East African refugees win $50K Hatch Detroit grand prize, will open restaurant

For Hamissi Mamba, Baobab Fare is a chance to give back to the city he's come to call home. Mamba and his wife, Nadia Nijimbere, moved to Detroit as refugees from Burundi. They're now on track to open their own East African restaurant, market, and juice bar. And they're doing so as recent recipients of the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest grand prize.

On Friday, August 25, Mamba and Nijimbere won 2017's Hatch contest, receiving $50,000 as the grand prize. They'll use that money to open Baobab Fare, a taste of their old home in their new one. It's slated for a summer 2018 opening.

"Winning this prize is incredible—a dream come true," says Mamba. "It's something I couldn't even have imagined."

"This prize is emotional because I owe everything to this city. I want to do something for this city and share a piece of my culture."

This is the seventh annual Hatch Detroit, a contest designed to help small businesses get off the ground and into their first brick-and-mortar storefronts in the communities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park. More than 160 entrepreneurs applied this year and over 200,000 votes cast in the public voting round. A final group of four pitched their businesses in a "Shark Tank"-style event with Baobab Fare taking home the top prize.

The restaurant, market, and juice bar will offer items unique to East Africa. In addition to prepared foods and juices in a restaurant setting, the Baobab Fare market will offer herbs, produce, fresh meat, and more.

Winning the Hatch Detroit contest is worth more than the $50,000 top prize. Mamba and Nijimbere will also receive more than $200,000 in pro bono business services from Hatch Detroit and its partners.

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MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.