When Congo native Fuad Ndibalema participated in a Vermont Foodbank-sponsored 12-week training program on creating a food-based business, he never imagined where he'd be today. The entrepreneur, known to many as "the Samosaman," has built a successful culinary venture on savory stuffed triangles, originally based on a family recipe. Sold wholesale to stores and offered at farmers' markets, they're hot-ticket items at the Chew-Chew Fest, too.
Currently Ndibalema and his 21 employees churn out the golden-brown pockets in a Barre factory. But, he explains, they've outgrown the capacity of that space: "We don't produce as many [samosas] as we need."
The solution: By the end of August, the Samosaman plant will have relocated to East Allen Street in Winooski. "The Burlington area is where the majority of my activity is," Ndibalema remarks, referring to sales. Right now, his heavy commuting schedule limits productivity.
While some of his current employees will follow the business to the Queen City area, others can't afford to make the transition, so Ndibalema is trying to help them find work at other area businesses. "Since I have great personnel, I really want to keep them. If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be talking about Samosaman," he says.
Once he's established and has doubled his staff, Ndibalema plans to add a couple of new elements to his biz: factory tours - à la Magic Hat - and an African café. Samosas in many flavors "will be the main thing," he says, supplemented with other traditional dishes. "There are Indian restaurants, Mexican restaurants and Chinese restaurants. Why not an African restaurant? We will be unique in this way."
The Samosaman's forecast is upbeat: "It's gonna be beautiful."