In Their Shoes: Pastries and Ice Cream for Social Good
DEMYSTIFYING SOCIAL IMPACT AND COMMUNITY IMPACT WITH EMILY KIM
If you want to feel all the warm and fuzzies and get lost in a true vibe of pastries, ice cream, and Seattle views, look no further than Emily Kim’s Instagram account. As the Director of Social Impact at Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream and Co-Founder and Community Impact Director at The Pastry Project, Emily combines her knack for visual aesthetic and delightful experiences with her passion for social impact and mission-driven organizations. Before the holidays, we chatted about all things social marketing, forging your career path, and starting a business in the time of COVID.
ABOUT YOU + YOUR CAREER
First and foremost: what’s your favorite flavor of ice cream at Molly Moon’s?
The favorite that we’ve done — that we haven’t done since last year but I'm crossing my fingers that we bring it back — is our Fudge Brownie Chunk. It is such a good flavor but it is more labor-intensive and more expensive and so we don't always make it.
But I’m obsessed with malt, so I really like making chocolate malt milkshakes, too.
Could you share a little elevator pitch about you and what you do?
Right now I am both the Social Impact Director at Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream and also the Co-founder and Community Impact Director at The Pastry Project, so I kind of have two hats that I’m wearing right now.
At Molly Moon's, as the Social Impact Director, I do all of our partnerships, community partnerships, manage our giving budget and our own nonprofit, the Anna Banana Milk Fund. I was brought on in the beginning to start that nonprofit, where I’ve worked on things like certifying us as a B Corp, thinking of ways to be more sustainable, working on internal DEI initiatives and company culture things.
And then at The Pastry Project, the head chef at Molly Moon’s and I branched off and started our own social enterprise where we provide free baking and pastry training to people in our community with barriers to opportunity.
There, as the Community Impact Director, I do a lot of similar things to Molly Moon's, but I manage partnerships with our recruiting and hiring partners, the residents who borrow our space, and the people who do pop-ups in our space. I apply for grants and find us donations, and then I do all of our marketing and social media, as well. I wear many hats at both places but that’s what keeps it interesting.
You actually went to school for law, with a focus on intellectual property, and began your career as an attorney and in policy for both federal and city entities. What prompted what would seem like a pretty big jump to the food and beverage industry and to a role like community relations coordinator?
I finished my masters in intellectual property in Washington, D.C., and while I was there I got a clerkship at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates radio and television. I worked for a commissioner at the FCC and would attend community meetings with them as part of my role.
Sometimes I would be the person sent to a small community group that wanted to make sure they could keep their radio station. It was there that I really started thinking about policy instead of law and what that meant to be able to help shape law and policy, rather than be on the other end.
I wanted to stick around in D.C. and work in the federal government, but it was really tough to find an actual job and not just a clerkship or internship. So I ended up moving back to Seattle and it fell into pretty perfect timing.
A councilmember I had interned for as an undergrad was hiring and because I had just come from Washington, D.C. and had a little bit more government experience, I got coffee with one of her legislative policy aides to learn more. They asked me to apply for the job in her office and so I did.
Flash forward, I got the position and started working in policy at Seattle City Council and got to work on really awesome stuff like getting paid parental leave at the city. She was chair of the Parks Seattle Center Libraries and Gender Equity Committee so we got to work on a variety of things and work on some really cool projects. When it came time for her re-election and she didn't win, I started looking for another job.
I had actually become familiar with Molly Moon Neitzel, founder and CEO of Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream, because she would come in and advocate on behalf of small business a lot at big council meetings. When the city was having meetings about $15 minimum wage, Molly would come in. When the city was talking about secure scheduling for employees, Molly would come in and talk about why that was important.
Because of all that, I knew Molly as someone that had an ice cream shop, yes, but more as someone who was very much an advocate for workers’ rights and advocate for small businesses.
