Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Alia Radgeb and Omar Bouibegh

Baraka Café

Cambridge, Massachusetts

“The support really touched us. It’s not just the money, it’s the thought that someone trusted us” –Alia Radgeb

Things That No One Has Ever Come Up With

“I had originally wanted to do writing, poetry or novels, but I went for cooking.” Alia learned to cook at an early age for herself and her family, and she found that her new skill was not too dissimilar from her initial dream. “With writing and with cooking, the emotions and passion are always inside what you make. You want to come up with things that no one has ever come up with.” Alia learned about cooking primarily from her brother, a chef with a similar creative spirit. “That artistic part of us had to go somewhere – the part of us that wanted to make people happy and be our true selves.” In 1997, Alia opened Baraka Café in Cambridge, MA to immediate success. “My goal was to introduce vegetarian cuisine from the Mediterranean and North African region to my community.” Later, she joined with Omar Bouibegh as her partner, chef, and manager. Originally from France and Morocco respectively, Alia and Omar brought their own personal inspiration to every item on the menu.

Falling Behind

In March 2020, a mandatory shutdown due to COVID-19 forced Alia and Omar to temporarily close the doors of Baraka Café, leaving them struggling to keep customers and maintain revenue. “We started doing takeout, which we had never done before, so that already left us behind other restaurants.” The shutdown led to an 80% revenue loss and a profound feeling of hopelessness for Alia and Omar. However, in August 2020, they were able to secure $10,000 in capital through Ascendus, and all of that changed.

Right on Time

“Before the support, we were a few steps away from closing. The landlord had put his foot down and asked for rent and then the support came, right on time. It saved the business.” The capital gave Alia and Omar not only the ability to pay for rent, utilities, and a barrier for outdoor dining, but a newfound sense of confidence. “The support really touched us. It’s not just the money, it’s the thought that someone trusted us.”

A Stronger Spirit

Despite the hurdles they’ve endured throughout the past several months, Alia and Omar continue to find success through a unique and inspirational lens. “Our success is not always about money, but our growth and our ability to do things better than we used to.” Alia has seen self-growth both as an entrepreneur and as a compassionate individual. “I have been worrying more, not just about me, but about other people too. I’m very concerned about everyone who is touched by this.” Lastly, from her own personal journey, and from what she has seen from her community, Alia feels confident in the future because of just how far she and her peers have already come. “This is a land of immigration – people have more soul and a stronger spirit. People came to this country from all over with a dream, and that spirit lives on forever.”

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