SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - A local small business that makes traditional Nepalese food is being recognized for its financial success and community involvement.
Sherpa Foods, founded and owned by Nurbu Sherpa, has been named the 2019 Vermont Microenterprise of the Year by the Small Business Administration. By SBA standards, a microenterprise is a sole-proprietor business with five or fewer employees. Sherpa Foods specializes in making momos, a Nepalese dumpling, and momo sauce, a Himalayan style hot sauce. Sherpa says all of his company’s food is made locally and with fresh and natural ingredients.
Nurbu Sherpa started the business in 2015 shortly after he and his wife Phura moved to Vermont from New York City where he worked for a national department store chain. During his time in the corporate world, Sherpa said he always wanted to strike out on his own believing his experience could translate to entrepreneurship.
Raised in Nepal, Sherpa says momos are a part of everyday life. He grew up in a household where his family regularly made momos from scratch. Starting a momo business seemed logical even though he had never worked in a restaurant or bakery, nor had he run a business.
“I literally had to start everything from ground zero. I had to develop and build relationships and networks, research and learn food supply regulation, licensing and permitting, take various food industry courses, as well as find a suitable kitchen,” Sherpa said.
He started small, selling at a farmers market in 2015. Within a few months, a local food coop approached him about carrying his momos. Each packet of momos sold at the coop came with a small container of his homemade Himalayan hot sauce, officially titled Momo Sauce. The sauce itself became so popular that customers and the coop asked if Sherpa could sell the sauce as a stand-alone product. Today Sherpa Foods offers chicken, beef and vegetable momos, and the hot sauce is available in mild, hot and sesame flavors. Its products are sold in several Vermont coops, local grocery stores and supermarkets, including Hannaford Supermarkets. The momo sauce is distributed to 15 states, and sold through the company’s website www.sherpafoodsusa.com and on Amazon.
When Nurbu started Sherpa Foods, he believed that community outreach needed to be a fundamental part of the business. Sherpa donates a portion of his farmers market sales to the Committee of Temporary Shelter, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter and helps prevent homelessness. In November, COTS honored him with its Business Hero Award.
He also recently started the Women Empowerment Soap Project to assist underprivileged women in Nepal.
“The project aims to build a small soap factory and train women to make hand soaps while providing them with sales and business skills training so they can sell their soaps to various markets and generate income,” said Sherpa.
Sherpa Foods and other small business award winners will be presented their awards during the 2019 Vermont Small Business Awards Ceremony cohosted by Vermont Business Magazine in June. The ceremony is open to the public and registration will be available in May.
Since 1963, National Small Business Week has recognized the outstanding achievements of America's small businesses for their contributions to their local communities, and to our nation's economy.
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