As a U.S. Army Engineer Officer, Kim deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 with her construction-turned route- clearance soldiers to clear roads of IEDs and ambushes in the Wardak, Paktika and Ghazni provinces. This deployment would lead to a deep love and admiration of Afghanistan and its people.
After her first year at Harvard Business School, Kim decided to start a business importing saffron directly from Afghan farmers. She bought a ticket to Afghanistan and met with Pashto farmers from Ghuryan and Wardak, where she had served as Route Clearance Platoon 44’s platoon leader four years before. These farmers were growing some of the best saffron in the world, unbeknownst to Western consumers.
The company that Kim subsequently founded, Rumi Spice, now imports saffron directly from Afghan farmers, giving those farmers access to markets and an alternative to growing opium. Four Michelin-starred restaurants exclusively and proudly carry Rumi Spice saffron, and it was featured in six dishes at the James Beard Persian New Year Dinner. Most importantly, Rumi Spice is laying a foundation for peace through economic empowerment: the company established its first processing facility in Herat, Afghanistan, and hired 75 Afghan women, who are paid direct wages. Rumi Spice makes up 5% of Afghanistan’s total saffron production and 3.6% of Afghanistan’s total agricultural foreign direct investment.
Kim is a 2014 Tillman Scholar, HBS Social Enterprise Fellow, ultra-marathoner, former Girl Scout troop leader, and volleyball player and coach. She loves to cook, especially with saffron—to no one’s surprise. Learn more about the impact of Rumi Spice at rumispice.com.