How One woman Survived a bad career smash, Then Launched A life-changing business
The inspiring, never-say-die story of Homa Dashtaki and White Moustache yogurt.
On a quiet industrial street in crimson Hook—a quick-gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn, new york, that sits on the East River waterfront—there’s a shiny green door with blocky home windows. It stands out from the sheet-metallic garage doors that dominate the street, extra welcoming than “watch your fingers.”
in the back of the inviting entrance, guests discover a small manufacturing facility housing the production traces for a homemade ricotta firm, a trade that specialize in handmade granola, an artisan mustard producer, and the factory’s youngest trade: White Moustache Yogurt.
based in 2011 by means of Homa Dashtaki and her epically mustachioed father, Goshtasb, the small company specializes in handmade Persian yogurt, taking pasteurized milk from a Hudson Valley dairy and turning it into jars of delightfully thick deliciousness.
“I don’t comprehend what it is about this yogurt, however it’s the first authentic thing I’ve ever completed,” says Homa Dashtaki on a contemporary Thursday morning in the manufacturing unit, her quickly cropped curls tucked underneath a hairnet. “It’s like bringing on this other part of my id that I never in point of fact gave quite a few credit to—I didn’t be aware of find out how to celebrate being completely different.”
Born in Tehran, Dashtaki and her rapid family—her father, mom, and sister—moved to Southern California in 1987, becoming a member of a big community of fellow Zoroastrians and touchdown in a good faculty district. Dashtaki says she turned into obsessive about finding out and doing smartly in school because “that’s the one means you’re ever going to make anything of your self.” The hard work paid off, and in 1997, she landed at UCLA, the place she studied comparative literature with a center of attention on English, German, and Iranian authors.
“I all the time had this softer facet, and i indulged it in undergrad because I was like, ‘I’m going to law college. It’s what i would like,'” says Dashtaki, “i wished to be a legal professional because I used to be very young as a result of i assumed the theory of writing contracts and having everyone’s expectations down on paper was once so civilized!”
And, for a time, Dashtaki kept on that direction. In 2001, she packed her luggage and headed a long way faraway from sunny California—to Ithaca, the big apple—to attend Cornell law college. still interested in “indulging” her roots even just a bit, Dashtaki excited by global finance legislation earlier than touchdown a job proper out of faculty adopted by every other great position at Sidley Austin, the place she worked except the recession hit in 2009.
“I don’t think I ever would have left,” she says. “but after I bought laid off, it was like I couldn’t get myself again into the wheel to look for another job. I was just in reality burnt out.”
For the subsequent three years, Dashtaki “did random stuff,” living on an avocado farm in the off-season, shifting to Tunisia “for a minute,” chain smoking, quitting, educating yoga.
“I made zero sense,” she says, throwing her palms up.
across the related time, Dashtaki’s father fell into a funk of his personal, mourning the contemporary demise of his brother. To carry his spirits, Dashtaki instructed they throw themselves into small tasks and other “random things we had been just right at.” in the end, yogurt, the Dashtaki patriarch’s forte, became the flavor of the week.
“It used to be just one thing to get us via,” says Dashtaki matter-of-factly. “We didn’t want to begin a trade, we just needed treatment.”
nonetheless, they determined to move full steam beforehand with the project, taking up the business kitchen of a nearby Egyptian restaurant whose proprietor, a kindred soul, made his personal hummus from scratch “like a crazy individual.” Between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m., Dashtaki and her dad made eight gallons of yogurt, which had to be made in a qualified kitchen to be conventional into native farmers’ markets, perfecting the recipe and the usage of straining cloths handmade through Dashtaki’s mother. in comparison with Greek yogurt, its extra widespread and “decadent” cousin, Persian yogurt is strained extra slowly and made without adding any lotions, starches, or different thickening dealers. it is also somewhat tart and savory, though Dashtaki and her father determined so as to add a layer of fruit to their yogurt to cater to American tastes. Three days later, they headed to the local farmers’ markets to promote the yogurt—and early reviews have been certain.
“There was one thing that felt truly, really nice about it,” says Dashtaki. “And the remarks is what motivates you, all the time. That comments is what drives you.”
White Moustache—named for her dad’s prodigious whiskers—was once this kind of hit that Dashtaki was widespread as a dealer on the über-unique Laguna seaside Farmers’ Market. (Or the “You’re in point of fact Gonna Make It Now” market, as Dashtaki calls it.) with her sister and cousin in tow, Dashtaki offered yogurt at the market every weekend for 3 months until one weekend when the entire operation fell through.
“I get this call from this woman named Scarlett Treviso,” recalls Dashtaki, taking care to spell out the name. “She principally talked down to me and was once like, ‘You need to both shut down or I’m going to come over there in 20 minutes and that i’m going to have you ever arrested and fined $10,000.’”
Dashtaki’s first response used to be that it was once a poorly timed prank by using a pal from legislation school, however because it grew to become out, a consumer had phoned Treviso, on the time a unique investigator for the California division of food and Agriculture whom the new Yorker has described as “feared.” the shopper expressed problem that Dashtaki could be using raw milk in her product. A representative of the CDFA mentioned in an email that the department treated Dashtaki and White Moustache no another way than any other firm, writing: “it’s same old apply for CDFA investigators to tell folks conducting illegal unlicensed manufacturing and gross sales of dairy merchandise of the requirements of California law, together with the prospective prison penalties of persevered criminal activity. This was once actual within the case of Ms. Dashtaki, who was once informed by way of both unique Investigator Treviso and Orange County Public health days previous to the Saturday Laguna seashore Farmer’s Market to not set up gross sales unless she had acquired the desired licensing.”
Dashtaki, meanwhile, maintains that White Moustache has by no means been made with uncooked milk and used to be bought with the vital state enables. To show it, she spent the following two years frequently touring the state capitol to suggest for her product and her proper to distribute it.
The trips to Sacramento proved to be each enlightening and irritating. Dashtaki learned that through California legislation, it’s illegal to make a milk-primarily based product in a facility that is completely different from the website where the milk was once pasteurized. with the aid of those requirements, Dashtaki would were required to repasteurize her milk, heating it to one hundred forty five˚F, effectively bankrupting her fledgling trade to purchase the necessary tools.
“They don’t need small producers available in the market as a result of, frankly, they are able to’t keep an eye on them,” says Dashtaki. “It became very clear that there was once no well being problem on the table. It was once just the process situation and a regulation concern.”