What inspired you to start your business? The lack of awareness for great tasting and nutritious vegan Indian food in America and also the fact that organic Indian grocery products didn’t even exist. So, I had a mission: launch the first ever organic Indian grocery product for the vegan audience in America. I pulled it off after about 9 years with the 2005 launch of my Organic Indian Spice Blend Line.
What is your proudest accomplishment? No question, NYC Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007. A bit impressive for a city of 8 million, no?
How does your business serve your local community? I make sure my beloved borough of Brooklyn is always loaded with my goods at the best prices possible. I work the markets myself so I can say hi to the families who got me off the ground 12 plus years ago. We spread love; it’s the Brooklyn way.
How do you want to make a difference? By doing what I have and continue to do: going the extra miles and taking the risk to bring the most superior products to consumers worldwide.
What tech gadget can you not live without and how does it make a difference in your life? Blackberry. Allows me to run my inbox. I don’t do social media or use a laptop.
Fairness is encompassed in the Golden Rule. Treat others how you’d like to be treated. But what does that mean for the food you consume and the gifts you give? Products certified as fair trade ensure equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain. Communities that receive funds from Fair Trade determine how to best spend those monies for social, economic and environmental development projects. Fair Trade purchases help families earn fair wages, work in safe conditions, and protect the environment. When consumers buy Fair Trade, they support the hard-working people who grow and sew the products we use on a daily basis.
October is Fair Trade Month and there are a variety offerings from America’s Best Organics that are Fair Trade. Numi Organic Tea is Fair Trade certified, with more than half of their blends (and 80% of the raw ingredients purchased) bearing the Fair Trade Certified label. Proceeds from the sale of Fair Trade Numi Organic Tea have helped build new roads and increase access to medical care in Enshi, China.
What inspired you to start your business? Ahmed: Before starting Numi, I started many other smaller businesses including tea houses in Prague, Czech Republic, where I learned all about tea, tea ceremonies, tea culture, and the trends and health benefits in teas and herbs. Combined with all the love and knowledge I gained of tea in the Prague tea houses, Numi was founded on the inspiration to introduce our home country Iraq’s drink of hospitality, Dry Desert Lime to the U.S. This fruit beverage is drunk across all of Iraq, both hot and cold, to welcome people into your home, business or simply to be in camaraderie with someone you want to share time with. This dried lime is called Numi (which means citrus).
Reem: At the time we started our business in 1998, I was getting my Master’s degree in Fine Arts and working odd part-time jobs. I was looking for more fulfillment in my life and somewhere I could apply more of myself and my ideas. One day, driving home from a very frustrating day substitute teaching, I thought about how many ideas I have and how little I follow through on them. Two people’s advice came to mind – 1) my father, who always told me: “Choose one idea. And just follow on that one.” And 2) an ex-boyfriend who used to tell me to “just grind my teeth and do it.” In other words, to face all my fears and persevere. I had always thought about importing a dried lime tea we had drunk as children in Iraq (that didn’t exist in the US). So I chose Numi. Simple as that!
Our mission at America's Best Organics is "to promote the growth of organic food, agriculture and local economies by serving as the nation’s leading provider of all organic and eco-friendly gift basket collections." Subsequently, this means that the products we feature in our gift baskets do not contain GMO ingredients. The reason being, USDA Certified Organic products by definition cannot contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). By ensuring that all of the products we carry are organic, our customers can feel confident that they are buying the cleanest, non-GMO products on the market.
We celebrate Non-GMO Month here by taking the opportunity to continue to educate ourselves and our customers about the benefits of choosing non-GMO products.
NON-GMO MONTH CELEBRATION SALE! We also celebrate your commitment to non-GMO and organic products by offering you a 15% discount during the month of October! Use code NONGMO13 at checkout to receive a discount on your whole order.
Let's dive into the specifics of GMOs for a moment.
I purchased the original business in 1980. But I guess the question relates more to when I started the Organic business. We were predominately a sugar free candy company. We support the candy industry but in the little niche of healthier sweets. Our approach is creating products that many can enjoy without any negative connotations. Hence I wanted to create a brand of candy that was not sugar free, as our company had been known for. Organic Food at the time was emerging, therefore it seemed like a perfect fit for diversification and translate this into what we do best, candy. As a result GoNaturally was born. The name of the company then changed from GoLightly to Hillside Candy. GoNaturally is our USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO certified candy line. Hillside Candy, LLC has been manufacturing its organic candies under two brands, GoNaturally in the United States and GoOrganic overseas. With the growing awareness in the marketplace over the difference between natural and organic we felt it is now time to start re-branding and go forward with the brand that best fits our product line. GoOrganic has the same shape leaf although all new packages will have a green leaf and the Non-GMO certified logo. Our GoOrganic logo clarifies and cements the company’s direction with this product line.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Continuing to be able to share the rewards of the business with the employees, team members of Hillside Candy.
