Shelby, Jackie and Amy Zitelman have been creating their own businesses for years, going as far back as selling lemonade or washing cars in their native Rockville.
This entrepreneurial trio, all graduates of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, have once again combined forces to create Soom Foods, a business based in Philadelphia that imports Tehina from northern Israel for sale in stores in the U.S.
Using the highest quality Ethiopian sesame seeds, Soom Foods is quickly gaining in popularity and is available locally at KosherMart, Shalom’s and Brookville Market and is also available for purchase online at its website, www.soomfoods.com
WJW spoke with the Zitelmans, affectionately known as the “Soom Sisters” to learn more about their business and what they hope for the future of Soom Foods.
WJW: What were the three of you doing before you created Soom Foods?
Shelby was and is still co-director of PresenTense; training social entrepreneurs in the Jewish community. Jackie has been living in Israel, and was getting her masters in environmental studies from Tel Aviv University. Amy graduated from University of Delaware in 2011 and taught English in Netanya, Israel, through MASA’s Israel Teaching Fellows.
WJW: Why did you want to create this business and how did you get started?
We come from a long line of entrepreneurs and business owners, so entrepreneurship is in our veins. The three of us have very complementary skills and personalities and work well together — the key “ingredients” for any founding team.
Jackie’s husband, Omri Horvitz, had been distributing tehina in Israel for seven years, so we were all introduced to the product through his and his mother’s cooking. We loved the product and realized that we couldn’t find anything similar in the United States. After a market scan and product analysis we realized there was a major opportunity to not only introduce a higher-quality tehina to the U.S. but also educate consumers on the many ways you can use the product. We chose northern Israel for our tehina production because of Omri’s connections, and the experienced tehina producers in the region.
WJW: What are your goals for the future of Soom Foods?
We want Soom Foods to be known as a high quality company, not only in healthy food products, but also in philanthropic endeavors and doing our part to help the environment. Our goal is to provide the market with delicious healthy products made from sesame. Think sweet and savory spreads, dips, marinades, and snacks. As we’re all beginning to see together, the possibilities are unlimited.
WJW: Tell us about your membership in 1% For the Planet.
1% For the Planet is a global movement of more than 1,000 companies, that donate 1 percent of their sales to a network of more than 3,000 approved environmental organizations worldwide. We realize we are crazy because of this. What business in its first year donates 1 percent of its sales? We do. Seriously. Because we care about the environment and our footprint here (and because Jackie got her masters in environmental studies.)