opening their doors to the people of Detroit.”
It’s a compelling story for the owners of Baobab Fare, Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimbere. Just a few years ago they were living in refugee housing at Detroit’s Freedom House Center, and now they will be given the opportunity to contribute to the city’s resurgence with their own business.
Mamba said the husband-wife duo wanted to give back to the city just like it gave to them.
“We came as refugees to this country and we feel like we owe something to this city,” Mamba said. “We have a bunch of ideas.”
They also plan to help give back to those they met while living in the shelter by offering them jobs.
On top of the $50,000 grant from Comerica Bank, Baobab Fare will also receive more than $200,000 in pro bono support and counsel from Hatch Detroit and its partners. That includes legal services from Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, accounting from Macavage Financial Services, architectural design, IT services and public relations.
This year’s contest received more than 160 entries. Ten semi-finalists were announced to the public and voting narrowed that list down to four finalists. Those four finalists were again voted on and live presentations occurred on Friday in front of a panel of judges.
The other three finalists were Bar Botanica, Detroit Blows and The Lip Bar.