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Woman-owned catering company has international roots

Two sisters start business and become closer along the way

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November 2, 2023

GREEN BAY – Sisters Aisha and Fatima Umar are two peas in a pod.

Not only do the two finish each other’s sentences, but they now complement palates together with their new catering business – The Black Orchid Catering, located in Green Bay.

Describing their food as fusion – the Umar sisters said they specialize in African, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines with a hint of American flavors.

The duo said their international education and experiences of food at a young age stuck with them and served as inspiration for The Black Orchid Catering.

The sisters – who said they have Nigerian origins – were born in Madison and raised in Malaysia.

Growing up, Aisha said their mother always cooked West African food and still does about 90% of the time.

Both sisters moved back to the United States more than a decade ago to pursue higher education.

Aisha obtained a degree in pre-med hoping to become a gynecologist, while Fatima earned a degree in English literature and education, with a minor in political science – with plans of becoming a lawyer.

As owners of the newly launched Black Orchid Catering, the sisters laughed saying, “now, we’re not using our degrees at all.”

Passion for food
Aisha said much like her mother, she’s always enjoyed cooking.

“Cooking is my passion – I love creating,” she said. “I love going to the farmers market and picking the freshest ingredients and imagining what it would taste like.”

Fatima said her sister has always enjoyed cooking for others.

Potato cups – which include curried roasted yukon potatoes in a vegan phyllo cup, garnished with fresh mango, cilantro and crushed spiced peanuts – are an Asian-Middle Eastern fusion option offered by The Black Orchid Catering. Chris Rugowski Photo

“She likes making people happy,” she said. “She loves Sunday dinners trying new recipes, seeing us eating and being happy.”

Though they both followed career paths they thought they’d enjoy, Fatima said she and Aisha were often envious of those who loved what they did for work.

“We were always envious of people who said ‘we love our jobs,’” she said. “We didn’t feel the same. I didn’t for a long time.”

Finding fulfillment was the goal for these sisters turned business partners.

“This has been the most rewarding job,” Aisha said. “And I get to work with my best friend.”

Fatima said her 18-month-old daughter also serves as inspiration for the business – not only building something she may be able to take over one day but showing her women can do anything.

“Having something of our own is important,” she said. “It gives us time to spend with my baby. Last year and this year, we were working 12 hours a day, 80 hours a week. I would go home, feed her, sleep and go back to work.”

Being in the food industry for about five years, Aisha said she’s done everything from cooking to serving to managing.

Most recently, the pair worked as servers in Door County.

Fatima said as she watched how hard her sister worked for others, she knew it was time to start something of their own.

“There’s no way we could keep doing that,” she said. “We can have something of our own. Try it. Take a risk. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

Acknowledging her natural hesitation, Aisha said she’s thankful her sister pushed her. 

“When you cater to people, you are bringing them joy by cooking for them,” she said. “They’re enjoying your food and that’s the best gift.”

Uniquely theirs
The catering company’s name, Aisha said, also has a special meaning – a nod to their childhood in Asia.

“The black orchid is rare and beautiful,” she said.

Black symbolizes elegance, beauty and luxury – which Aisha said fits nicely with her long-term goals for the catering business.

One of Black Orchid’s Asian vegan options include the Singapore stir fry, which has stir fry rice vermicelli noodles, mung bean sprouts, green onion, bok choy, house-made asian sauce and topped with fried shallots. Chris Rugowski Photo

“I love the hospitality industry,” she said. “When you think of fine dining, that’s where we’re hoping to take the Black Orchid – luxurious, higher end and you have to start somewhere.”

What will make their products “higher end,” Aisha said, stems from the ingredients they use – which are as organic as possible.

A self-described perfectionist, Aisha said she knows food must be pleasing to the palate and the eye – with no detail going unnoticed.

“You eat with your eyes first,” she said. “The placement of utensils, plates, flowers… everything has to be precise – because the visuals and all the five senses have to work. So, when you book with us, you know everything is going to be perfect when your guests come.”

Fatima said they also pride themselves on the unique African-Asian-American fusion flavors incorporated into their food.

She said it comes down to understanding how the three blend together to create a flavor profile that leaves clients impressed and wanting more.

“I think once they try it, they’re going to be receptive towards it,” Aisha said.

In addition to the catering company, the sisters also have plans to start a food truck – which Aisha said will allow them to diversify the company a bit more with the food options they have.

Though specifics haven’t been decided upon yet, the sisters said African tacos have been discussed.

The food truck, Aisha said, will allow them to help others understand their food, increase their customer base and show folks that healthy, high-end food can be affordable for all.

“There’s a lot of education that’s going to come with our food,” she said.

As minority women business owners, Aisha said “sometimes people don’t take you as seriously.”

“They ask you where you’re from as if we can’t be from Green Bay,” she said. “We have to prove ourselves more because we are women and minorities. When we introduce ourselves or cater for people, we’re educating people, which is a good thing.”

The Umar sisters said they are grateful for the guidance they have received from Maria Padilla, the diverse small business manager at the Greater Green Bay Chamber.

“She’s great,” Aisha said. “There aren’t a lot of resources for us, so we’re thankful to have Maria because, without her, we would not be able to tap into those resources.”

Food options
The Umar sisters said The Black Orchid Catering offers a variety of catering options.

One such offering is the boxed lunch/dinner – which include a wrap, kettle chip and a dill pickle.

Cookies and side salads can be added for an additional cost.

A favorite of any vegetable lover, Aisha said the pretty girl salad includes roasted and caramelized medley of sugar snap peas, eggplant, red onion, sweet potatoes, carrots and Chinese five spice, topped with fresh nectarine, cucumber and heirloom tomatoes. Chris Rugowski Photo

Some of the wrap options available, include the suya (stir-fry beef, bell peppers, tossed in Yaji sauce, sourdough, melt and cheddar); the satay (stir-fry chicken, bell peppers, tossed in peanut sauce, sourdough, melt and cheddar); the green and gold (Sauteed vegetable medley with balsamic drizzle, sourdough and cheddar); and the bay (house-made chicken salad, raisins, sourdough, melt and cheddar).

They also offer signature pesto, margherita and Mediterranean flatbreads.

The Black Orchid Catering events menu includes a variety of appetizer options that feed approximately eight to 10 people.

Some of the options include cucumber bruschetta (bite -sized sliced cucumber topped with house-made signature chicken salad); patatas bravas (fried potatoes drizzled with mild house-made tomato sauce, topped with cotija cheese and lemon zest); puff puff (mini African fried donuts); honey satay (honey glazed chicken skewers served with house-made mild peanut dipping sauce) and lamb lollipops (pan-seared and served with mint chimichurri).

Black Orchid Catering also offers seasonal charcuterie boards with locally sourced ingredients that can be made fresh at the event location.

The Umar sisters also offer food bars and buffets – which can include finger foods, tacos, nachos or pastas. 

More information on menu specifics and pricing are available on The Black Orchid Catering Facebook page or through email at

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