Somali entrepreneur brings more than African flavors to America

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Somali entrepreneur Hawa Hassan doesn’t only want to please her customers’ palates: She also wants her food company to help bring communities together after it helped her bridge cultural divides and reconnect with her mother, from whom she was separated as a child for more than a decade.  Hassan is the founder and CEO of Basbaas Somali Foods, a sauce company named after the Somali word for “chili.” “It would be like somebody making ketchup and calling [their company] ‘ketchup,'” she told CBS MoneyWatch.

Basbaas, which launched in 2015, makes two original sauces that blend local Somali flavors and can be used as a substitute for salsa or ketchup. “The idea I want to get away from is that this is a specialty product,” Hassan said.

“Longer tables and shorter fences”

Sure, the sauces are tempting, but Hassan has greater ambitions. She wants to use her sauces — and mealtime gatherings — to “tell deeper stories about where I come from.”

“I feel like I’m in a position every day to build longer tables and shorter fences by sharing my culture and myself and my sauces,” she said.

When she was young, Hassan fled civil unrest in her native Somalia for a Kenyan refugee camp, and in 1993, at age seven, she moved to Seattle, where she was raised by an American family.

She became a star basketball player and earned a college scholarship before she was recruited by a modeling scout and moved to New York City.

She modeled for 14 years, but the lifestyle never suited her — she always looked forward to launching a business.

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