Ali Almasi

When Iranian Ali Almasi '16G left his native country to enroll in Lehigh’s Technical Entrepreneurship (TE) professional master's program, he had dreams and determination. Today, with a M.Eng. degree under his belt, he's the founder and manager of Almas Foods International, a startup that's created a variety of products using saffron in innovative ways.

His Zaffrus products include saffron threads of various grades, teas, powder, vinegar, honey, and facial cream, which are sold on the Zaffrus website, on, and at other retail locations. 

Almasi came to the United States "to pursue a graduate degree in a country where modern technology is firmly rooted and successful businesses abound," he says. "Lehigh's M.Eng. in TE is a very highly rated, one-year program with impressive faculty and a great location that’s close to New York City and even closer to Philadelphia.  All in all, it was a great fit."



Once I enrolled in TE, opportunities I’d never considered before appeared right in front of my eyes. I chose to launch a saffron business, but TE gave me the tools and know-how to strike out as an entrepreneur in virtually any field.
—Ali Almasi '16 M.Eng.

Almasi shares more about his TE experience and how it prepared him to successfully launch his startup:

In what ways did TE benefit you the most?

When I entered the program, I had the drive to become an entrepreneur but was lacking confidence.  TE gave me the self-assurance I needed and removed any excuse for not following the entrepreneurship path.  Additionally, I benefitted from the fact that this program is a gateway to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Lehigh Valley, the East Coast, and, in my opinion, this entire country. 

How did your mindset evolve as a result of your year in TE?

My mindset changed from holding myself mostly responsible for my life to totally responsible; from imagining a big-dream company to moving toward it with daily, prioritized to-do lists; from following the suggested deadlines to defining my own deadlines; and from fear of failure to learning from failures. As a result, I now believe in myself more than ever, and that makes me very happy.

What skills did you develop in TE?

Perhaps most importantly, I learned how to create a product or a service that meets the needs of customers.  But there are many other skills I developed as well, such as the business skills needed to start the company; the design skills I use to create packaging, labels, and brochures; and the presentation skills so essential to explaining and marketing a product or a service.

What is saffron, exactly?

Saffron is a very healthy spice made from the stigmas—known as threads—of a flower called the saffron crocus.  All the flowers must be picked and dried by hand, contributing to saffron’s reputation as being quite precious and costly given how many are needed to produce a pound of saffron. Here’s a way to envision it: If you plant an entire football field with saffron flowers, the yield will be about one and a half to two pounds.  And all the harvesting is done once a year in a period lasting 15 to 25 days! Often called “red gold,” saffron threads are most frequently used in rice dishes, teas, and desserts.

Where do you hope to take the company?

My ultimate goal in this industry is to change the game a bit! By that, I mean increasing food awareness and offering solutions that meet the demand for healthy, delicious, real, whole food for a high-paced modern society. Eventually, I hope to use resulting financial resources to change the future of the food in order to encourage a healthier lifestyle and help save the planet for the next generations.  

Read the full interview on the TE Masters website.