When I was looking for a job, I randomly saw on a “Women Helping Other Women” listserv that Molly Moon’s was looking for a Community Relations person to kind of start up their nonprofit and work on their partnerships.
I thought that was such a cool job and I hadn’t worked in the private sector yet. It literally sounded perfect, since one of my favorite things at both the FCC and City Council was community relations — being able to talk to constituents and people in your neighborhood about the problems they were having and how we can help fix them.
What I love about looking at your journey over the past 4.5 years at Molly Moon’s is not only the growth but also how it seems you’ve crafted a career that aligns with your passions. Again, your background is in law, but within six months at Molly Moon’s, your role evolved to Director of Marketing - Community Relations (and now to Director of Social Impact and Community Relations). Can you walk through how those role shifts came about?
Here’s a funny side story: so when I first applied to the community relations role it was to also assist the marketing person. It wasn’t a super big part of the role but you would be working under the marketing director and so they wanted someone with marketing experience.
I actually got rejected from the job when I first applied because I didn't have enough marketing experience.
I never do this, I barely use LinkedIn, but I ended LinkedIn messaging Molly and I was just like, “I think this job is perfect for me and I think we have a super similar background.” She also worked for a city councilmember and we just have weirdly parallel career paths: she had worked at J.Crew at the same time as me and my first job was in ice cream serving at Cold Stone. So I sent her a nice message about how I just thought this job was a great fit and how I thought I would be great at it.
I got a call the next day and was invited to an interview, went in to interview and got the job!
I learned this later, but if I had found her email address and emailed her, I don’t think she would have gotten it since she has an executive assistant.
I started as a community relations coordinator, but I have a passion for marketing, for photography, for making things pretty. I've always been into marketing in a non-professional way. It’s just something I have always loved.
I did a random photoshoot for a friend around that time and had used one of the photos from that shoot of myself as my LinkedIn profile picture.
Molly said that's one of the reasons she was also excited to bring me in was because of the styled photos that I had on my LinkedIn. They were fun and professional and had bright colors.
So I started there and I started working really closely with the marketing director. He was a photographer, so his background wasn’t in marketing either. Eventually, he wanted to step back and focus on his photography and his family, so he gave his notice about six months after I started.
I didn't think that I would be asked to be the marketing director at all because I don't didn't have the experience but Molly took me to coffee and just asked me to do it. She said she believed in me and thought I would be a really great fit for the role and asked me if I would want to do it. I said, “Of course!”
When I took on that role, we didn’t hire someone else to fill my former one, so that’s how my role became a more hybrid marketing/community relations role. I did that for a couple of years and really really liked it. As the company grew, it did become a lot.
We added three more stores during that time, we hired a lot more people, and we were focusing a lot more on community events and partnerships. It became a lot of work and we brought someone on to help with wholesale who is really great at sales.
Molly ended up asking me if there were things in my role that I can think of taking off of my plate that would make me happy. I thought about it and I came back to her and I told her if I could just be the director of social impact that would make me really happy at this point in my life. I wasn't able to give all of the marketing stuff up because it would have just been too much. So Katie is our new director of outside sales and marketing and I’m the director of social impact, but that encompasses our partnerships, our social media, which is kind of community relations, our non-profit, our giving budget, our internal programs for employees (like our volunteer program, or ERGs).
We all do crazy hybrid roles at Molly Moon’s. It makes things interesting. I’m never bored and I still really like my job.
What advice would you have for someone who feels constricted or limited to their career pathway based on what they majored in or what role they currently have?
If you're really passionate about something or if you want to take a different path, you kind of do have to start doing things in your spare time.
That's what I had done.
I had random little things that I was working on that made it look like I could be a marketing person and I think I had a blog at the time. Even things like your Instagram account, for instance. If you want to be in marketing, making Instagram a "thing" can be helpful because employers would maybe look at that and think “oh wow, they have a great eye!” or something like that.
