The opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Salt and Straw, the ice cream capital of the West Coast, has been serving delicious and unique flavors in Portland since 2011 and is now celebrating expansion to the East Coast: Miami. As owner Kim Malick explained, integrating into Miami's culture meant relying on established local businesses and leveraging local knowledge.
With multiple locations across the country, Salt & Straw is by no means a “small” business, but Kim didn't originally plan on having multiple locations. In fact, she started with just her wheelbarrow. But now, Salt and Straw has grown into a nationally known store, and Kim is closer to realizing her dream of creating more space to foster unity.
Related: Salt & Straw's Kim Malek on modernizing the ice cream industry
grow unintentionally and naturally
Prior to founding Salt & Straw, Kim worked as an early employee at Starbucks Coffee, a formative role that allowed her to scale the business at scale and gain experience creating shared spaces where patrons could interact with each other. It's done.
“When I started, we had 30 stores and when I left, we had 3,000 stores. So I started thinking about how to grow the company and how to bring the latte idea to people across the country and around the world. I was part of this small group that was thinking about introducing them to the world,''' Kim said. “I fell in love with the entrepreneurial spirit and the idea of a third place. This is not a home. It's not an office. It's a third place where you can take time for yourself. I thought it was a cream shop.''
RELATED: Ice cream bike side hustle turned into $20,000 income stream
With a desire to create an ice cream shop that taps into the spirit of the surrounding community and delivers “pure joy” through classic desserts, Kim created a business plan and opened a retail space within the Portland area. I started considering my options. Even though she was well aware of the challenges of being a small business owner (her father ran a small business that went bankrupt), she persisted.
In the summer of 2011, Kim opened a pushcart to sell ice cream to local residents. Salt & Straw's first storefronts would appear that August.
“I thought no one would come, but [but] People really showed up to support us right out of the gate. It was really, really busy. We had to hire a lot of people, but when you have the problem of being too busy, no one feels sorry for you. But it was crazy. I remember setting my alarm to get a few hours of sleep and rushing back to scoop up some ice cream. My cousin was making ice cream in the back,” Kim explained.
Soon after, she and her team opened a second store, even though the original business plan didn't include expansion.
“When we opened the first store, we didn't have any money. We cashed out 401,000. We had a garage sale. We also sold our house and maxed out our credit cards. We had no money to open that store. We did everything we could to make this happen, and here we are.'' Less than a year later, we knew we wanted to open a second store. ”
Develop thoughtfully, with respect for local culture and ancestors
Salt & Straw views each expansion not as an “export” of ice cream, but as a collaboration between its hometown of Portland and the destination. According to Kim, this mindset has helped Salt & Straw maintain its brand identity while simultaneously tapping into the culture and flavors of new cities.
When opening the Miami store, Kim kept local culture and community top of mind. And for Miami locals, it resonated.
Yelp regional manager and Miami local Deandra Lamas praised Salt & Straw's embrace and respect for local culture.
”[What] What stands out to me about them is that they decided to do their store announcement with Panther Coffee. When we talk about the importance of local business in Miami and when people really started to care about local brands and their work and impact on the community, Panther has to talk about his coffee. . They were the first local coffee roasters here and have really paved the way for a lot of exciting community-led activity and innovation. So they held an event to meet them and try the ice cream. I don't know many big brands that do that kind of work.
Related article: Why this entrepreneur took over a 70-year-old ice cream brand
“I was born and raised in Miami, so I'm always trying to find the local ice cream shop, the local tattoo parlor, the local bar, because that's exactly what we essentially do as community managers. So it was kind of a 'respect' kind of thing.
“They know the people to work with, and they know the people who have really paved the way for businesses to come here and thrive, like local vibrant businesses. And , they're working with them. I thought that was amazing.”
Integrate customer service into the culture of each new store
Diandra says there's a tangible sense of community at every Salt and Straw location, which, along with great customer service, is what keeps customers coming back. .
“My cousin Tyler, who makes all the ice cream, will tell you that the ice cream is only 49 percent of the experience, and 51 percent is the experience after you walk in the store.” [receive what] We call it “Giving a moment of full attention…” There, we spend a little more time with each guest than seems logical, encouraging people to connect with them in their own unique way while still coming to work and doing their best. I’m not a cookie-cutter person, I’m myself,” Kim said.
Kim and her team have created products and experiences that keep customers across the country coming back. Other keys to Salt & Straw's success include:
- Let the individuality of your employees shine. Chatting with Salt & Straw staff is an important part of the overall experience. Spending time with customers increases the sense of community and helps people find ice cream they love.
- Be open to feedback. Kim reads and responds to online reviews and participates in conversations about her business. She uses feedback as a tactical advantage to identify trends among her customers, competitors, and her own store.
- Expand gracefully. When moving to Miami, Kim's team researched the local business scene and community to find the most natural way to introduce themselves, rather than just setting up shop without appealing to the locals. .
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Kim and Diandra and subscribe. behind the review See more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora, Soundcloud.