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Thursday, Apr 18, 2024

Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves – And You

SMALL BUSINESS: 3 Daughters of Iraqi Immigrants Create Sauces for Life

While their father, Hikmat Zoura, owns a liquor store in Chula Vista and their mother, Hiam Zoura, heads a sushi restaurant in Eastlake, three adult sisters have made it their business to start their own “mom and pop” business together.

Sistry Foods – short for “sisters” and “story” – was founded in 2022 by Bonita-native sisters Daphne Khairo, Diane Zoura and Darlene Zoura.

Daphne Khairo
Sistry Foods

“We believe that the choices we make about what we eat, where it comes from, and how it’s prepared, have a direct and powerful impact on the health of individuals, communities, and the environment,” said Daphne Khairo, the oldest of the sisters at 35.

The three are daughters of Iraqi immigrants who met and fell in love in San Diego, having three daughters and one son, Anthony Zoura, and creating businesses from the ground up.

Hiam, 57, and Hikmat 63, were both able to realize their own “American Dream” after arriving in the United States separately as teenagers with little education but high hopes for success.

Diane Zoura
Sistry Foods

“We grew up with parents who moved to a different country when they were very young, starting with almost nothing,” said Diane Zoura, at 31 the middle sister of the trio. “They had to build their lives. They have always pushed us and challenged us to do our best, telling us to remember that the sky’s the limit.”

Sistry Foods currently has three healthy sauces that they created together — Jalapeno Cilantro, Ranch, and Chipotle Chili Sauce. All are vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy free, Paleo diet-friendly, and Whole30 diet-friendly.

Sistry sauces are made in large batches in Oregon by a co-packer, who then ships the products to San Diego where the sisters have a warehouse in Chula Vista.

Sistry products are currently available at Sprouts locations in Chula Vista and Eastlake, Harvest Ranch Market in Encinitas, Farm Stand 67 in Ramona and at the Little Italy Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The products are also on Amazon.com and the sisters recently put their products on the shelves of Heights Market on Adams Avenue. They sell for about $11.99 for a 14-ounce bottle.

The company was founded in 2022 but the idea for making healthy sauces came nearly 10 years ago when the sisters became interested in creating sauces that are conscientious of food allergies, food sensitivities and dietary restrictions.

Diane Zoura has a gluten intolerance, Khairo’s two daughters are allergic to eggs and Darlene Zoura, at 28 the youngest sister, became lactose intolerant when she turned 21.

While the Chipotle Chili Sauce was their first official creation back in 2017, it was Ranch Sauce that was the impetus for the entire line.

Darlene Zoura, who has been the main creator of the sauces, was unimpressed with the lack of flavor and less-than-stellar dairy-free sauces that were on the market and wanted to continue to be able to eat Ranch dressing.

“I love Ranch and I always have,” Darlene Zoura said. “I eat it with everything! I’m a sauce person and have to have it with everything I eat. About seven years ago, I started to notice some health issues when I’d eat dairy so I had to cut it out. I started to create sauces at home.”

Busy with their own lives – Diane Zoura, a certified interior designer with her own firm called Senses and Spaces; Daphne, who was running a catering business that she has since left; and Darlene, who attended college to become a respiratory therapist – the sisters put their saucy idea aside in 2017 but brought it back to the forefront a year later.

The sisters held a fundraiser in 2018 for a nonprofit called HEY Operation that Diane Zoura runs with one of their cousins, Brandon Zora, offering the sauces to top the hamburgers and hot dogs they sold.

“We got a lot of good feedback,” Diane Zoura said. “One woman who wasn’t from San Diego approached Daphne’s husband and asked if we were selling the sauce. ‘I really want this sauce, please ship it to me!’ she said. She asked us to package it at home and send it. I don’t think we did. We were afraid because it had to be refrigerated.”

Two years later, as COVID-19 crept in, the sisters got serious again and continued to develop their products so they would be able to be sold in stores.

In 2021, they used Kickstarter to help meet a $50,000 fundraising goal and after reaching out to a food scientist to help them create a shelf-stable product, finally launched in 2022.

“Our parents love it and are so happy we are doing this,” Diane Zoura said. “Our parents didn’t have a lot of opportunities like we do. They always encouraged us to go to school, go to college, get our education and follow whatever we wanted to do in life.”

Khairo said their father is especially proud of the Sistry line, knowing that siblings working for a common cause can bring about great success.

“Our father came to America with eight brothers and they all worked together slowly in the liquor store business,” she said. “He’s an entrepreneur, too! Ever since I was a kid, he pushed entrepreneurship on me. When he heard about what we were doing (with Sistry), he was ecstatic.”


CO-FOUNDERS: Daphne Khairo, Diane Zoura, Darlene Zoura Ballo
BUSINESS: Food/sauce
WEBSITE: sistryfoods.com
CONTACT: info@sistryfoods.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: Diane Khairo and her cousin Brandon Zora run a nonprofit that Sistry contributes to called HEY Operation that packages Christmas gifts for orphaned, hospitalized and foster children.
NOTABLE: The sisters first started making the sauce in 2017; the chipotle flavor was first.


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