Fans of savory dishes like risotto Milanese, Spanish paella, or Indian biryani are familiar with saffron, the Middle Eastern spice that lends a golden yellow color and distinctive flavor to food. Transport and logistics giant FedEx Corp. may have gained some foodie cred when it awarded a $25,000 grant and $7,500 in business services to Rumi Spice, a Chicago-based business that markets saffron from Afghanistan to restaurants and consumers throughout the U.S., offering Afghan farmers a sustainable alternative to opium farming.
The prize was part of FedEx's sixth annual Small Business Grant Contest, which is aimed at helping small concerns grow their business both in the U.S. and internationally. Judges selected 10 winners from a field of 7,800 entries from across the country.
In addition to the grand prize, FedEx awarded $15,000 and $5,000 in FedEx Office services to the second-place winner, eco-friendly bottling company Drop Water of Menlo Park, Calif. Eight other businesses each received a $7,500 grant and $1,000 in office services. The recipients included Back of the Yards Coffee (Chicago), Blended Designs (Jacksonville, Fla.), Booze Dogs (Greenville, N.C.), Buckle Me Baby Coats (Londonderry, N.H.), Dauntless Wine Co. (Gaston, Ore.), Fiddlershop.com (Pompano Beach, Fla.), Locker Lifestyle (Grand Rapids, Mich.), and ZZZ Bears (Winston-Salem, N.C.).
Watch a video about Rumi Spice and its efforts to help Afghan farmers below.