I also do a lot of volunteering and I'm on a couple of different boards, I’m on a City Commission, I get really involved — and that’s all for fun and for free — and that's just kind of how I spend my time. I know that everybody doesn't have that kind of time but you can find something even if it's just one thing to volunteer with and that will give you a little bit more experience or credibility in the area that you're looking to build up.
Now, over the past year — and during a pandemic no less — you and co-founder Heather Hodge launched The Pastry Project, an organization that provides 14 weeks of baking and pastry job skills training, soft skills practice, and job placement assistance to individuals with barriers. And landed your proper storefront in Pioneer Square! What was it like taking the leap from working for someone else to deciding to launch your own business/especially this kind of business?
Heather and I met a few years ago at Molly Moon's when she was the head chef. We really started connecting during hiring season because part of my role at Molly Moon's was to work with nonprofits to see if they worked with people who might need a job that provided good benefits, a good wage, and a chance.
We worked with a lot of nonprofits in our communities and we found it was a lot easier to be able to offer someone a front-of-house position at Molly Moon’s because you really didn't need any previous experience at all to scoop ice cream.
But to work in a kitchen — actually making the ice cream and the hot fudge and the inclusions — you needed a little bit of kitchen experience: knowing your way around a kitchen, kitchen language, how to read a recipe, and how to measure ingredients.
There really weren't any places in Seattle that offered that free programming for baking and pastry for people with barriers to opportunity.
After thinking about it for a little while, Heather and I decided to start our own program. It originally was and is a completely free program. We did a pilot program, which at the time was 12 weeks of baking and pastry training and job placement assistance for three people who were in our pilot, and we borrowed space at the London Plane.
Then we decided, “Well, this could be bigger than this program. This could be a social enterprise where we are actually coming up with ways to earn money through selling products, having memberships, and hosting classes for the public — and that can fund this free program. We can eventually be a self-sustaining social enterprise and that would be so awesome.”
So that is the route that we pursued and we applied for and received some grant funding to help us build out the space. Now we’re earning money to pay the rent, pay the bills, and keep the program up and running. In addition to our program, we have Goody Boxes and Pastry Kit subscriptions, we sell actual baked goods, we do pop-ups, and we have residents that rent the space from us.
How do you manage working full-time and having this side business?
A random COVID silver lining, I call it. Molly Moon’s is still very reliant on being able to be open and having a ton of people in the shop. With COVID, business has gotten a lot slower and we had to lay people off at the beginning of the pandemic and bring some people down to part-time positions.
I was one of those people that got brought down to part-time and I kind of almost volunteered for it for two reasons: 1) I can still barely pay my bills being part-time and 2) that meant we could keep other people on. At the same time, operation and construction were underway for The Pastry Project, so it ended up being a good thing for me. As of now, I'm still part-time at Molly Moon’s and I'm full-time at The Pastry Project.
In terms of how I manage my time, I technically work 10:00 am to 3:00 pm Monday through Wednesday with floating hours where I do social media stuff for Molly Moon’s. For The Pastry Project, on those same days I get up earlier and do emails before Molly Moon’s, then from about 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm I run over to the Pastry Project space because I live in the neighborhood. Thursdays and Fridays are my full Pastry Project days and then usually the weekend as well.
How has The Pastry Project needed to adapt in its business model by launching a business that is focused on teaching students a physical skill like baking during a time when folks need to be socially distant and limit their interpersonal interactions?
We have been able to adapt in little ways. Our original business plan called for a lot of in-person classes. We were building up a space specifically to have these in-person classes. When COVID hit, we figured out pretty quickly how to do Zoom virtual classes and have done a fair share of those.
What we didn’t expect was when we started randomly getting reached out to by companies that wanted corporate classes, through just word of mouth and our network. We've since done corporate classes for teams at Snapchat, Nike, Amazon, and Parametric. So that has been a random, awesome source of revenue for us.
