The Model Who Became a Hot-Sauce Entrepreneur

In Her Shoes is a column about what real women wear when they need to get things done.

Hawa Hassan isn’t your typical model multi-hyphenate. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the country’s brutal civil war, she escaped to Kenya along with her mother and four siblings. They lived in a refugee camp for a year before moving to an apartment. When Hassan was 7, her mom sent her to live with a family friend in Seattle, where she was eventually discovered as a model.

After working in the industry for 14 years, Hassan decided to move on. Inspired by her mom, she created Basbaas sauce, a spicy relish that features flavors common in Somali cuisine and takes its name from the Somali word for chili. The Cut caught up with the hot-sauce entrepreneur at her home office, where she talked about herlove of bodysuits, athleisure, and wearing head-to-toe black.

On why she’s usually in sneakers:
I wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day and spend the first hour doing things for myself. Cardio makes for a great start — it tones the body and clears the mind for the challenges to come — so I try to squeeze in a quick class or a Brooklyn Bridge run. I’ll wear Nikes but I also love Chuck Taylor All Stars for running to the green market or demoing my sauce. They are comfortable, stylish, and easy to move around in.

Diana Tsui


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