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Native Dish Earns Sherpa Award

Nurbu SherpaIn the 1987 comedy Baby Boom, Diane Keaton’s character is a corporate executive in New York who winds up moving to Vermont, starting a small baby food company and taking it nationally all while raising a baby.

Nurbu Sherpa’s story is a similar tale but without the comedy.

“When I started, the first six months were very difficult. I was generating no income, I was trying to figure out how to run a business and I had a newborn son. I was always thinking ‘did I make the right decision moving to Vermont,’” said Sherpa.

Nurbu Sherpa is the owner and founder of Sherpa Foods, a small business that specializes in making momos, a Nepalese dumpling, and momo sauce, a Himalayan style hot sauce.  Sherpa says all of his company’s food is made locally and with fresh and natural ingredients.

Nurbu Sherpa started the business in 2015 with the help of his family shortly after he and his wife Phura moved to Vermont from New York City where he worked for a national department store chain. During his time in the corporate world, Sherpa said he always wanted to strike out on his own believing his business experience from his job could translate to entrepreneurship.

When he finally decided to leave New York for Vermont, he told his boss and colleagues about his entrepreneurial plans. They did not believe him and wanted to know which competitor he was going to work for. Sherpa told them repeatedly he was not going to a competitor and was leaving the city to start a new life in Vermont.

Raised in Nepal, Sherpa says momos are a part of everyday life. He grew up in a household where his family regularly made momos from scratch. Starting a momo business seemed logical even though he had never worked in a restaurant or bakery, nor had he run a business.

“I literally had to start everything from scratch. I had to develop and build relationships and networks, research and learn food supply regulation, licensing and permitting, take various food industry courses, as well as find a suitable kitchen,” Sherpa said.

He started small, selling at a farmers market in 2015. Within a few months, a local food coop approached him about carrying his momos. Each packet of momos sold at the coop came with a small container of his homemade Himalayan hot sauce, officially titled Momo Sauce. The sauce itself became so popular that customers and the coop asked if Sherpa could sell the sauce as a stand-alone product. Today Sherpa Foods offers chicken, beef and vegetable momos, and the hot sauce is available in mild, hot and sesame flavors. Its products are sold in several Vermont coops, local grocery stores and supermarkets, including Hannaford Supermarkets. The momo sauce is distributed to 15 states, and sold through the company’s website and on Amazon.

When Nurbu started Sherpa Foods, he believed that community outreach needed to be a fundamental part of the business. Sherpa donates a portion of his farmers market sales to the Committee of Temporary Shelter, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter and helps prevent homelessness. Sherpa Foods also has monthly meal donation program at COTS during winter months. Sherpa Foods and Sherpa family have made a commitment to include a non-profit/community give back in any of their successes/milestones/celebration etc. In November, COTS honored him with its Business Hero Award.

In 2011, He co-founded a non-profit called Empower1 to help underprivileged children, women and families Nepal. He recently started the Women Empowerment Soap Project with partnership with Peace4People, a non-profit based in Nepal, to assist underprivileged women in Nepal.

“The project aims to build a small soap factory and train women to make hand soaps while providing them with sales and business skills training so they can sell their soaps to various markets and generate income,” said Sherpa.

For its financial success and community involvement Sherpa Foods has been named the 2019 Vermont Microenterprise of the Year by the Small Business Administration. By SBA standards, a microenterprise is a sole-proprietor business with five or fewer employees.

“Sherpa is very deserving of this award. Here is a young man who had a successful career in the nation’s largest city, moved to Vermont and started a whole new way of life for him and his family thru entrepreneurship. He is proof you can move here, start a business here and grow it here,” said Darcy Carter, SBA Vermont District Director.

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