31: Building a food brand, sourcing, developing, and marketing tahini, entrepreneurship as a mother, and prioritizing family with Shelby Zitelman of Soom Foods

Portrait by  GREY + ELLE .

In today’s episode, I chat with Shelby Zitelman, co-founder and COO of Soom Foods. Shelby is my former boss (!), and someone who I consider to be a mentor, so it was a delight to chat with her about how she built her tahini brand, Soom Foods, over the past five years, including educating people on what the heck tahini is! We also discussed her recent shift in roles at the company, stepping down from CEO in order to prioritize her family.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Shelby’s career journey and how it lead her to start Soom Foods with her sisters

  • Her experience pivoting into the food space with no experience

  • How Shelby and her sisters built Soom Food’s marketing strategy, including some early endorsements from celebrity chefs

  • Why sourcing of the product was so important to Shelby and her sisters and their first trip to Ethiopia to source sesame

  • How sesame is actually grown and harvested

  • How Soom Foods grew their the consumer base and educated the consumer

  • How the perception of tahini has changed since she started

  • Shelby’s thoughts on influencer marketing and the role of social media in her business

  • Shelby’s favorite ways to eat the products

  • Shelby’s experience with entrepreneurship and the lessons she has learned

  • What is it is like to work with her sisters and how they set their roles as well as boundaries

  • How and why Shelby recently decided to shift her role to part time 

  • The balance of working motherhood, especially as an entrepreneur

  • How to handle chaos at work

  • Shelby’s advice to new entrepreneurs 

Mentioned in this episode:

All the deets:

  • Grab some tahini (discount code MEDIUMWELL) or silan date syrup over at Soom Foods

  • Follow along with @soomfoods on Instagram (if you send them a message for Shelby, they will get it to her!)

  • Tag me (@saraweinreb) and Soom Foods on Instagram with your favorite takeaways from the episode!

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Sara Weinreb