Heray Spice

Mohammad Salehi Website
Food & Beverage
Lakeview, Chicago, Illinois
Services utilized:
Grants, Group Coaching

Growing up in a farming family in Herat, Afghanistan, Mohammad Salehi developed a deep appreciation for agriculture while also witnessing firsthand the struggles farmers face.

“The uncertainty of weather patterns, the lack of access to modern farming techniques, and the volatile market conditions often made it difficult for farmers to make ends meet,” said Mohammad. “These experiences sensitized me to the struggles that my family and other farmers across Afghanistan endure, inspiring me to find ways to support and empower them.”

After high school, Mohammad served as a local linguist and cultural advisor for the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan. His service allowed him to obtain a special visa and in 2014, Mohammad immigrated to Chicago, Illinois.

In 2017, Mohammad founded Heray Spice, a spice company and farming cooperative specializing in premium saffron. His goal is to create economic opportunity and promote Afghanistan’s rich agricultural heritage on a global scale.

“We are not just a spice company. We are a catalyst for positive change,” said Mohammad. “In Chicago, we create job opportunities and support local artisans and suppliers. In Afghanistan, we empower farmers, particularly women, by providing fair wages, training, and access to international markets.”

In 2023, Mohammad participated in A4CB’s Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab (NEL), a business accelerator program that provides participants with a $20,000 grant, coaching, and access to connections to support business growth.

“NEL and A4CB’s one-on-one coaching provided invaluable guidance and support as we navigated the challenges of scaling our business,” said Mohammad. “The personalized mentorship helped us refine our business strategy, optimize operations, and identify growth opportunities.”

Through NEL, Mohammad created a new stream of income for Heray Spice and updated the business’s website and packaging designs.

Following his participation in NEL, Mohammad also received funds through the Cook County Small Business Source Grant Program, which A4CB administered with the Women’s Business Development Center.

“The Cook County Source Grant provided critical funding that enabled us to invest in our inventory, allocate resources on our online marketing, and expand our product line,” said Mohammad. “The NEL [funds] and Cook County Source Grant also helped us hire a consultant chef, recipe writer, and brand and design manager.”

In addition to the staff Mohammad hired with grant funding, Heray Spice employs seven individuals across operations in Chicago and Afghanistan and 55 seasonal employees in Afghanistan during the saffron harvest season.

Looking forward, Mohammad hopes to continue expanding Heray Spice’s market presence and deepening the company’s impact in Afghanistan.

“We plan to explore new distribution channels, collaborate with strategic partners, and continue investing in the professional development of our team,” said Mohammad. “Ultimately, our goal is to position Heray Spice as a global leader in premium saffron and socially responsible business practices.”