An Israeli who came to Montreal to study is making it easier for Montreal Jews to keep kosher.
Zohar Mamut’s business idea germinated while he was a student at McGill University, studying for a bachelor’s degree in business.
“I realized that Jewish students at McGill didn’t know where to buy kosher food conveniently,” said Mamut, 27. “In order to stock their shelves, they had to go to several stores, such as a butcher, fish market and grocery store. No one place had the selection, and they were not able to take time away from their studies to shop at that many places.”
Using his own funds and his knowledge of computers, the Russian-born entrepreneur created a Web site, www.kosherfoodz.com. It’s a simple site, but it lists a bevy of kosher products, which can be ordered online and sent virtually anywhere.
“Montreal was a natural place for me to start this venture, as research showed me that 30 percent of the Jewish community here keeps kosher,” Mamut said. “That’s more than 30,000 people. The math added up.”
Beyond the business aspect, Jewish values were important to Mamut. He donates 10 percent of his profits to local synagogues, and also intends to distribute Purim baskets to sick children at Montreal Children’s Hospital, starting next year.
“Right now, I want to do my part for the Jewish people and I think helping observant Jews keep kosher is important,” he said. “I know it’s very important to me.”
Given his low overhead, Mamut is able to sell his products at a highly competitive cost to consumers. Five vendors have signed on as suppliers thus far, and Mamut is actively seeking more.
In business for almost eight months, Mamut admits that it is taking a while for people to buy into his dream.
“I have a small base of regulars at present, but it’s growing,” he said. “I am encouraged by this, as I have done no marketing whatsoever until now.”
That is about to change. Mamut is on the verge of unveiling Kosherfoodz Express, a delivery service that will allow users to call one number and order meals from various kosher restaurants around Montreal.
“This is where my direct marketing comes in. With each flyer you receive from that particular restaurant, you get one of mine as well,” he said.
One satisfied customer is businessman Shemy Chetrit.
“He’s a really good supplier. Because I live downtown with my family, away from many of the kosher stores, and we lead very busy lives, Zohar saves us a lot of time with his online ordering,” Chetrit said. “I think his business will become very busy in the long run, when more and more people learn that he exists.”
Word of Mamut’s site slowly is getting around. Maxi-Health, an organic vitamin distributor, has asked him to be their sole representative in Canada. And the ideas keep coming.
“I got a call from a man in New York, asking if I could provide kosher food for the shiva house of a colleague’s family in Montreal,” he said, referring to a house in which people are mourning for the dead. “So, there’s another segment of the market I can service.”
Mamut hopes that his first catalog, due out this spring, will allow people to peruse his products before ordering on line or using his new call center. Food can be delivered in Montreal at present, for a small fee.
In the future, Mamut hopes to expand into other cities in Canada, including Ottawa, which he feels is badly in need of kosher food services.
“Someone told me that a few Jews in Prince Edward Island keep kosher as well. I hear it’s beautiful there,” he said. “I’ll deliver their orders in person.
“I’m also looking into New York,” he said. “The beauty of the Internet is that you can do business anywhere in the world.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.