"What Type of Food Business Will Abe's Be In Five (And Ten) Years?"

Do you want to open up a restaurant? How about a food cart? Are you going to sell at grocery stores?

Food is complicated. There are so many (too many!) directions a food business can take, especially when consumer demands, volatile markets, and personal finances are consistently changing the roll-out strategy of your tiny, little startup.

During a pitch competition last year I was asked what type of food business will Abe's be in five and ten years time.

At that moment, Abe's was a pre-revenue business still focused on building out a cumbersome supply chain. I thought the question was unnecessary. Five years? Ten years!!??!! Let's start with next month, I thought.

I'm not a fan of hypotheticals so I initially could not fathom why it was relevant, but over time it reminded me about how important it is to take a step back and develop long-term goals that will help the team develop a more cohesive mission and vision as an organization. Nearly nine months later and I'm still thinking about that question.

This way of thinking is never about the details required for immediate action items. Putting that style of thinking aside (if for only a second), the future of Abe's is straightforward to our team.

In five years, I want Abe's to be the most inclusive food brand in America. "All Are Welcome" is not just our slogan, but an ethos that we have been following since our very first Shabbat Salaam dinner. When my Muslim and Jewish friends introduced me to how hard it is to gain access to their faith-based foods (hard enough to give up) - in particular high-quality faith-based foods - it became clear to me that the food industry was missing out on serving a large percentage of the population that is continuing to grow.

A byproduct of the #MeToo movement was initiating a much larger conversation and action around "representation matters." We clearly need more women and minorities taking on respected positions in the industry to better reflect the diversity that exists across the United States. It's a beautiful and necessary movement that we should all participate in and support. So if representation matters on our movie screens, why shouldn't it at our dinner tables? Especially when it is not at a loss to others?

"All Are Welcome" is beyond asking "Is this Kosher/Halal?" and fulfilling those dietary needs. As we work on producing a hummus product, we chose to take out garlic to avoid any food allergies. We thought about how else we can apply this perspective to make our table as long as possible to welcome everyone to take a seat and break bread with us. In doing so, more people can sit across from each other. Learn from each other. Humanize each other. Befriend each other.

We know it is easy to hate the person you do not know, but it is nearly impossible to hate the person you find something in common with at the dinner table.

In ten years, I want Abe's to support the work of individuals and organizations who want to create a more diverse and inclusive America. My faith has taught me to practice my values to love and respect others by giving back through public service and zakat. When I have the means to do so, it will be my duty to give back to grassroots efforts that are working to create safer, more equitable social and economic circumstances for everyone.

If we are blessed to succeed in the years ahead, our success will not be confined to ourselves. Rather, it will be part of a collective that must be shared with those who need it most.

Mohammad M.

Founder, Abe's Eats

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