Emily Miller: Spicing Up and Connecting the World with Afghan Culture
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, gang! Spiffy here, back with the scoop on the changemaking leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Emily Miller, co-founder of Rumi Spice. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Emily! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your organization?
Emily: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! For longer than many of us can remember, Afghanistan and the rest of the Middle East has been considered a war-torn region. Afghanistan has been in conflict for decades. We founded Rumi Spice to use spices to counteract that story. We direct source the highest quality spices from rural farmers and women in Afghanistan to help provide reliable wages and economic stability. We are on a mission to create connections to the vibrant culture of the Middle East, its delicious food, and its people.
Spiffy: Very interesting. What motivates you to tackle this challenge?
Emily: As founders, we are a team of military veterans who all served in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. While deployed, we developed strong relationships with Afghans and realized they grew some of the best spices in the world that no one had heard of. But most importantly, as military veterans, we wanted to continue our promise to the people of Afghanistan and connect their rich history, food, and culture with the American people through spices. We believe that when Americans are shown the story of the Afghan people, they can come to know the vibrancy of the region and people, not just war and strife. Our mission is to create those connections and, with them, peace.
Spiffy: That is so inspiring! How would you describe the impact of your work?
Emily: We are using spice as a force for good! Part of what drives our impact is working directly with our farmers, the foragers, and all the women involved in processing our spices. From the first farmers who joined our network when we first began to the hundreds that now work with us, we make sure that there are no middlemen or anyone looking to "take a cut." It is through these partnerships that we can make the greatest impact.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone/initiative by you or your organization. What impact does that make?
Emily: We now employ thousands of Afghan women and are one of the largest private employers of women in Afghanistan. We were thrilled to pass this milestone to pay direct wages and economically empower Afghan farmers and women.
Spiffy: That’s wonderful! Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Emily: We're really proud to be one of the first and only Afghan products in Whole Foods nationwide, so try out a cooking recipe with Afghan spices sometime!
Spiffy: Yummy! My mouth is watering from all this spice talk. Thanks again for speaking with me today, Emily—it’s been an honor!
Emily Miller is the co-founder of Rumi Spice, an award-winning social enterprise that imports premium saffron directly from Afghan farmers. Rumi Spice was featured on Shark Tank and selected for Y Combinator's social fellowship program. Previously, Emily served as a Captain in the U.S. Army and advocated for the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Combat Exclusion Policy. (First published on the Ladderworks website on April 4, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Lindsey Brannon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.