How does your business serve your local community?
Besides employing many from the local area, we do an annual Community service day. Each year we close the plant and office and dedicate our services to the community followed by a company picnic to celebrate. In years past we have cleaned up local parks and served the Food Bank. This year we also partnered with Whole Foods during their Customer Appreciation day, handed out samples and made tons of new friends.
Our tasting team recently took a break from the office and gathered in the kitchen for what can only be described as a deliciously fulfilling breakfast of pancakes and tea. We are always on the lookout for new organic products to expand our healthy, nutritious and compelling gift offerings. We love innovative healthy and eco-friendly products that are any combination of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, kosher and chemical free (in the case of body care). When our CEO, Seleyn DeYarus, met Erica Barrett, founder of Southern Culture Artisan Foods and Kate and Sara Holby, sisters and co-founders of Ajiri Tea, at the Fancy Food Show in NYC in June, she knew we had to incorporate their products into our gift collections. The samples arrived and we bee-lined it to the kitchen to try them out.
We managed to capture a few pictures in between mixing batter, munching on hot cakes and sipping tea. The pancakes were perfectly crisp on the outside, moist on the inside and the tea was heart-warming and earthy.
Did you ever receive a care package from a parent or relative while in college? I recall a box of goodies arriving shortly after settling into my freshman dorm room. The delight of receiving some of my favorite snacks from home helped with those pangs of homesickness that is part and parcel of our first true sojourn from our roots.
Interestingly, the first care package was the original unit of aid distributed by the humanitarian organization CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere). In 1945, CARE began a program to send aid to Europe, where starvation was a growing risk for large numbers of people in the wake of World War II. Americans were given the opportunity to send a CARE package for $10 to friends or relatives in Europe. Packages were guaranteed to arrive within four months. The first 20,000 packages reached France in May 1946. Over the course of the next two decades, 100 million more packages were delivered, initially in Europe and later in Asia and other parts of the developing world.
What inspired you to start your business? Seeing the amazing, underutilized organic beeswax and honey that Zambian farmers were producing and the incredible untapped potential in the people of rural Zambia were huge factors in the desire to start Zambeezi. We also recognized the possibility of making a huge impact in the preservation and restoration of one of the largest sections of intact forest in Africa. Once we began playing with formulas for Zambeezi we realized we had a hit and things started to get exciting.
(Pictured above: Founder Andre Houssney and Zambia Director Kahona Kalenda)
What is your proudest accomplishment? Without a doubt, seeing the 1,196 Zambian farmers in our system increasing their annual income by leaps and bounds has been the most rewarding and satisfying experience of the whole project. Before working with us, the average beekeeper in our system had an annual cash income of $75 per year. Now, working their bees only for a few weeks out of every year, their income is at $350 and climbing. Men and women that were unable to pay school fees are able to improve the future for their kids and invest in their own community.
How does your business serve your local community? In Zambia, we are a significant part of the local economy. Here in Boulder we have been working with middle school students to build awareness of global issues and enlisting their help in raising funds for building schools in Zambia. We’ve built two schools so far with this kind of partnership.
America’s Best Organics couldn’t help but feature Sunfood Superfoods during the summer. The sun is in full force, plants are growing aplenty and folks are making the most of the warm weather with energetic outdoor activities. As part of the team who selects products for our gift baskets, just the name, Sunfood, makes me feel like I’m eating pure goodness. Why would we ever want to eat anything not made with the help of the sun? It’s a beautiful concept.
Sunfood Superfoods are little packages of raw, organic and Non-GMO gems. America’s Best Organics carries the whole cashews, goji berries and Berry Adventure trail mix for our gift baskets. All organic, of course.
I was a college student at the University of Michigan and went out for ice cream with my sister. We were served in plastic and I was confused, asking, “Did we say ‘to-go?’” This was back when disposables were just being integrated into food service even when you were dining in – now you don’t think too much about it. We carried around coffee mugs that got refilled, so why not carry everything with you? And we should call it “To-Go Ware,” I thought. And after years of thinking about it nonstop, To-Go Ware came to be…
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I think the fact that we’ve been in business for over 9 years. In the beginning, you only think about the product and your customers, but soon you learn that running a business is also about job creation and taking care of employees. It’s amazing that products and customers can also create livelihoods for the people who work for you.
How does your business serve your local community?
We support a lot of local non-profits and events, including Women’s Earth Alliance, the Breast Cancer Fund and People’s Grocery.
How do you want to make a difference?
Well, my hopes and intentions in running To-Go Ware have always been to provide people products that provide a solution, tell a great story and are enjoyable to use. We’ve worked with women’s cooperatives, helped people with zero-waste initiatives, and given moms safe options for their kids to take their lunches in. I think there are so many ways one can make a difference, and the goal is to be as full spectrum about it as possible. I hope that I can continue to touch as many aspects of this planet that need uplifting and support as possible.