Ginger Roots: From Guinea to Harlem

A financial adviser and a biomedical engineer may seem like unlikely co-founders of a juice business. But dig a little into their roots and it makes total sense.

Mohammed and Ibrahima (Rahim) Diallo grew up drinking a West African ginger juice in Guinea. In West Africa, and in America, finding a consistent product proved difficult. The brothers were sure it could be done and as they hadn’t heard of anyone who had staked a claim to this product in America, they turned their idea into a business.

So they launched “Ginjan” in July 2015. The name came from the term for the juice in their dialect in Guinea. “Back home, when you want the ginger juice, you always say Ginjan, do you have Ginjan,” Mohammed said.

Ginjan is an organic West African ginger juice made with ginger, lemons, pineapple, vanilla, anise and cane sugar. The brothers now make it at a shared kitchen in Harlem. Mohammed works as a full-time financial adviser, so the juice is made overnight—from about 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. For now, they fill and cap each of the bottles—400 to 1,000 each week—by hand.

“We don’t have a filling machine yet, however, these hands are very good fillers,” Mohammed said.

Once they’ve made and bottled the juice, Mohammed leaves for work while Rahim drives about two hours to Connecticut, where the juice is processed at a facility, to ensure freshness. He waits one to two hours and then picks up the bottles and drives back to New York, where he’ll sometimes distribute them right away. This process takes place about once a week, and on the other days, they’ll continue to check on accounts and introduce their product to people through markets and tastings, for example.

Ginjan is currently sold in about 30 locations around New York City, but the brothers recently secured a distribution deal, and they hope to expand to over 300 accounts in the tri-state area by year’s end. They hope to have their own facility in the future, and supply other beverages, too.

Beyond New York City and the northeast, Mohammed and Rahim are setting their sights on distributing nationally, in Europe and in Africa, where they would like to work with local farmers to supply ingredients.

“Beyond that, it’s as far as we can go: South America, Southeast Asia, wherever there are people that want to drink ginger,” Rahim said.