Hey, it's Amy! It’s been ten years since our first import and sale and I’d like to jump into the blog to share what Soom was like ten years ago! Many people have known and supported Soom since 2013, but, at this point, even more people likely have no idea how Soom started.
To set the scene, I graduated from the University of Delaware and moved to Israel in July of 2011. A few months before, my sister Shelby called me with a fateful request, to “do some market research on tahini.” Our basic search found that hardly anyone knew what tahini was and if they did they only used it to make hummus and couldn’t name the brand sitting in their fridge or pantry.
My sisters Shelby, Jackie, and I traveled to Ethiopia in April of 2012.
I moved back to the States in November of 2012 and into my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Wynnewood, PA to get to work on our first import.
Our first labels were designed by a friend and an order was placed - 20,000 lbs to be exact - and I spent months making lists of every grocery store, small market, falafel shop, restaurant, cafe, ice cream store, smoothie establishment, etc. in Philadelphia, DC and NY.
April 2013 The Firsts
I set up Soom’s Instagram on April 1st (looks like an April Fools’ Joke to me!) and I did Soom’s first “photo shoot” in the dining room of my Aunt and Uncle’s house that same week. We had a few cases sent via DHL so I could do some preselling. Honestly, I’m laughing at myself a bit just writing this out.
Omri and I went on our first sales meetings to a Kosher grocery store and cafe in Rockville, MD (Hi, Moti’s Market!) on April 11th. And we got our first import on April 25th.
I learned that starting doesn’t have to be scary (ignorance is bliss!) and firsts won’t be perfect; which led us to forever embrace the philosophy of progress over perfection!
May 8, 2013 Our fateful first sale to Zahav Restaurant.
Rewind to January 4, 2013, Shelby emailed Chef Mike Solomonov: “Following our chat at Rodef Shalom, I would love to get a few moments of your time to talk about Tehina. My sister Amy (cc'ed) is deep in market research and we'd really appreciate your insights about the product, as well as your patterns and preferences as a buyer.” He scheduled a meeting with us on Tuesday January 15th.
Boy am I glad I didn’t delete these emails!
Back to May 8th, I’m sitting in the private room of Zahav with Chef Mike, Steve Cook and Yehuda Sichel, with a jar of Soom, several spoons, and a bowl of the tahini (tehina) they were using. Passing the taste test, Chef Mike gave me instructions to their loading dock on Thomas Paine Pl and made my first ever Soom delivery out of the backseat of my car.
We delivered Soom buckets every week through the back hallway of Zahav for nearly 18 months, until we finally teamed up with a distributor, Julius Silvert, in November of 2014.
In fact, we made all of our own sales and deliveries between DC and NY for those first 18 months.
From there, the rest is history… or a longer story than what’s appropriate for me to type on this blog. But the highlights include:
2015 - The Zahav cookbook was published and they graciously introduced Soom Foods in the first chapter all about tahini.
2016 - We started developing relationships with chefs and small markets all across the country, like Boston, San Francisco, Southern Florida, Chicago, Ohio, Portland, Detroit, and more.
2017 - We hired our first sales person to help support our partners across the country
2018 - Jackie and I were named to Forbes 30 under 30!
2019 - Launched Soom Premium Tahini and Dark Chocolate Tahini with Sea Salt into Whole Foods Mid Atlantic
2020 - What. A. Year.
2021 - We rebranded and set our intentions into consumer channel growth
2022 - Launched into Whole Foods Market nationally and ended the year in 1500 stores
Ask me about the challenges over these years, as there were many. Like going door to door with a rolling-bag full of Soom jars leaving samples for chefs and store managers, many times hearing no or nothing at all. Like accounts lost, and challenging negotiations with others. Like the recall we had to participate in, that gave us the opportunity to prove our transparency and over-the-top communication and support for our partners.
Ask me about the people who have helped us over the years, from friends and interns and our earliest hires. Some that were great fits and some that weren’t. Each contributed to Soom’s success in their own way.
Ask me about bootstrapping and fundraising, about the great advisors and investors who have supported us.
Ask me about the encouragement of our parents, who didn’t hesitate with support when we started our entrepreneurial journey. And my amazing experience growing this with my sisters, the two people I admire the most in the world, all while having three babies each and managing our marriages and personal relationships.
As I think back to my wide-eyed 23 (on the cusp of 24) year old self, I am so grateful for this opportunity, so proud of what we’ve accomplished, and so excited for what’s to come.
Here’s to ten more.