I’m Running for Congress to Be a Fierce Advocate for Small Businesses Like Asmar’s

The other day, I had the honor of running into Robert Asmar, the COO of a locally-owned small business while I was gathering signatures for my campaign at Harris Teeter. Launched in 1997, Asmar’s Mediterranean Foods is a family-owned operation that specializes in hummus, salads, grains and vegan foods. Instead of mass-production, Asmar’s focuses on making small batches to ensure authenticity and quality while giving back to the community where they live.

The conversation started with me telling him about my Congressional campaign but when I mentioned that I was a fierce champion of small businesses, especially locally owned ones, Robert conveyed to me that he is a small business operator himself and told me that Harris Teeter actually carries their hummus. I immediately asked him where the hummus was located and we walked over to the area where his products were carried.

On our way to check out the shelf where his company’s products were being displayed, he told me about his brand and what differentiates Asmar’s from the hummus that is sold by bigger brands. I enthusiastically promised Robert that I would purchase the Roasted Red Pepper hummus as that is my favorite flavor and promised that I would incorporate his story into my overall campaign platform. My message, at the end of the day, is about giving voice to workers and small businesses, the very people who are being ignored by politicians and policy makers, so I felt compelled to amplify my experience with Robert.

I’ve been saying for a while that we must either shop locally or be indentured globally. This is becoming more and more evident by the year as huge multinational corporations are consolidating markets within almost every sector, driving out their competitors and creating monopolies. The end result is depressed wages for workers and skyrocketing inflation, when corporations don’t have to worry about an alternative to their brands, they act with malice towards consumers and shower riches upon themselves.

As much as we protest against injustice and rage against inequalities, the truth is that we are complicit in our own pillaging. With our wallets and with our votes, we can literally shift the paradigm and compel the very changes we keep demanding. But this change will never come as long as we keep purchasing from the Amazons and Walmarts of the world while giving a stiff arm to small businesses that are owned and operated by entrepreneurs who live among us.

I am writing this article at a locally owned café called St. Elmo’s Coffee and Pub in Del Ray, Alexandria, this place might as well be my campaign headquarters as frequently as I am here. Instead of going to Starbucks, I intentionally go to a café that I know is owned by people who live in the very area they are operating in. The same is true of almost every small business in this area, Del Ray is thriving because there is a vibrant business community that is based in the neighborhood.

If a “big-box store” moved into this area, overnight the ecosystem of this area would be altered drastically. Mom and pop shops would get wiped out and well-paying jobs would be replaced with minimum wage gigs, this scenario has been played out in towns and cities across America. In this way, tying our fortunes to the profits of Wall Street conglomerates is akin to committing economic self-harm. Only by reinvesting our monies in locally owned businesses and empowering entrepreneurs who prove that they treat their workers fairly can we lift all boats.

I am not advocating a radical change, we cannot go from 100 to zero overnight because drastic reversals rarely wield positive results. We just need our government to stop giving preferential treatment to multinational corporations while disadvantaging small businesses. More importantly, we must be the change we want to see by making incremental changes. This means making modifications to our spending habits so we patronize locally owned businesses as we shop at Fortune 500 owned establishments.

For example, I purchased the hummus from Harris Teeter—which is a multinational corporation—but empowered a locally owned business in the process. If we made it a point to spend fifty cents locally for every dollar we spend with multinational corporations, we could go a long way in restoring economic fairness in America. Saving a few dollars on the front end by patronizing at multinational corporations that have no vested interest in our wellbeing despite their virtue signaling campaigns while not supporting small businesses is one of the main reasons why the wealth gap has grown into a chasm.

Investing our money where we live and purchasing products from locally owned businesses like Asmar’s would empower our community and pave the way for economic equity in America.

The same is true of our politics, electing a handful of truly independent candidates would lead to a sea change in the way business is conducted in DC. Sadly, we keep voting for the same two parties who gaslight us into believing that they care about us while taking a blowtorch to our savings by enacting economic policies that are fleecing us is literally voting against our own interests. It’s time to divest from the duopoly and invest in authentically unbought and unsold candidates. By now it’s clear, millionaires in Congress working for billionaires is not working for us, it’s time for authentic change.

We hold the power to uphold the status quo or deliver justice through our individual and collective actions. That is why I was so excited to purchase Asmar’s Hummus after having a conversation with Robert the other day. Not only was I able to enjoy a guilt-free snack while watching basketball, I felt good knowing that I empowered a locally operated and family-owned business instead of enriching Jeff Bezos. This is precisely the reason I am running for Congress; it is time to make community empowerment and local reinvestment the norm so we can ensure a just deal for the burdened 99%