Editor’s note: Each month this year, The Oconee Enterprise will highlight a female business owner or female leader of a local nonprofit or charity.

The location of Mama Ning’s Thai Restaurant holds a special significance for owner Ning Kohnen and her husband, Philip. Their first date was actually at the Mirko Pasta almost a decade ago. 

Mama Ning’s has now moved into the space of that former restaurant. 

Finding opportunity

Ning was born in the mountainous city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand during the 1980s. She graduated from Chiang Mai University with a social sciences degree and a minor in law. Her family initially expected for her to find work in some type of government job. Meanwhile, Ning wanted to pursue something in the tourism or hospitality industry.  

“It was my dream to be able to speak English at the time,” she said. With $300 gifted from her mother, she left home in November 2005 to take part in a nanny program that would pair her with an American family with five children.

“I picked the family that had the most kids because I wanted to learn English fast,” she said, laughing.

Meanwhile, Ning worked part time at Siri Thai on the eastside of Athens. She and the owners are still good friends. She has also cooked at Barberito’s, Porterhouse Grill and Last Resort Grill. 

For more on this story, see the Feb. 18 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.

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