Before the housing bubble collapsed in 2007, Florence Karp was happily settled into her career as a mortgage broker. Then one day, two scheduled closures suddenly collapsed. Soon after, the longtime Brooklyn Park resident’s livelihood also changed.

“It was terrible,” she recalled with a smile, now able to laugh at the setback.

Karp is no stranger to dramatic life changes. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, she worked as a teacher, seamstress and caterer, before immigrating to the United States in search of new opportunities. After an initial pit stop in Philadelphia, a place that seemed harsh and unpleasant to Karp, she questioned her idealized notions of life in the United States.

Then in 1997, friends invited Karp to St. Paul. Despite the shock of the cold climate, Karp quickly fell in love with the Twin Cities. After completing the required courses and a two-year apprenticeship, she obtained her mortgage broker’s licence.

Following the housing market crash, Karp pivoted and reinvented herself as a life coach and motivational speaker. In 2015 she published a self-help book, My choices: start taking action and create the life you want.

At a business convention, Karp met a former mentor who asked her what she was doing. Karp told him about his work as a life coach, then showed him his book.

“He looked at it and he said, ‘That’s great. I was just wondering, do you think you can retire on this? I said no. And I don’t think my kids want to start a life coaching business,” Karp recalled. “He said, ‘Why don’t you get into the food business?'”

At a business convention, Karp met a former mentor who asked her what she was doing. Karp told him about his work as a life coach, then showed him his book. “He looked at it and he said, ‘That’s great. I was just wondering, do you think you can retire on this?

Karp had long been hesitant to take this step, mainly because she feared that running a restaurant in the United States would lead to unforeseen legal hassles. “I thought if someone got sick you were sued,” Karp said.

“Then my friend said to me: You can get into the food business in many other ways. Go do your research.

This suggestion flipped the light switch. Growing up in Lagos, Karp had helped out with his mother’s buka – the informal (and hugely popular) restaurants in Nigeria that sell street food to the masses. The kitchen has always been at the center of his life. Even when Karp was in the mortgage business, she enjoyed cooking African treats for her colleagues at lunchtime.

So in 2016, Karp incorporated Chef Flo-K foods. It took another few years before she officially launched her product, Afric Sauce: a hearty blend of tomatoes, peppers and various spices that can be paired with a wide variety of entrees.

One of its big setbacks: the first iteration of Afric Sauce required refrigeration.

“I made little samples and sold them at farmers’ markets. People loved it,” Karp said. place to refrigerate it. You will need to bring your own refrigerator. I said, i can’t afford it.”

In the end, Karp reformulated his recipe and hired an outside company to make a more stable product. She started the business with a combination of personal savings and a grant.

“This process took me almost three years,” she said. “But if you’re in love with something you do, you don’t care.”

Karp now sells Afric Sauce — hot and mild — online and at several local retailers, including Kowalskis, Hy-Vee, North Market in Minneapolis, and Seasoned Specialty Food Market in St. Paul.

Karp told the Sahan Journal that the pandemic has created challenges for his fledgling business. She still avoids the kind of in-person demonstrations and appearances at food markets that are essential to her expansion plans. Although business is good, she added, it could be better.

Even if you are the CEO, you can also be the delivery driver. “I do this on my own. I deliver myself to each store. They place an order and I will go there and give them the invoice.

Adjust your plans based on your financial realities. “For me, the biggest barrier to growth is funding. If I had had enough money, I would have built my own commercial kitchen. My other option was to get a contract packer, which I did. My goal is to work with distributors who can help me go nationwide.

It’s not just about having a distributor. Marketing agencies don’t work for free. And there are fees that stores charge you. Finance was difficult when starting the business and still difficult now as I need more working capital to grow and grow the business.

Know what your goal is. “My vision is to bring people together to better understand African culture and cuisine. I can’t take you to Africa but at least I can bring the taste of Africa to your kitchen. Afric Sauce gives an emotional connection to African cuisine. It’s very convenient and a big step up from a TV dinner. But you can use my sauce in sloppy joes.

And don’t give up until you reach it. “The advice I have for anyone looking to start a business is to make sure you start a business that you are passionate about. Be persistent and never give up.