BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
International entrepreneur Kimberly Jung, CEO and co-founder of the Chicago-based Rumi Spice, received the International Women’s Associates highest honor at a recent luncheon at the Drake.
The West Point graduate told the 400 guests that afternoon of her partnership with 100 farmers in Afghanistan to grow saffron and then export the precious spice to customers around the world from her Back of the Yards facility, a former meat-packing plant. Rumi Spice provides direct wages for more than 300 women who hand-harvest the delicate flower.
Lema Khorshid, Event Chair, and IWA President, Marian Jacobson, greeted guests, and Doe Thornburg, who founded the volunteer-led organization in 1978 to offer globally inspired educational programs, activities, and community service, presented the award to Kimberly.
Alpana Singh, sommelier, restaurateur, and former host of Check Please!, interviewed 31-year-old Kimberly who was just back from the saffron harvest.
“I offer a viable alternative to growing opium poppies in Afghanistan, and we provide people on the ground to work with the farmers, connect them to markets, and pay direct wages.
“Rumi’s co-founder is also a veteran. We want to apply our military leadership skills to something that is worthy. We are very proud of our benevolent business plan, which we hope is laying a foundation for peace.”
Past IWA honorees since the tradition began in 1996 include Senator Tammy Duckworth, Dr. Fumi Olopade, director Mary Zimmerman, journalist Georgie Anne Geyer, commercial interior designer Eva Maddox, and non-profit leaders Adele Simmons, Anna Roosevelt, and Ronne Hartfield.
A VIP reception featured local businesses with global perspectives. Those donating delights for sampling included Bittersweet, Jo Malone, Koval craft whiskey, and Kimberly’s Rumi Spice, which provided organic saffron candies for all guests.
IWA connects its 500 members, ranging in age from 23 to 98 and from 60 countries, not only with cross-cultural events but also through educational enrichment programs in Chicago public schools and scholarships for studies abroad.
For further information on the International Women Associates, please visit iwachicago.org.