Eye on KELOLAND: Enterprising immigrants

Eye on KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Black entrepreneurs have made a big impact on the Sioux Falls business community, helping lead the way to establish a strong customer base in ventures ranging from restaurants to retail. These business owners have also been breaking down racial, cultural and language barriers in pursuit of their American Dream.

The Lalibela Restaurant is a Sioux Falls melting pot with each dish the staff serves up.

“Americans, Africans, everyone come here,” Lalibela Restaurant owner Mulugeta Endayehu said.

Mulugeta Endayehu immigrated to Sioux Falls back in 1999 and started the restaurant as a place for his fellow Ethiopians to gather and enjoy authentic food from their former homeland.

“And we mix with wheat flour and that’s a special bread served with vegetables, beef, chicken lamb, and we use the spices brought from home,” Endayehu said.

But starting a restaurant is a costly endeavor, and Endayehu well remembers those lean, early days when he first opened.

“There’s a lot of expense and so to cover those expenses and to stay in business was a little bit tough for the first six months, after that, people know about us, start coming and then we are here,” Endayehu said.

Now, even more people than ever know about the restaurant. The Lalibela was recently featured on the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. And that national exposure has been the right ingredient in a recipe for success.

“Now, they see the show and they come here to try, when they try, they’re going to come back again, and they bring their families and it is a big impact for us,” Endayehu said.

Endayehu says he’s always felt welcome in Sioux Falls, even long before he became a culinary celebrity.

“It is a good community, that’s why I don’t want to move to other states or other places, I like to live in Sioux Falls. That’s why I stay here,” Endayehu said.

Endayehu fully expects his restaurant to continue thriving, thanks to serving good food, an ever-widening customer base, and an unwavering determination.

“If you have something inside to do it, just do it, and see the results,” Endayehu said.

Gibson Myers shares that same ambition.

“I love interacting with people,” Myers said.

Myers came to Sioux Falls from Liberia in 2004 and now runs G & M Beauty Plus, selling wigs and other hair products and offering services such as braiding.

“When we first started here, the Black community was little, so as time goes by, the Black community began to grow,” Myers said.

Myers recognized a braiding business opportunity early on. But getting started and securing the financing isn’t easy when you’re a newcomer to the country. So Myers wasn’t shy about contacting people to help him along the way.

“There are so many challenges we face, we got to start somewhere, asking people, how can I do this? It’s always good to ask people,” Myers said.

The more Myers asked, the more answers he got. His hair business kept growing and now customers come from all ethnic backgrounds.

“Right now, everybody is in it, Black or white, everybody is braiding their hair, so it’s very needed in Sioux Falls,” Felicia Myers said.

Myers’ business has expanded beyond this East 10th Street location to include a store at The Empire Mall as well as a store in Sioux City, Iowa. And this summer, he plans to knock out this wall to make way for a 3,400 square-foot addition to sell men’s hair products.

“So I want to say thanks to our customers out there. It is because of them we stay in business,” Gibson Myers said.

Myers says he wants to set an example to his six children, and the wider community of how immigrants can overcome obstacles and become successful entrepreneurs. When it comes to running a hair business, Myers is staying true to his roots.

“This is America, there is opportunity in this country,” Myers said.

Myers earned money to start his business by working for the City of Sioux Falls checking parking meters. He says that job taught him good customer service skills by dealing with people upset with him for issuing tickets for overdue parking.

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