Like so many others from war-torn nations, Saif Al-Dulaimy came to the U.S. from his home country of Iraq in search of opportunity. His transition from a refugee with little understanding of English, to a full-fledged small business owner was characterized by his steadfast dedication to learning the American ways of conducting business. With 12 years of experience working as a baker, he already had many of the skills he needed; Al-Dulaimy was known for his delicious breads, cakes, cookies, and pastries back home – but to achieve his dream, he knew he had to quickly become comfortable with the, sometimes unforgiving, life of an entrepreneur, despite the cultural limitations staring back at him.
“I was fortunate to know [ECDI relationship manager] Sam Al-Taie before I had ever heard of ECDI,” Al-Dulaimy said. “I was barely speaking English when he started telling me about accessing capital to continue my passion for baking, but I wasn’t ready yet.”
However, Al-Dulaimy was a quick study. After coming to the U.S. in 2010, he took a full-time job with FedEx and was promoted to operations manager by 2014, giving him the confidence to revisit his dream. With a sound understanding of the American business culture, Al-Dulaimy gave his friend Al-Taie another call.
“Sam not only was able to get me the capital I needed to start Babylon Market & Bakery, but also connected me to valuable services ECDI provides,” Al-Dulaimy said. “I went ahead and scheduled a meeting with ECDI’s own [Bob Kramer], Food Services & Food Safety Director of The Food Fort, who came out to my bakery and did a mock health inspection before our real one, which was one of my biggest worries. It was incredibly helpful.”
Since opening in 2015, Babylon Market & Bakery has established a regular following amongst its North Columbus customer base. Patrons typically rave about the quality, as well as the variety of breads and other baked goods that Al-Dulaimy offers. He plans to grow the appeal of the business by adding ice cream, smoothies, and more handmade items that can be enjoyed at a small dining area in the market. He also plans to offer delivery service in the future.
Al-Dulaimy’s success has bettered his life in immeasurable ways. Without ECDI’s support, Al-Dulaimy claims his life would be much harder. Within the first year of Babylon’s opening, he was able to buy a house for his family, and is well on his way to achieving his American dream. For Al-Dulaimy, the greatest benefit of Babylon’s success is something that can’t be bought in stores: peace of mind.
“I have much more money saved in the bank today than when I started out on my journey…any small business owner knows that the bills don’t stop, regardless of your situation,” Al-Dulaimy said. “Being able to receive better healthcare for me and my family and knowing that if something did happen where I wouldn’t be able to work for an extended time, the financial security established leads to a lot less sleepless nights for me.”
Al-Dulaimy welcomes the daily challenges of running a successful business with open arms. His willingness to adapt his business to his clientele by “keeping customers happy, not only when they leave [the]store, but…from the second they come in,” has paved the way for the financial freedom he’s achieved in only two short years. Today, he finds that the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner is mentoring his employees to become entrepreneurs like himself someday.
“Over time, I’ve been fortunate to find the right employees that show up to work on time and do their job correctly without complaints,” Al-Dulaimy said. “I am always happy to give an employee feedback when they’re doing well because I enjoy seeing them grow due to my guidance. It’s a humbling thing to experience.”
— Saif Al-Dulaimy came to ECDI in March of 2015 at the suggestion of his friend and ECDI Relationship Manager Sam Al-Taie. He was given a $60,000 capital infusion, allowing him to open Babylon’s Market & Bakery that same month. Six months later, Al-Dulaimy utilized specific funds reserved for resettled refugees and took out an additional $10,000 to support Babylon Market & Bakery’s growing client base. Babylon Market & Bakery is located at 5220 Bethel Center Mall, Columbus, OH, 43220. —
For more information on the robust services ECDI provides small businesses and budding entrepreneurs, visit ecdi.org.