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Kim Malek’s Salt & Straw Odyssey

kim malek

Kim Malek’s odyssey began with a single scoop, a metaphor for her initial step towards conquering imposter syndrome. Salt & Straw was not just an ice cream venture; it was Kim’s canvas, where every flavor became a testament to overcoming fear. With each new creation, Kim sprinkled her odyssey with innovation, despite the nagging doubts. Salt & Straw’s success is sweet, but Kim’s personal odyssey, her triumph over fear, is the true flavor of her journey.

In this episode of Behind Her Empire, Kim Malek, the co-founder and CEO of Salt & Straw, shares her remarkable journey of building a successful ice cream company and overcoming various challenges along the way.

Salt & Straw, based in Portland, Oregon, is renowned for its handcrafted ice cream featuring unique flavors made with locally sourced ingredients. Kim Malek’s entrepreneurial journey began in 2011 when she decided to establish her ice cream business.

However, the idea of running her own small business initially seemed daunting to Malek. She had reservations stemming from her father’s past business failures. Despite her deep passion for the venture, she postponed her entrepreneurial aspirations for years, keeping them safely tucked in the back of her mind.

Yet, her love for creating something new and her experiences at companies like Starbucks, Yahoo, and Adidas kindled her desire to take the leap. Kim Malek realized that the entrepreneurial spirit was embedded in her, and she found fulfillment in introducing innovative concepts and setting them up for people.

Despite lacking experience in making ice cream, Malek was confident that she would find the right business partner. To her surprise, her cousin Tyler, who began experimenting with ice cream recipes, turned out to be the perfect collaborator.

As Salt & Straw grew, Kim Malek confronted the same fears that had initially held her back from starting her business. She recognized that a portion of her hesitation was rooted in imposter syndrome, a common issue among women entrepreneurs. Malek explained that women often strive for perfection before sharing their ideas with the world, while men might readily share their innovative thoughts.

Over a decade later, Kim Malek transformed Salt & Straw into a thriving business, even attracting celebrity investors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Initially, she self-funded her first few stores, but as the runway for self-funding diminished, she sought other sources of funding. Malek applied for SBA loans and eventually partnered with investors, including Allan Karp, to ensure the business’s survival, particularly during the challenges of the pandemic.

Kim Malek highlights the importance of aligning with investors who share your values, especially when facing critical decisions that will shape the future of your company. She emphasizes that a strong network and the relationships cultivated throughout her career have played a pivotal role in her business’s growth.

Kim Malek’s dedication to her company revolves around the idea of going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations, not just in terms of their ice cream but also in how they make their customers feel.

Kim Malek’s journey is a testament to the power of determination, the ability to overcome imposter syndrome, and the significance of building a network of supportive individuals on the path to success.

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