The Challey Institute for Global Innovation & Growth and Emerging Prairie worked together this past year to empower 10 New American entrepreneurs as part of The Challey Institute’s New American Entrepreneur program. The six-month program aimed to accelerate their growth in the Fargo-Moorhead area by connecting them to capital, community and technology resources. In order to further champion the program’s participants, we will be featuring members of the program and their stories.
Abdishakur Mohamed launched Soma Employment Solutions in September of 2019 to help new Americans looking to enter the workforce. In fact, Mohamed believes he is the only staffing agency in the country that is focused solely on the hiring of new Americans.
When did you get the idea that you wanted to start your own business?
In 2015, I was going to college in Moorhead and working with a nonprofit called Afro American Development Association and I saw so many people come in every day looking for work. But when you send them to the local agencies here there seems to be a disconnect. They don’t speak the native language, and it’s tough for them. They usually come back to the non-profit association. We would then fill out the application for them and send them to the agencies and companies. This made me realize that I need a business that connects the companies and communities here. However, I had no business background, I wasn’t going to school for business, and I didn’t know how to build or grow a company. So, I went to work for an insurance company as a business employment specialist. There I got the experience.
How many companies do you work with?
We work with five companies. Actually we work with six now and we’ve placed 20 employees. With this pandemic, this crisis, we found an international client who wants to work with us to do recruitment for them overseas. I’m from Somalia and the company is in Somalia and they also have a location in the US. So they were looking to grow internationally from Somalia.
What’s your vision with Soma?
So my vision in the long term is to successfully create a global network of highly skilled workforce and bridge the New American talent to the industry. And become the leading agency in the USA one day. I just want to be optimistic and hope to lead the New American staffing in the US.
Aren’t you leading it though? You said you’re the only one.
Absolutely leading that way too. But looking at competition in the future, because more people are going to do this. In every state today or in most big cities or every state, there’s New Americans. Every where you go there’s a New American.
I imagine you hit quite a few road bumps on your way starting your own business? Can you tell me about some of the challenges you faced?
The first challenge I really faced was getting others to trust me. I didn’t have a big guy behind me, I didn’t have a big community that was behind me. Companies had a hard time trusting me. The other roadblock I hit was most of the companies didn’t prefer to hire New Americans. They weren’t used to it, so I started a program with the companies for New American onboarding. So we also do onboarding and work on culture and train the employers on that side.
Was the program at Emerging Praire helpful for you?
Yes, big time. They were mentors to me. I didn’t have a lot of friends that started a business or a lot of family members that had. I’m the first one doing this and I didn’t have a lot of knowledge so Emerging Prairie was great and all the team members helped me a lot. The (Founders) retreat that EP does was a big help for me, I got connected to a lot of different people that also had a start-up.
Are you doing anything with your business right now to adjust to the pandemic?
Yeah, so right now we are raising awareness with the new American community. Everything, all the resources that are coming out, come out in English, but not a lot of the community members speak English, so what I’ve been doing is translating to the new Americans.