Well, the Bay Area is now excitedly trying new items like musakhan: baked pita bread topped with seasoned caramelized onions, roasted almonds and sumac. That’s due to Mama Lamees’ burgeoning catering business, officially known as Taboun Yabroud Catering Company. She is serving unique, homemade food that is lovingly created from scratch. It’s a veritable feast from the Middle East, in this case Ramallah, Mama Lamees’ former Palestinian village located in the West Bank, just six miles north of Jerusalem. Her cuisine is fused with food from the Middle East’s Gulf States region, where she lived for a while.
Many recipes are from her grandmother and mother – dishes rarely found in restaurants or markets in the U.S.
Lamees Dahbour (photo, right) has long showcased a love for cooking. It all began when her mother had a medical issue and had to recuperate away from home for a month, leaving the 10-year-old to step in and cook for the family, which she gladly did.
Cooking has continued to be a way to show love, and thanks, even after Lamees permanently settled in San Francisco a decade ago.
“When I didn’t have much money for gifts, I would do things like invite my children’s principals and teachers over for a big feast. They always enjoyed my food and stated that they had never tasted anything like it before,” explains Mama Lamees.
Her Mission District building manager, Lupe Gomez, echoed this sentiment, counseling Mama Lamees to start her own business. So she went to La Cocina, who concurred that this business idea had legs. The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses. This is done by providing an affordable commercial-kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities. La Cocina focuses on women, primarily immigrants and those from communities of color.
Now all Mama Lamees needed was a business plan. That’s when she came to MEDA.
Business Development Coach Teresa Garcia (photo, left) began working with Mama Lamees a little over a year ago, after the budding entrepreneur had participated in MEDA’s seven-session core training, which teaches everything from marketing strategies and how to negotiate a commercial lease to personal finances and access to capital. The main need was for Garcia to help Mama Lamees refine her business plan and streamline financials.
After discussing what the best type of entity would be for Mama Lamees, Garcia connected her to Legal Services for Entrepreneurs (LSE), an economic justice and community empowerment project of the Lawyers’ Committee. LSE matches experienced business attorneys from a variety of law firms with individuals who generally would not have access to specialized legal services – with all work done pro bono. In Mama Lamees’ case, that match was Craig Miller, a partner with Mannat, Phelps & Phillips, LLC.
States Garcia, “Craig has been wonderful. There was initially a misunderstanding and LSE secured an attorney who would craft a caterer and client contract. When Craig realized that Mama Lamees also wanted to incorporate, he promptly offered to help her with this as well, for which she and I are grateful.”
The good news is that Mama Lamees recently secured all of her business and catering licenses, and is now obtaining liability insurance. She can soon hire her daughter, Lubna, who has already set up the venture’s social media marketing; in a few months, Mama Lamees’ sisters Eman and Mayada Dahbour will come on board. This will be a family enterprise, and the help is needed.
That’s because Mama Lamees’ catering business has quickly taken off. There was an Opportunity Fund fundraiser. A La Cocina board of directors meeting. Then a few more dinners to cater for clients she met at these events.
Especially popular was Mama Lamees’ catered dinner for eatwith.com, where everyone was sated by everything from mansaf to that tasty musakhan. “A Traditional Palestinian Feast” was so well received that several more occasions with eatwith.com are slated for 2016.
“La Cocina, LSE and Teresa from MEDA worked really hard to create my business. I am excited to be offering my unique food to San Francisco,“ states Mama Lamees, grateful to the community of support that made her small-business dreams a reality.
If you are interested in free business development workshops and one-on-one coaching, please contact us: (415) 282-3334 ext. 101; firstname.lastname@example.org