From mortgage broker to food entrepreneur whose Nigerian hot sauce is making waves in Minnesota

Florence Karp is a US-based food entrepreneur. It markets and sells its own line of traditional Nigerian sauces to grocers and stores in Minnesota.

She worked as a teacher, seamstress and caterer in Nigeria before migrating to the United States in search of better opportunities in 1997. She initially settled in Philadelphia but was soon faced with harsh economic realities that left her led to a rethinking of life in the United States, according to Sahan Journal.

At the invitation of her friends, she traveled to St. Paul, where she obtained her mortgage broker’s license after taking the necessary courses and completing a two-year apprenticeship. She had a successful career as a mortgage broker before the housing bubble collapsed in 2007.

After the housing market crashed, she became a life coach and motivational speaker. She even published a self-help book titled “My Choices: Start Taking Action and Create the Life You Want.”

That was not all for Karp. She also turned to the food industry. This came after meeting a former mentor at a business convention. Her friend encouraged her to go into the food business. Initially, she was skeptical of the idea, fearing legal challenges.

But growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, she had volunteered at her mother’s restaurant. And while working as a mortgage broker, she sometimes prepared African meals for her colleagues. So she eventually incorporated Chef Flo-K foods in 2016 and launched her product, Afric Sauce. Sauce contains tomatoes, onions, red peppers, water, tomato paste, canola oil, natural flavors, sea salt, cayenne pepper, curry powder and thyme, according to its website. “Afric Sauce is more than just a condiment – based on a traditional Nigerian stew base, it works great as a base or to accompany a wide range of vegetables, proteins and grains, and can be eaten hot or cold”, the website advertisements.

Her first Afric sauce however needed refrigeration and this became a problem for her when she started the business. “I made small samples and sold them at farmers’ markets. People loved it,” Karp told the Sahan Journal. “But when I went to the stores, they said, ‘We don’t We don’t have a place to refrigerate it. You will need to bring your own fridge. I said I couldn’t afford it.

Using his personal savings and grants, Karp reformulated his recipe and hired an outside company to make a “more stable product”. This process took almost three years, and after that she started the business.

She now sells her hot sauce online and at several retail outlets like Kowalskis, Hy-Vee, North Market in Minneapolis and Seasoned Specialty Food Market in St. Paul, according to Sahan Journal.

Karp said she usually does the delivery herself, even though she’s the CEO. Her goal now is to bring people together to better understand African culture and cuisine.

“I can’t take you to Africa but at least I can bring the taste of Africa into your kitchen. Afric Sauce gives an emotional connection to African cooking. It’s very convenient and a big step forward compared to a TV dinner. But you can use my sauce in sloppy joes.