There are secrets to baking that also apply to being an entrepreneur. And five Maryland siblings are putting those secrets to work in their latest venture.
The Dubbaneh brothers and sisters – Ronnie, Danny, Ronia, Johnny and Deanna – know that to be successful in baking, you have to take care in every step of the process, be patient, give it your time and attention, and love what you’re doing. It’s the same for starting a business.
The Dubbaneh siblings last year opened the Z&Z Manoushe Bakery in Rockville, Md. The bakery was years in the making.
Their parents operated a restaurant and, growing up, the whole family was involved in making it run – waiting tables, washing dishes, doing prep work in the kitchen.
In 2016, the siblings, now adults, began selling Middle Eastern flatbreads, called manoushe, along with Middle Eastern spices at local farmers markets, under the name Z&Z. They later expanded to selling their spices to local Washington, D.C., restaurants, direct-to-consumers online, and to Mid-Atlantic Whole Foods stores.
The siblings are all graduates of the University of Maryland – Ronnie ’09 (finance and information systems), Danny ’10 (kinesiology), Ronia ’12 (English), Johnny ’14, (finance and information systems), and Deanna ’20 (education). And they all bring their own talents and perspectives to the company.
Johnny and Ronnie Dubbaneh graduated from the Robert H. Smith School of Business and they credit the school with helping them gain the confidence to become entrepreneurs. They say their information systems skills help them manage the company’s supply chain. And Johnny Dubbaneh says Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at Maryland Smith was instrumental in developing his startup skills.
Speaking recently to Maryland Smith, Ronnie and Johnny Dubbaneh both acknowledged that there were difficulties to overcome in getting the business established. Educating the consumer was one struggle, with much of the menu still unfamiliar to many American consumers. Z&Z Manoushe specializes in traditional manoushe flatbreads, while also carrying an assortment of other Middle Eastern foods.
The goal, the brothers say, was to operate as a kind of local neighborhood pizza spot, though they quickly add that manoushe is not pizza. (The siblings even bought the URL www.itsnotpizza.com to emphasize the point.)
With each success, Johnny and Ronnie Dubbaneh say, the siblings are learning. For Ronnie Dubbaneh, those lessons have been about being “patient and persistent,” he says. It pays off.
“There’s always a ton of planning involved in running a business, but you learn more by starting,” adds Johnny Dubbaneh. “So don’t have fear.”
–By Phillip Reamer. Reamer is a 2023 MBA candidate and Smith Fellow originally from Sykesville, Md. He worked for three years in the horticulture industry before beginning his MBA studies, most recently with Walt Disney World’s horticulture team.
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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and flex MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, business master’s, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.