Entrepreneur Spotlight: Wahab Alabid

“We still talk to each other. We know about each other’s difficulties and in fact to be honest the reason I’m still in it now and have survived is because of the people I met at LAUNCH. I’ve learned a lot from them.”



Wahab Alabid came to Chattanooga in 2012 as a refugee with a dream to own his own business. It took 5 years of saving before he could open Jinan’s Kitchen, his catering company with his wife Jinan and son Ahmad. We recently sat down with Wahab to learn more about his journey and his goals with Jinan’s Kitchen.
We started with finding out why he pursued food and catering.  “It does seem like immigrants always open food businesses,” he says with a smile on his face. “For me it’s all about community, here there is so much love. I lived in violence, I lived in harsh environment, but when I came here it was about love, helping, volunteering. It’s a really beautiful community. And when I started, I looked around I saw a lot of good food but the community didn’t have any authentic Arabic cuisine. And I want to give it as an option. Food for me is like music. When you hear it you love it, even if sometimes you don’t understand it, you still love it. I think the same thing about food.”
“You know when I came here in 2012 it was always my dream to have my own business here, because it is like a family reunion for me. I was a refugee for 17 years. I missed my family during that time and we lost each other. When I got Jinan and my sons to come here I wanted my business to be like a family reunion. Then, I wanted to do it in the right way. I didn’t know anything about the law and the business so I asked the TSBDC, who directed me to James McKissic. James then told me about LAUNCH CHA.”
Upon starting the Business Entrepreneurship Academy, Wahab says “LAUNCH was a major impact for me. I was so excited, confused but excited!” While working hard to understand everything, he says he got more help than he was expecting. “I thought it was the same thing as university,” he explains, “but in fact it was interaction with the other businesses actually that made it different. It was beautiful to hear everyone’s experience, because you are not alone.”
“We still talk to each other. We know about each other’s difficulties and in fact to be honest the reason I’m still in it now and have survived is because of the people I met at LAUNCH. I’ve learned a lot from them.”
When we asked about challenges he faces, Wahab explained that he feels there is a lot of pressure on him. “I want to be successful because I want refugees to have that example. I want to succeed because I want to show my children that they can succeed also, and even more for me I want to succeed with food. There are a lot of food options and there is so much good food here, and for me to squeak myself between giants? It’s very hard. 
Currently, Wahab and his wife Jinan are focused on catering and pop-ups, having done pop-ups with the Edney Building, The Hart Gallery, Mad Priest Cocktails and Coffee, as well as Wildflower Tea. When asked if a restaurant is something they have their sights set on in the future, he cautiously says, “This is what I learned from LAUNCH; if you don’t have enough money, don’t book yourself on it. Right now I’m not ready to have my own space financially. I can do with the catering until I can find a way to have my own space. Here in America, they make a lot of things easy, but there is a lot of hard work behind that easy. You want to sell a $7 sandwich, you can do that, but you have to build out a $50,000 kitchen that needs to be certified. And you don’t know if people will like that $7 sandwich or not.”
To stay up to date on Jinan’s Kitchen (including their food truck that is in the works), make sure to like them on Facebook.