The Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest powered by TechTown celebrated the 2022 competition season at the Hatch Off on Thursday, July 21. The community gathered at the WSU Industry Innovation Center to watch the five finalists pitch their business concepts and to enjoy an evening of local food, drinks, music and networking. After a judges’ deliberation, Little Liberia was crowned the 2022 contest winner, taking home the $100,000 grand prize from Comerica Bank to open the brick-and-mortar business of their dreams in Detroit!
A bit about Little Liberia
Little Liberia is an Afro-fusion pop-up restaurant owned and founded by Ameneh Marhaba. She is looking to find a permanent space to introduce Liberia’s rich multicultural cuisines to the people of Metro Detroit. They serve authentic Liberian dishes, a cuisine whose heritage is a mixture of African, Caribbean, and Antebellum-South African American influences.
First of its kind
When Little Liberia opens a brick-and-mortar it will be the first-ever Liberian restaurant in Michigan!
A passion for cooking
Marhaba decided to open Little Liberia in 2016. She said, “I originally started doing pop-up dinners as a means to pay my bills and survive when I was an undocumented immigrant. The pop-ups were paying cash and I did not need a work permit to do it. Once I got my green card, I continued to do it because I love to cook.”
Strong support system
Marhaba said her biggest champions and strongest cheerleaders are her mother and father. “They have both always believed I can accomplish the most and do anything I set my mind to. Also, my brother and sister are my biggest motivators.”
During her business pitch at the Hatch Off, Marhaba told the story of her father selling everything he had to bring his family from Liberia to the United States. She shared that she lost her father in January of this year. “I feel like I owe a lot of where I’m at now to my father because of his sacrifice that he did to get us here,” she said.
Marhaba also draws business inspiration from Hatch Detroit alumnus and owner of Baobab Fare, Mamba Hamasi.
The future is bright
Marhaba hopes to open Little Liberia in Detroit’s Midtown, Corktown or Greek Town neighborhoods. “I know the community and I know the need for Liberia food is very high.”
As the winner of the 10th annual Hatch Off, Little Liberia will receive a package of pro bono support and counsel from Hatch Detroit and its partners in addition to the cash grant from Comerica Bank.