Jonathan Srour isn’t your typical budding entrepreneur. First, he’s only 19 years old. Second, his business has nothing to do with the digital world, music or any of the other pursuits young businesspeople typically set their sights on. Instead, he’s come up with a hip version of an unhip idea: a hummus company.
Jon at the commerical kitchen where Habiza is produced
To Jon it was the most natural thing in the world. He began Habiza Hummus out of his family home in Toluca Lake in 2021. Not only did Jon grow up in the Valley, but so did both of his parents. “The Valley is my true home and favorite place,” he says.
In the beginning, he hade the hummus in the family garage and sold it from the driveway. At the time he was a freshman at Santa Monica College, planning to transfer to Loyola Marymount University. He left LMU after just one day.
Point of fact: He was staunchly bullish on his idea, which is based on a recipe he learned from his Lebanese great-grandmother that uses high-quality ingredients.
“Try other grocery store versions of hummus,” Jon challenges. “None of them taste like restaurant-quality hummus. But Habiza does.”
Jon concluded that going into business for himself was likely to pay dividends that exceeded the typical college career path with the accompanying debt. An increasing number of high school graduates are choosing a similar business model as they decide against the astronomical cost of a college education. While many parents may balk at their offspring’s decision to drop out, Jon’s parents were behind him.
And maybe Jon is onto something new and different with Habiza. “Take a look at our Instagram page,” he insists during our interview. “It isn’t a product page; it’s a party.” He’s not wrong. If you’re going to choose a hummus brand based on images, then Jon’s rules. It’s filled with attractive 20-somethings (and some elders) eating hummus—and having a great time. His competitors’ pages are full of stuffy pictures, one after the other, about how to use hummus.
One can’t help but ask: Why does the world need another brand of hummus? “The key things to making good hummus are simplicity and quality ingredients. Hummus is a metaphor for life: Keep it simple,” Jon says.
Hummus is a creamy Middle Eastern dip made from garbanzo beans. With Habiza, Jon follows a unique Old World process that’s reminiscent of the way his great-grandmother made hummus. “We’re scaling homemade cooking,” he says.
Another ingredient in hummus is tahini—a paste made from sesame seeds. “This is where a lot of companies cut corners,” he says, explaining that Habiza uses high-quality tahini sourced from Lebanon.
So why is grocery store hummus inferior to restaurant-quality hummus? A lot of grocery store versions substitute other ingredients for high-quality tahini. “Many of our competitors also use preservatives and vinegar. But vinegar doesn’t belong in hummus,” he explains. Those other ingredients create longer shelf life but a less tasty product.
Once the product developed a local following, Jon got in touch with the buyers at Erewhon. “I submitted an application on their website on a Saturday.” Then, while selling the product from his driveway the next day, he told everyone he’d give them $2 off if they submitted a product request for Habiza on Erewhon’s website. “Samples were delivered to them on Tuesday, and we were notified on Thursday that we’d been accepted to be sold in the store.”
During that time, Jon was also doing his own version of disruptive marketing. “I would go into grocery stores and sit in the hummus aisle.” When someone was interested in buying a competing brand, he would offer them a container of Habiza Hummus for free—with contact info on the label. “I would tell everyone that I was a pollster from UCLA, but people wondered why this young guy was so excited about hummus.”
After Habiza was stocked into Erewhon, Jon went in to one of the stores. “I introduced myself to the manager, and I asked how Habiza was selling. He told me that they sold out on the first day.”
As one might expect, Jon’s pitch is youthful—and infectious. “We want Habiza to feel like a party,” he says. “You have dinner with your grandma, who serves hummus, and then you hit the club afterward and dance to ABBA.”
Habiza is currently available in two flavors: basic, and a spicy version: jalapeño with serrano. Jon says his hummus will soon be available in single servings for those on the go, as well as a garlic flavor.
Like any industrious entrepreneur, he has his sights set on expansion. “I’m really pleased with the growth and current trajectory of the company,” Jon says. “I have a lot of belief in our product and brand, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds as we begin expanding.”