Kimberly Jung and Emily Miller
COFOUNDERS, RUMI SPICE
Afghanistan is not a land of economic opportunity. Most of the population lives in poverty and for farmers, who are the backbone of the economy, there are few options besides poppy cultivation for the Taliban’s heroin trade. Chicago–based entrepreneurs Kimberly Jung and Emily Miller want to change that. Both veterans of the U.S. military who served in Afghanistan, the women founded Rumi Spice using networks they established during their deployments. The company sources saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, from Afghan farmers, giving them a cash crop that is six times more valuable than poppy, according to Rumi Spice, and that doesn’t require working with the Taliban.
“A lot of people don’t know that Afghanistan grows the best saffron,” Miller, the COO, says. The International Taste & Quality Institute, which rates spices for chefs, agrees: It has named Afghan saffron the world’s best three years running. Although it is only 2 years old, Rumi Spice is already profitable, and it’s on track to reach its projected revenue of $500,000 for this year. “That’s a testament to our farmers, because they’ve been able to increase the quality of the saffron by so much,” Jung, the CEO, says. “People are starting to take notice that it is much better saffron than what’s out there on the market.” Indeed, Rumi Spice saffron is now being used by chefs such as Daniel Boulud and the French Laundry’s David Breeden. “We know what farm our saffron comes from,” says Miller, “and that makes all the difference.”