The leaves bounce in the wind. The sunset reddened the sky. Cheerleaders rub pom-poms on long sleeves.
Up the hill, on the flagpole at Roosevelt High School, Ahmed Musa opened a folding table. His little sister, Rita, 6, wears a cooler. Ahmed removed the fluorescent yellow, orange and red bags from the ice.
He supports a logo.
Three girls in sweatshirts and flannel handed Ahmed a dollar bill and pierced the plastic with straws. The drink is copiously sugary, viscous, and suffocatingly sweet. But at community night in October, business was slow. 6. The night before the Roughriders’ homecoming football game, families gather for a parade.
“I wish it was hotter,” said Ahmed, 24.
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His little brother made the mix the night before, stirring water, lemon, cane sugar, sweetener, mango and strawberries in a jar. The Moussa siblings have been revising the formula since April, when they launched outside Platinum Coutts on College Avenue during the Drake Relay.
This summer, the Musas family peddled their juices on weekends around town, at Black Art Mecca, the downtown farmers market and at the 4th & Court Hy-Vee.
“Love watching that entrepreneurial spirit!” exclaimed one Roosevelt employee.
“That’s all she has,” Ahmed shouted, pointing to his sister.
Rita, who loves Minions and Buffalo Wild Wings and rapper Lil Durk, is the face of the company. Business is lovely. Ahmed doesn’t want to be cute.
“I want to be a tycoon,” he said.
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Ahmed’s parents, Adel Moussa and Adlibura, arrived in the United States as Sudanese refugees in November 2000, when the weather was so cold that flight attendants asked them to wait on the plane until a staff member came to help him. Hamed finds a thick coat and blanket.
Adel cleaned a hospital, laid tiles and drove a semi-trailer. Carefully clean hotel rooms, craft furniture, and work in the food service department. They lived in a downtown apartment until Adel’s sweat earned the family Habitat for Humanity just north of Evelyn K. Davis Park.
They send money to families in South Sudan. Adel watched as his son followed him, giving his miniature basketball to the neighbor’s kids. When he was growing up, when visiting South Sudan, Ahmed went back to his grandparents’ house wearing socks. He gave the shoes to a local boy.
At home, Ahmed delivers shoes to the homeless and hopes to start a business through philanthropy, and he takes a social entrepreneurship class at Simpson College.
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He had fantasies about Musa’s lemonade. He wants to build brand awareness, add flavors, bottle juice, buy trailers, sell at RAGBRAI and rent a booth at the Iowa State Fair.
On community night, the sun sets and the school’s exterior turns orange. Parents watched the parade and got goosebumps. Ahmed may need to stop the business by the spring.
But he has an idea. People love hot chocolate. He googled a recipe.
“It’s not difficult to make,” he said.
Marching past, football players put their hands in their pockets.
“We’re going to use almond milk as a substitute,” Ahmed said.
A girl in the debate club demands applause. A group of people hangs the Mexican flag over their shoulders.
“It would be cool,” Ahmed said. “Yes. Let’s see.”
Tyler Jett is responsible for the work and economics of the Des Moines Register. He prefers mango lemonade.
our Des Moines
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