Stronger Houston: Addressing the disparities in minority entrepreneurship

Houston, TX. – “Indian food, in general, is a very foreign concept to a lot of people.”

Zuber Malek and his wife Mehnaz are on a mission to change that, one bite at a time.

“I thought to myself, let’s perfect samosas. Let’s make samosas so good that we will base our whole restaurant around them,” Malek said.

But, being an entrepreneur takes a lot more than just a dream. Malek, whose family moved to the United States from India when he was six, learned that the hard way time and time again.

He went to college to earn his degree and while working his way up in the foodservice industry by doing numerous jobs, all to support his wife and two sons.

“We grew up low income,” he said. “I failed at so many businesses. I’ve had so many ideas. I just failed. I just consistently failed. I just didn’t have too much confidence in myself.”

Malek is not alone.

Researchers with the Brookings Institution, a non-profit “think tank”, discovered that people of color are underrepresented in entrepreneurship.

“Accounting for only about 30% to 80% of their fair share of business ownership across the country. They represent about 40% of the population but only 20% of the nation’s 5.6 million business owners with employees.”

President of the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance Dr. April Day says, “there’s a lot of creativity and opportunity for innovation.”

WBEA is among the several local organizations that act as a link in the community for minority-owned businesses.

“Our goal is to make sure that businesses start right, grow faster, get the continued financial access they need so they can maximize growth and connectivity,” Day said.

They’re doing so by partnering with local and micro-lenders to help increase capital and by creating small incubator business programs geared towards getting small business owners off the ground and running.

“That’s the keyword...resources. So, if you want to figure out how to help minority entrepreneurs, it’s resources,” Malek said. “It’s teaching them about finances.”

In August, they opened “Samosa Haus” at the new Railway Heights Market Food Hall, something that’s been years in the making.

“I don’t know how we pulled it off with capital, but somehow we did it. Slowly but surely, step by step, day by day. This feels like a dream. This place has literally changed our lives,” Malek said.

A direct result, he said, of hard work, opportunity, and the self-confidence he no longer lacks.

“It’s been a wild journey. We’re looking forward to not only more success, but more obstacles that we have to run through,” he said.

If you’d like more information or help with a small business, check out these links from the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance:

About the Author:

Award-winning journalist, adventure seeker, explorer, dog lover.