Those of us who no longer live where we grew up all have flavors we miss. It may be a hard-to-find cheese, a vegetable that doesn’t grow in our new home, or our mother’s inimitable recipes. But the van Blommestein family did more than sigh and salivate: They created a business.
Ayoba-Yo is the result of the van Blommesteins’ craving for a favorite of their native South Africa: biltong. The air-dried beef snack is a staple in the motherland, but difficult to find in the United States. The family relocated from South Africa to Springfield, Virginia 18 years ago. “What started as a Saturday morning hobby between a father and his sons, slowly marinated into a business,” says Wian van Blommestein, who says Ayoba-Yo incorporated in 2015.
Other ex-pats are thrilled to learn that they can now find their favorite snack in the States, but van Blommestein admits that the product is a bit of a learning curve for non-South Africans. “Our business challenge involves educating new customers every day and ensuring that we have the best product available, not just within the meat snack category, but also within the new biltong sub-category,” he says.
To that end, Ayoba-Yo uses premium beef, no sugar, and quality spices for product that’s keto- and paleo-friendly. They also go above and beyond other biltong companies with unique flavors. For the holidays, they’re offering a rosemary-truffle version.
And the company is starting to get the attention it deserves. This year, Ayoba-Yo was selected as one of six finalists for Amazon’s Small Business of the Year Awards from among more than 1,500 companies that applied. The company’s biltong was also recently voted one of two best meat snacks in the Today Show’s Snackie Awards.
What has Wian van Blommestein learned from his family business’ growing success? “Be kind to everyone, you never know where a conversation might lead,” he says. “Take feedback from everyone and filter out the noise to find constructive information.” Strong advice for business owners and good humans alike.