From Army Vet to Spice Queen

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“Afghanistan has a lot to offer the world,” says Rumi Spice founder Kimberly Jung. “It’s not just a place of war, terrorism, and opium. What we’re doing is changing the world—and we’re proud of it!”

“Afghanistan has a lot to offer the world,” says Rumi Spice founder Kimberly Jung. “It’s not just a place of war, terrorism, and opium. What we’re doing is changing the world—and we’re proud of it!”

Kimberly Jung

Saffron is one of the oldest botanical products of all time, and currently the most expensive in the world by weight. Now primarily employed as a gourmet spice, it has a varied and illustrious history with multiple uses and roles—50,000-year-old prehistoric depictions in Iran contain saffron-based pigments; ancient Persians wove saffron threads into their fabrics and offered them to their divinities; Phoenicians used saffron as a treatment for melancholy; and Alexander the Great used saffron infusions in his bath to heal battle wounds.

Fast forward to the present day. A dedicated group of former U.S. Army engineers are determined to use saffron to help heal the battle wounds of an entire country—Afghanistan. The climate there is perfect for the cultivation of saffron, but conflict and strife have made producing and marketing it nearly impossible.

A Warehouse Full of Saffron

Enter Kimberly Jung and her compatriots. As Army engineers in Afghanistan, they had established relationships on the ground. So when a fellow vet told Jung, who had left the Army to attend Harvard Business School, about a farmer with a warehouse full of saffron and no way to sell it, she sensed an opportunity. “I thought to myself, I’m here at Harvard learning how to create value; what better way to do that than by connecting Afghan farmers to the market and helping them to grow their business while creating my own?” So where Jung had once searched for roadside bombs, she began to seek out local farmers.





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