WORTHINGTON ― A local business owner has found a way to grow her enterprise in a time when many shops are struggling to stay afloat.
Nathalie Nkashama, owner of Worthington’s World Mart, said last week that owning a business has always been difficult. When she first started World Mart in 2018, she learned it usually takes about three years for a business to flourish.
World Mart is a unique venture, offering foods from several African regions. By trial and error, Nkashama has learned which inventory to keep on hand. She is familiar with cuisine from her native Congo, but has needed to make adjustments in her offerings from other cultures, based on customer interest.
“It’s not just about food,” Nkashama said. “It’s about bridging cultures and sharing experiences.”
She hopes World Mart will help people from different backgrounds to understand each other better. This goal has kept her going despite losses.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, World Mart was affected like many other local businesses. African people in the area were commonly in the habit of driving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota or even as far as Minneapolis to purchase groceries that taste like home. Due to social distancing and Minnesota’s stay-at-home order, these journeys came to a screeching halt.
That’s where World Mart comes in.
“I won’t say COVID-19 is a blessing ― so many people are suffering,” Nkashama said. “But out of every challenge, I always think, ‘What is the silver lining?’”
In this case, she found her silver lining by purchasing a food truck, out of which she now sells the same goods found in her physical store.
“I’m able to reach the people,” the business owner said.
Rather than waiting for customers to come to her store, she goes to them, usually rotating through the various apartment buildings in Worthington. She will announce on the World Mart Facebook page in advance where she plans to be next, so nearby residents can plan accordingly.
“It’s working just perfect,” Nkashama said.
Since she started World Mart on Wheels May 8, the vendor had already attracted a number of new customers. She also loves that she is able to serve demographics that would otherwise struggle to access food, such as those who don’t have their own transportation and elderly people who can’t carry a sack of flour.
In addition to running the store and now operating World Mart on Wheels, Nkashama also works full-time as a social worker for Nobles County and is raising three boys with her husband, Mcnay.
Some people go to a ballgame or sit down with a glass of wine to socialize, but for Nkashama, “serving people is my social time. “It’s my wine. It’s like going to a game where the team keeps on winning."
Interacting with customers helps Nkashama to continue to tweak her store inventory and try new foods from cultures that are not her own.
“I believe in what I do,” she said. “We are leaders in bridging the gap between people, cultures and knowledge.”
Anyone interested in learning where World Mart on Wheels will go next may consult the store’s Facebook page, World Mart Worthington MN, or call Nkashama directly at (763) 203-9688.