Ibraheem Basiris counts as a prime example of what National Black Business Month is all about.
Basiris is the founder and CEO of A Dozen Cousins, a mission-based brand that creates authentic and nutrient-dense natural foods. The brand debuted earlier this year with a line of culturally inspired slow-simmered beans from traditional Black and Latino recipes.
He said he was inspired to create the company after reflecting on dinners he enjoyed as a child. For many years, Basiris worked on natural food brands before coming up with A Dozen Cousins, a name derived from his daughter and her 11 cousins.
“I grew up in a big family with nine siblings, and food always had a special place in our house,” Basiris said. “Dinner served as a way for us to reconnect at the end of our day and it was one of the primary ways that we celebrated holidays and marked important events. I always wanted to marry my professional career with my love for food, and eventually, I was able to do that.”
A Dozen Cousins’ line of regional beans comes in three flavors: Cuban Black Beans, Mexican Cowboy Beans and Trinidadian Chickpea Curry.
Basiris said these innovative and ready-to-eat beans offer a modern take on the rich heritage of Caribbean, Creole and Latin American cuisines, all of which were staples in the diverse neighborhood in New York City’s Brooklyn borough where Basiris grew up.
Like most African American-owned businesses, A Dozen Cousins had its share of challenges. However, Basiris quickly shakes off any suggestion that he’s had it more difficult than anyone else.
“I know this may sound corny, but I try to think in terms of opportunities instead of obstacles,” Basiris said. “That approach keeps me optimistic and helps me remain focused on the upside.
“To me, the most exciting opportunity we have with A Dozen Cousins is to continue to dispel the notion that authentic ethnic foods are niche, or that they are of lower quality,” Basiris said. “We pair authentic Black and Latino recipes with really great ingredients and I think that over time we have the opportunity to find a really large audience for our products.”
He’s already shaken up the bean category by offering simple meals with what he calls clean ingredients with authentic flavors. All of that is sans the preservatives, he said.
All three varieties of Basiris’ beans are non-GMO, vegan, and naturally gluten-free. Each offering boasts 6 to 8 grams of protein and comes packaged in BPA-free, microwaveable pouches.
The company intends to launch other simple meals products, Basiris said. The products will combine taste, quality, and convenience, which will fulfill the company’s mission to inspire families of all backgrounds to eat better food and live longer more vibrant lives.
A Dozen Cousins also has implemented a first-of-its-kind initiative to help eliminate socioeconomic health disparities in the U.S., partnering with nonprofits and giving a portion of its proceeds to various organizations.
A Dozen Cousins has also expanded nationally with Whole Foods. They expect other such expansions to follow. In the meantime, Basiris will continue to put his best foot forward and provide consumers with healthy and hearty alternatives.
“Businesses have a huge impact on how we live, what we consume and even the laws that get passed in this country,” Basiris said. “In the same way that Black people and other minority groups need to have political representation, I think it’s important that we have healthy rates of business ownership.”