Today we’d like to introduce you to Meymuna Hussein-Cattan.
Hi Meymuna, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Yes! Well, to start – I am the Founder and Executive Director of The Tiyya Foundation. Our programs support families of refugees, immigrants, and displaced indigenous communities. I later co-launched a social enterprise restaurant, Flavors from Afar, located in Little Ethiopia, with my friend Christian Davis.
40% of the proceeds support Tiyya’s programming efforts. We opened the restaurant during the pandemic – literally the same week as the stay-at-home orders. It was a winding road to get here, but I’m grateful that both the nonprofit and restaurant have been operating during this pandemic.
What keeps me inspired is my personal experience as a refugee. After fleeing Ethiopia in the 70s, my parents met on a refugee camp in Somalia, where I was born. Most of my childhood was watching them transition into their new life in America. Being the eldest of four girls, I was encouraged to excel in school. Like most immigrants, I was the first generation to obtain a master’s degree. Tiyya was my thesis.
I love being an entrepreneur because I have the flexibility to combine my education and personal journey.
We all face challenges but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Actually, I had a tough time over the years with establishing The Tiyya Foundation. My mother and I started the organization together in her garage with very minimal resources. After she retired from the work, I acquired government funding but was not prepared for cuts towards refugee aid. I had to lay off staff, and by 2019, I was the only employee at Tiyya. I now have a remarkable team of 12 members, and I know it had a lot to do with being honest about sustainability.
I explored the concept of social enterprises and haven’t looked back. I think all nonprofits, regardless of size, should diversify our incomes. Flavors from Afar is located in Little Ethiopia. I hope more people get the opportunity to try our international dishes created by refugee chefs from around the globe.
Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Flavors From Afar is a restaurant with a rotating international menu. We partner with The Tiyya Foundation each month to locate refugees and asylum seekers interested in sharing their traditional, home-cooked dishes. By partnering with refugees, we bring authentic cuisine to Los Angeles that highlights different cultures and flavors often unavailable elsewhere. At our core, we believe that sharing a meal is a delicious opportunity for cultural exchange. I love what we do because it provides a unique space to celebrate the talents of refugees rather than leading with their traumas.
We’d love to hear about how you think about risk-taking.
I identify as an entrepreneur because my strength is all about taking calculated risks; I think it’s part of our nature. I don’t know too many people who’d want to open a restaurant during a pandemic, but I knew our mission to employ refugees is vital, especially now. Christian and I are also solving a problem for foodies who want to explore new cuisines but don’t have access to these opportunities. Each month, we highlight a new country, including Haiti, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Chechnya, and more. It’s like traveling without having to leave Los Angeles.
- Catering starts at $25 / person
- Menu options range from $5 to $28
- Private Dining $75 / person for groups of 5 to 10 includes a feast from all items on the month’s country highlight.
Matthew Palanca, owner of Mythos One Media https://www.mythosonemedia.com/