When customers rave about her dips, Samira Hamdoun of Belmont is happy to share her secret: she makes everything as if it’s for her own family, using extra virgin olive oil and other high-quality ingredients. As owner of Samira’s Homemade, the native of Lebanon sells baba ganoush, muhammara, stuffed grape leaves, pita bread, hummus, and hummus “plus” (with the added ingredient of simmered fava beans) at local Whole Foods Markets, specialty food stores, and farmers markets.
Q. How did you learn to cook?
A. I developed a passion for food at a young age, and I used to tell my mom to go to the movies so I could have the kitchen to myself and make my own dishes. My three older brothers would come home hungry, and after I gave them my food, they said, “Don’t let our mother cook anymore.” Even now, I can be in the kitchen for hours and I don’t mind it.
Q. How did you turn that passion into a business?
A. I came to the U.S. for graduate school in banking law in 1986. When I got laid off after a bank merger, I went to work as a faculty assistant at Harvard Law School. I made all the food for a party, and everyone said it was the best they ever had. That was in 2006, and six months later, I sold out 35 containers of my hummus at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge in two hours. I went to Harvard Extension School at night for my degree in business management, got my wholesale license in 2009, and left my job to start my business in 2010.
Q. Where do you get your marketing ideas?
A. I’m a good listener! It was [Formaggio Kitchen owner] Ihsan Gurdal who told me to name my company Samira’s. A customer said to put my picture on the label and write the name of the product in Arabic to make it more authentic-looking. Another customer recommended printing on the cover that my dips are made in Somerville so people know I’m local. It was all good advice.
Q. What is your ultimate business goal?
A. Right now everything is done by hand, but I need to automate production in order to expand regionally, and hopefully nationwide. It’s an exciting time, but also challenging to find the right backers who believe in me and my food.
For more information, visit samirashomemade.com.
Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.