Burger and kebabs aren’t just tasty — they’re the stuff of business prosperity.
Nizar Ahmad, 27, co-founder of the Miami-based burger chain Pincho Factory, has been named to Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30, an annual list of the country’s top young entrepreneurs. The business publication chooses 30 people in 20 different categories, “a collection of bold risk-takers,” it wrote, and a Miami representative has been named to the food and beverage list for three years in a row.
Ahmad is also an early investor in Westchester-based Night Owl Cookies, whose founder, Andrew Gonzalez, was named a Forbes 30 Under 30 winner in 2016. Gonzalez nominated him for the award.
Ahmad arrived for an early morning business meeting at Night Owl Tuesday when Gonzalez called up the Forbes list on his laptop and turned the screen so Ahmad could see it.
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“I was still half asleep, drinking my coffee, so when I saw it, it took a minute for it to register,” Ahmad said, laughing.
Ahmad took a circuitous route in developing his business acumen.
Born and raised in Miami Lakes, he grew up working for his father’s handful of grocery stores in South Florida. But as a boy, his family moved to his father’s birthplace, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, so that he could be brought up in Arabic culture and learn the language. After studying in American schools in the West Bank, and later, Amman, Jordan, he moved back with his family to Miami.
“Just seeing other cultures and the way other people live ... that had a huge impact on my life,” he said.
He dropped out of Hialeah Miami Lakes High to dedicate himself to running his father’s businesses, which include La Primera grocery store in Hialeah.
When his cousin, Nedal Ahmad, and family friend, Otto Othman, floated the idea of opening the first Pincho Factory in Westchester in 2010, he invested his $20,000 life savings. Pincho Factory has since grown to 10 locations in South Florida, started franchising and signed a deal to open 10 more stores in Washington D.C. in the next five years.
Nizar Ahmad remains an investor at Pincho Factory, but is now the chief operating officer at Night Owl Cookies, which will open a location in Wynwood in the summer of 2019 — complete with a bar that will remain open until 3 a.m. Night Owl made its name on delivering fresh baked cookies late into the night.
“We’re going to be munchie central over there,” Ahmad said.
Night Owl plans to expand to other cities, including Orlando, under Gonzalez and Ahmad. That caught the attention of Forbes’ food and beverage selection committee, Lee Brian Schrager (founder of both the South Beach and New York Wine & Food Festivals), television host and cookbook author Padma Lakshmi and Sweetgreen healthy food chain founder Nicholas Jammer.
“I still have a long way to go,” Ahmad said, “and I don’t plan on stopping here.”