Mahfuzul Islam is a first-generation Bangladeshi American and his social startup Jhal NYC sells Bengali cuisine throughout NYC and employs Bengali stay-at-home mothers and new immigrants to cook the food.
But the startup is more than just a means to get food — Islam and his family teach immigrant customers English, how to use public transportation, give career guidance, and create a network or resources to help them along the way. They also mentor other young Bengali New Yorkers.
“In school, being called names and having all these stereotypes being thrown at us. And you know, saying that we smell and our food is spicy. And all That it’s just lie, South Asians get that as a whole,” Islam explained. “As young folks, we don’t know how to deal with that. And the only way to deal with that is by pushing it aside and saying no, we’re not that.”
Islam started Jhal NYC with his cousin Alvi Zaman. The food-focused startup is based in Queens, NY. The idea started with Islam’s own mom and his childhood — she came to the U.S. in 1991.
Even though Jhal NYC has evolved into so much more than food, it’s rooted in the flavors on Bangladesh and family.