Mina Ebrahimi knows that her life could have turned out completely different than it did. That is why she is so grateful for what she has now.
"Having the opportunity to own my own business as a woman is huge for me because I am from Iran," said Ebrahimi. "Thank God I had the opportunity because I would never have been able to do this overseas."
Ebrahimi, 34, currently resides in Great Falls, but previously lived in Vienna her whole life. She and her family moved to the United States in 1978, because of the revolution in Iran. Ebrahimi's parents worked several odd jobs before purchasing Tiffany's Bakery in Seven Corners in 1980. It was there that Ebrahimi first started working in the food service industry.
"At 11 years old, she would help her father with all the daily tasks of running a full service bakery," said Zoe Calderon, a personal friend.
When Ebrahimi was 15, her parents purchased the Daily Croissant in Tysons Corner Center. Ebrahimi was attending Marshall High School at the time, but after class, she would head to her parents store to help out in the kitchen and at the cash register.
"It was very hard, especially because of the language barrier," said Ebrahimi. "Coming here at an early age, I had become so Americanized, so it was a challenge."
The success of Daily Croissant enabled the Ebrahimi family to purchase St. Germain Cafe in the Tysons Galleria in 1988. At St. Germain, Ebrahimi found herself performing multiple tasks — cooking, cleaning dishes, waiting tables and managing. Business at The Galleria was slow and the rent was high, so the Ebrahimi family expanded the cafe into a catering business in order to generate more income. Mina Ebrahimi used her contacts at the mall to develop business contacts.
"It led her to building relationships with the AIDS foundation, Ronald McDonald House, the Redskins and the Easter Seals," said Calderon. "The Galleria gave her all the holiday events like Santa Breakfast and catered conferences held for management of the mall."
Ebrahimi continued to work with her parents until she was 26. Despite the fact that she never attended college, and despite her youth, Ebrahimi decided to apply for an SBA loan to start her own business.
"It was difficult because I was young. No one wanted to give me a loan because they didn't think I would be able to pay it back," said Ebrahimi.
NOT ONLY DID she get the loan, but she paid it back in 4 years. Ebrahimi admits that it was not easy in the beginning, but she attributes her success to the booming economy of the Tysons area.
"Just getting the business off the ground and building a consistent clientele was hard," she said. "But the catering business got so big because there is such a need for it in the whole Washington area."
Today, St. Germain Caterers operates out of a 6,000 square foot facility in Tysons and offers services stretching across the greater Washington Metro area.
"We cater anywhere from Loudoun to Prince William County, to everyone from the government sector to pharmaceutical companies. We cover all types of business catering," said Ebrahimi.
EBRAHIMI HAS SHARED HER SUCCESS with a vast array of charities, including the American Red Cross, Fairfax Fire and Rescue, the Ronald McDonald House, the American Cancer Society Women in Technology, to name a few.
However, at the top of Ebrahimi's causes is the Jack Ebrahimi Program for Interventional Endoscopic and Radiologic Diagnostics and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. A self-described "dog lover," Ebrahimi was heartbroken when her vet told her that her 1-month-old chocolate lab Jack had a liver problem and that he most likely would not live much longer. Ebrahimi was referred to the University of Pennsylvania, as it is one of the top veterinary schools in the country and had a special program that might save Jack.
Several months and $35,000 later, Jack was back on track. He is now 2 years old and alive and well. Ebrahimi is so thankful for the life of her puppy that, as of Aug. 1 of this year, a portion of St. Germain's profits go to the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary School of the University of Pennsylvania. Ebrahimi says she just wants to make sure that veterinarians will "be able to continue their research and training... and hopefully be able to educate other veterinarians about what procedures can be done to save the lives of animals like Jack."
"I think she is an inspiration and a great individual in our community," said Calderon.
*For more information on the Jack Ebrahimi Program for Interventional Endoscopic and Radiologic Diagnostics and Therapeutics, please contact Elana Beck Arons, Director of Development, Ryan Hospital, at 215-898-4235, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*For more information on St. Germain Catering, please visit www.saintgermaincaterers.com or call 703-506-9396.