Kamilya Abilova (’12) and Daniyar Chukin (’11) met during their freshman year, and quickly bonded over a shared interest in the Italian language, history and politics. Both Kamilya and Daniyar were raised in Central Asia, where they grew up eating yogurt, kefir, and lots of quark—a beloved ingredient and snack. There quark was lovingly made by babushkas (Russian grandmas) at the bazaars using heirloom recipes passed down through the generations.
When Kamilya arrived in America the cultured dairy products on offer seemed to her to be much more tart than those back home, and not thick or filling enough. Not being able to do much about it, she just started eating less cultured dairy. But during her senior year finals, thinking of the ways quark could be introduced in the US and how it could be made, became her sole preoccupation during those walks to class and back. As the plans in her head continued to evolve, there came a “Why not?” moment and then the first call to the Cheese Association to seek some help was made. She mentioned it to Daniyar, who had graduated and was working as a research assistant to a prominent attorney, and to Kamilya’s surprise, he loved the idea as well and wanted to join her on the spot.
The duo spent the next two years on product development with the goal of creating a fresh take on Quark. Kamilya envisioned a Quark that was spoonably creamy and deliciously tart-free, with all of the health benefits of the Quark she grew up eating. Along the way they brought on Pierre Forien, a French guy they met while volunteering in Greenland, and Max Zinner (’11), who was also a common friend and was working at Goldman Sachs at the time.
They launched Misha Quark in the fall of 2014. Today, the company is quickly growing, with distribution in Fresh Direct, Wegmans, and independent natural stores in New York Metro Area, such as Union Market, Fairway, Westside Market, and is just getting started. To learn more or get involved, visit Misha.com.