A Small Business with a Huge Impact: Rumi Spice

Gusto Editors

How can making dishes with saffron, harissa, and wild black cumin support women and farmers in Afghanistan? Whether you’re making Kabul Piquant Chicken or Afghan Curry, you can support rural Afghans by purchasing from Rumi Spice, a spice company whose commitment to their vision is deeply inspiring to our team.

At Gusto, we’re here to help you stay inspired by professionals in every industry. That’s why we brought you our online show, On the Margins: LIVE, with hosts Caleb Newquist, Gusto’s Editor-at-Large, and Will Lopez, Gusto’s Head of the Accounting Community. In this episode, which aired in December 2020, we spoke to Patti Doyle, CEO of Rumi Spice. She discussed her company’s incredible mission, finding purpose in your career, and stepping out of your comfort zone. 

Patti Doyle is an accomplished marketer who has taken the helm as CEO of a mission-driven company, Rumi Spice. The brand offers delicious, ethically sourced spices from Afghanistan to consumers and restaurants alike. Rumi Spice is committed to helping catalyze economic development in Afghanistan and provides jobs to Afghan women and farmers who are involved in harvesting and processing. Started by three military vets on a mission, it’s a company that has always navigated challenges with grace. 

On being a company with a huge impact

Here at Gusto, we believe in work that creates a better life, so we couldn’t agree more that being mission-driven is the best place to be as a professional. Having a job with a purpose you fully believe in gives you energy instead of taking away your energy. Waking up every day excited to go to work can create a ripple effect of positivity that spreads throughout your life.

Group of business people talking together around a table in an office.

That said, you don’t always have the path laid out in front of you. The road to a purpose-filled professional life can sometimes involve a lot of twists and turns. The key is to be adaptable. Be ready for opportunities, never stop networking, and develop new skills any chance you get. 

Take Patti, who never could have guessed she’d end up where she is now. She studied applied mathematics at Notre Dame University and took this impressive experience to a career in corporate marketing. She worked for years at giants PepsiCo and Kraft before pivoting to her CEO role at Rumi Spice.

“Ultimately, having done a lot of big company roles, [I] took the leap into a lot of smaller, mostly private-equity-backed food companies. … [I was] taking a lot of those really good skills that I [had] built up and [was] able to apply them a little more directly [at work]. … Most of my career had been in marketing until I was sort of ready to put the fancy hat on as the CEO. … I’ve now been at Rumi a little over a year, and [I] took over from our founders in August of last year as they each chose to step away from the business. … Now, I get the joy and pleasure every day of running this awesome spice company.”

– Patti Doyle

She couldn’t be happier. Patti’s passion was clear as she described her company’s ethical practices and commitment to creating sustainable economic development.

“We are first and foremost a spice company. [What that] means for us is to ultimately find and source some of the most beautiful and high-quality premium spices we can out of Afghanistan, which is a bit of a unique place to source product from. [Our goal is to make] sure we are supporting the agricultural economy in Afghanistan.”

– Patti Doyle

Patti isn’t all talk. The company has a longstanding reputation for ethical practices, is a certified B Corporation, and has stated their commitment to Afghan workers despite political instability. They also have very clear guidelines for working with Afghan farmers via direct trade.

“[We work with] a network of farmers [who] know they’re part of our supply chain in growing product. … [We also have a] really tight supply chain so we’re not going through a lot of middlemen and other partners and things like that. So really, much of what we are investing in getting product is going as directly to them as possible.”

– Patti Doyle

Rumi spice employs thousands of people who help with the enormous feat of processing product. Harvesting saffron alone is no small task.

“[We probably have about] 4,000 women that help support some of the harvesting [and] also a ton of the processing that happens with the spices. [When it comes to saffron], these are individual flowers that have to be harvested out of the field, and then each one has three saffron threads that have to be pulled out and then dried and ultimately prepared to come here.”

Patti Doyle

According to company messaging, Rumi Spice’s mission isn’t just to give work to farmers in rural Afghanistan. Their purpose is to promote peace. By investing profits back into agricultural technology and infrastructure in the region, Rumi Spice strives to catalyze economic stability in rural Afghanistan. Since economic hardship and neglect helped contribute to the rise of the Taliban, supporting farmer independence and financial stability can help set the stage for future peace. 

On navigating the unknown

Close up of a group of people putting up sticky notes in their office.

With a team of seven managing a global supply chain and operations, Patti knows a thing or two about challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic brought many unexpected bumps in the road, such as supply chain interruptions and production cost pressures. To navigate this, Patti stayed agile. She was open to expanding what Rumi Spice offers, switching the location of some of the production, and enacting other changes. 

“[You have to be] okay to both re-think things and to [be flexible.] … [Be] open to re-considering everything, not to just upset the apple cart for no reason, … but to say, ‘Hey, is this creating new ways we can think about things right now?’”

– Patti Doyle

Change is disruptive, but sometimes it’s necessary. While it may feel easier to stick to traditional ways of doing things, there comes the point at which you have to adapt. Many CPAs are navigating necessary shifts now as technology disrupts how they do business. To succeed, they’ll need to be open to new types of services and new ways of delivering them.  

When changes are rolling in rapidly, however, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just can’t tackle everything. So what’s the key to managing high stakes during times of uncertainty? Patti says you need to stay focused and prioritize.

“Sometimes [you just have to decide what the] most important things are. A woman that I used to work with [turned me onto this podcast,] and it was about letting small fires burn. [It has a great lesson:] When you are small [and] things are happening everywhere, you can’t deal with them all. We can’t respond to every piece of negative feedback we might get on a product review. … What can we do that supports our mission and ultimately supports selling so that we can support that mission? [Try] to look at everything through that lens of making trade-offs so that you’re ultimately doing what you need to for the business and the mission.”

– Patti Doyle

She said it’s helpful to keep refocusing on her priorities on a regular basis. At the beginning of the week, she has designated time to sit with the bigger picture company mission. She plans things at a high level with this in mind, making sure that as smaller details come up, she and her team stay focused.

Learn more about Rumi Spice

Rumi Spice has an incredible mission to support economic development and stability in Afghanistan. They sell delicious spices like saffron and cumin and blends like Ethiopian Berbere to consumers and restaurants alike. Launched by three veterans, the company employs thousands of rural farmers and women who assist in the harvesting and production process. Rumi Spices ensures that profits are invested back in Afghan agricultural development so as to support stability in the region.

Patti Doyle is a veteran marketer who is now CEO of Rumi Spice. Along with being an incredible advocate for her company’s vision, she has valuable insights into navigating challenges as a business owner. Her flexibility and adaptability to change have kept her and Rumi Spice in business during challenging times like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Gusto’s mission is to create a world that empowers a better life. We want to help you harness changes in the industry in the best ways possible. To learn more about how the industry is changing, check out our other article based on the same episode: “People vs. Technology: What Matters Most in Accounting?

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Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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