US Army vets launch Afghan spice startup

Global Business

Many people associate Afghanistan with war, instability and terrorism– a perception two female former U.S. army officers who served there, want to change.

And they’re doing it by selling one of the most expensive and labor-intensive spices in the world– saffron grown in Afghanistan.

CCTV America’s Roza Kazan reports.

US Army vets launch Afghan spice startup

US Army vets launch Afghan spice startup

Many people associate Afghanistan with war, instability and terrorism-- a perception two female former U.S. army officers who served there, want to change. CCTV America's Roza Kazan reports.
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When Kim Jung served in Afghanistan as a platoon leader looking for roadside bombs, she didn’t think she’d ever go back.

But she did. Not as a soldier but as an entrepreneur, running a startup with a fellow army officer, Emily Miller.

“Both of us felt what we were doing was important for the security of Afghanistan, but there was no long-term commitment to Afghanistan in a very tangible way that we felt long lasting consequences,” Kimberly Jung, co-founder and CEO of Rumi Spice said.

So when the pair studied business at Harvard after the army, they decided to package and distribute Afghani saffron, a delicate and expensive spice, naming their startup after a 13th century Persian poet.

The idea was simple: buy saffron from Afghan farmers, hire local women to sort it, then ship, package and sell it in the United States.

Traditionally, restaurants chefs in the United States had to use saffron from Spain. The saffron from Iran, which is considered a benchmark for excellence, was not available due to sanctions. Rumi Spice is one of the first companies to bring diversity into this market.

Jung said premium quality saffron can be a tough sell because of the price.

But Jung is convinced it’s worth the price卆nd the effort she’s investing. She says her company is proud to create jobs and economic empowerment for Afghan men and women.