Ten years ago, the world of tahini was about to be revolutionized by the entrepreneurial drive and passion of three sisters, Amy, Shelby, and Jackie Zitelman. Soom Foods, their brainchild, has since become a major player in the tahini industry. In this exclusive feature, we take a closer look at the humble beginnings of Soom Foods and the journey that has led them to their 10-year anniversary.
In 2011, Amy Zitelman graduated from the University of Delaware and moved to Israel. During this time, her sister Shelby called her with a request to “do some market research on tahini.” Their findings showed that tahini was mostly unknown, and if people had heard of it, they only used it to make hummus. The sisters saw an opportunity to bring this versatile ingredient to a wider audience and embarked on their entrepreneurial adventure.
In April 2012, the Zitelman sisters traveled to Ethiopia, where they began to lay the groundwork for Soom Foods. By November of the same year, Amy moved back to the United States and settled in her Aunt and Uncle’s house in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. It was here that she worked tirelessly to coordinate their first import.
With a friend’s help, the first labels were designed, and an order for 20,000 lbs of tahini was placed. Amy spent months researching and making lists of potential buyers, including grocery stores, small markets, falafel shops, restaurants, cafes, ice cream stores, and smoothie establishments in Philadelphia, DC, and New York.
April 2013 marked a significant milestone in Soom Foods’ journey. Amy set up Soom’s Instagram account on April 1st, and within the same week, she organized the company’s first “photo shoot” in her Aunt and Uncle’s dining room. A few cases of tahini were sent via DHL for preselling purposes, allowing Amy to begin building relationships with potential clients.
On April 11th, Amy and her partner Omri went on their first sales meetings to a Kosher grocery store and cafe in Rockville, Maryland. The first import of Soom Foods’ tahini arrived on April 25th, marking the official beginning of a revolution in the tahini industry.
Throughout their journey, the Zitelman sisters have learned valuable lessons that have shaped their company culture and philosophy. Starting a business doesn’t have to be scary, and first attempts won’t be perfect. This understanding led the sisters to embrace the idea of progress over perfection, pushing Soom Foods to continually innovate and improve.
Today, Soom Foods has grown from a small start-up to an industry leader, offering high-quality tahini products to a global audience. The story of Amy, Shelby, and Jackie Zitelman is a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and sisterly collaboration. As Soom Foods celebrates its 10-year anniversary, it’s clear that the Zitelman sisters have not only succeeded in bringing tahini to the forefront of the culinary world but have also built a lasting legacy that will continue to inspire entrepreneurs for years to come.