Most people would probably give up after being turned down 25 times in a row. Not Yubi Hassan ’24.
When he was a first-year student at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, Hassan and business partner Plamedi Bangila visited 25 Twin Cities dealerships hoping to get work detailing used cars. The first 25 managers turned them down.
“Can you imagine two 19-year-olds, showing up at your door, saying that they have a detailing shop and they want to clean your $60,000 car?” Hassan said. “It was a little crazy, but as I’ve learned as an entrepreneur… you can’t get a yes, unless you ask.”
Persistence paid off. Manager 26 said ‘yes’.
Within months, news of Yedi Detailing Services had spread far and wide, impressing dealers across the metro. As business boomed, four employees were hired. New equipment was purchased. And once things were running smoothly, Hassan sold his slice of the business – all by the age of 20.
A senior now at the University of St. Thomas, Hassan acknowledges he’s a bit obsessed with startups. A lover of negotiation and selling his dreams to others, it’s hard to get a good count of how many businesses Hassan has opened. But one thing is clear, his most recent venture, BlueHorn Tea, may be his most personal.
Born and raised in Somalia, Hassan’s family fled to Uganda as civil war began to tear apart their home country. At the age of 16, Hassan, his mother and five siblings moved to Minnesota, looking to create a new life alongside thousands of fellow first-generation Somali Americans.
“America was the opportunity where we could dream,” Hassan said. “I saw possibility – that it was possible to start a business and achieve something that I put my mind to.”
Business runs in Hassan’s blood – nearly everyone in his 60-plus extended family owns and operates a business – and so, it was an obvious choice for Hassan to attend the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, which ranks as a top 20 undergraduate entrepreneurship program in the country and #1 in Minnesota. It was here that Hassan says professors encouraged him to put what he was learning into practice and take risks in the real world.
“They would say, know your strengths and just jump off the cliff,” Hassan said. “You have to take that first step, and they were always there to help me do that.”
Hassan did just that, testing his expanding skillset on new endeavors while consulting with his professors when problems popped up. In addition to co-founding his car detailing company, he also developed clothing brand, Gocciolare (many fellow Tommies sport Hassan’s colorful hoodies and t-shirts across campus).
Creating BlueHorn Tea
For his latest venture, Hassan dreamed up a startup that could fuse together his business acumen and Somali culture. He found that in something deliciously simple: tea.
Tea plays a leading role in the daily routine of most Somalis. Traditionally served both in the morning and afternoon, families gather to start and end their days together, catching up over a cup (or three) of tea.
“My personal experience waking up early in the morning… the first thing I would smell is the tea that’s being prepared by either my sister or my mom,” Hassan said. “Tea is not just a social beverage – it brings people together.”
Loosely based on his mother’s recipe, Hassan has been developing his own recipe for years. In search of perfection, he’s traveled the world sampling tea in the United Kingdom, Kenya, Switzerland, and he even returned to Somalia.
Back in his production facility, it’s been an expensive process as he’s tried out countless variations of organic ingredients. While the recipe is still a work in progress, any final iteration is sure to include the following: black tea leaves, ginger, cardamon, cinnamon and cloves.
“Each ingredient must have a purpose,” Hassan said. “Ginger is really good for muscle recovery. Black tea has amazing antioxidants and natural caffeine.”
The goal? To produce an authentic and nutritious cup of tea that can be enjoyed at a moment’s notice.
“I wanted to make it as convenient as possible. You should be able to grab a beverage right when you wake up, go get it out of your fridge and go straight to work,” Hassan said. “At the same time, I want you to have that authentic experience of a great cup of tea.”
Becoming a pillar of community inspiration
Hassan’s twin sister and future Tommie, Amal, is a big fan of the final product, happily sampling cans while at work. She’s proud of her brother and his quest to share this piece of their culture with others.
“We’ve watched as he works all day, and then comes back home after 10 p.m. Then he wakes up at 3 a.m. and does it again. His work ethic is amazing,” Amal Hassan said. “He has always wanted to be his own boss, to be self-reliant. It’s stressful, but still great to see him create his own business.”
This fall, while taking a full load of classes, Hassan plans to start selling BlueHorn Tea online. To ramp up production he’s bought a large brewer and fixed a pair of commercial refrigerators.
Whether or not his tea startup will be a commercial success is still up in the air. No matter what happens, Hassan is enjoying the ride.
“It’s the challenge of not knowing something at first,” Hassan said. “With startups, every day you’re putting out a new fire. I love that chaos… that every day there is a new problem for me to solve.”
But Hassan knows it’s about more than that. His experience starting a business as a first-generation college student and Somali American is a chance to inspire future entrepreneurs.
“Being a first-generation immigrant, and the first person in your family to potentially graduate from college, it makes me proud,” Hassan said. “But at the same time, I don’t want it to be a first for the generation after me. I want them to have someone who looks like me to be their inspiration, so that when it’s their time to start a business, they have that pillar of support.”