At the beginning of COVID, we came up with the idea of doing pastry kits where we mail you all of the ingredients and a recipe to make one of our pastries at home. and so we started doing that. Our Goody Box membership has always been around and launched with the original pilot program. Essentially community members who were Goody Box Members could come pick up a box of freshly baked pastries made by our students once a month. Because our students were learning all these pastry and baking skills, it was a day where they could practice high-level production in a commercial kitchen. Once classes in-person classes shut down due to COVID, it was either hiring partners helping us out, or Heather and I and volunteers, making the baked goods. And so despite COVID, that program has kept going and we have a pretty large number of Goody Box members at this point that come once a month to pick up their box of treats — and because the format was already pick-up only it transitioned perfectly during COVID times.
ENERGIZED AND ORGANIZED
What do you absolutely need at your desk to function (top 2-3 things)?
I have a notepad and pen because I really like writing stuff down. I have coffee. And my TV remote.
Right now I'm literally obsessed — and I swear this is helping me work so much better — so I have my TV remote but it's because I have my yule log fire going and it makes me so happy and cozy! It's just like this crackling in the background and it makes me work so much better, I swear.
Are there any apps or gadgets you can’t live without?
Because I manage three social media accounts, I definitely live on Instagram right now. Which is good and bad. It’s kind of good that I live in it because it doesn’t stress me out anymore, it’s just a part of my life whereas for some people it’s a really stressful platform.
I use Planoly for Molly Moon’s to try to plan things in advance.
And then I use Snug for The Pastry Project, which is just to throw things into the feed and see what they would look like, because I don’t necessarily pre-plan Pastry Project content. With Snug, you can throw in a bunch of pictures and move them around really easily and play with your visual grid.
Lastly, I do use VSCO to edit photos. We recently had a photographer take some photos in The Pastry Project space and she just snapped some photos on her iPhone and she showed them to me and I said, “How can you take such iPhone pictures?” It was mind blowing to me. She said she just edits them in VSCO using the same kind of filter each time. Now I’ve been using that for The Pastry Project and I like it so much better.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
To recharge, I think it's important to not have my phone around. Pictures that I might post about my weekend hike are from much later, when I was done with the hike and back home on my couch.
One person I follow will recap her week on a Sunday, and I love seeing what she did all week, but she doesn’t post it as those things are happening so it probably makes things feel more relaxing in the moment.
Even though you’re taking a quick picture or something, taking that space to enjoy the moment is really important.
I also love taking walks. I live just below downtown so I walk the waterfront to Myrtle Edwards Park which is such a pretty park with a really great view. When I walk I like to listen to podcasts. Now that I don’t really have a commute anymore, I have to kind of force myself to walk if I want to catch up on things.
And then I watch lots of reality TV, especially The Bachelorette and all the Real Housewives — the new Salt Lake City one is crazy.
That’s kind of it. You know, during COVID times it’s just kind of different. I miss taking weekend trips. One of my best friends lives in Olympia, another in Tacoma, and Portland, and I love being able to take a weekend away, spend the night somewhere else, and exploring a different neighborhood so I can’t wait until we can do that again.
MARKETING STRATEGY FOR SOCIAL IMPACT
Molly Moon’s is a small team, and Pastry Project even smaller, when you think about how you prioritize your marketing and communications efforts, how do you approach that for each business?
At Molly Moon's, we used to focus a lot on social media but we've recently shifted to focus more on our newsletters because we have such a huge audience through Square payments.
With Square, you have access to the email addresses of those customers who have previously purchased something via Square at another business, like a coffee shop, and entered their email address. So that means we have this huge list and we can see the direct conversion from clicks or buys via those emails. Whereas social media, it’s really hard to know what’s driving sales.
Over the last couple of years at Molly Moon’s, we’ve also transitioned to a lot of in-shop signage. The thought process being, “Ok, these people are here. They are a captive audience, they’re already a customer and a fan. How can we get them to buy an extra thing?” And so, we’ve introduced these really beautiful centerboard panels that have been incredibly helpful.
When we recently did a collaboration with Theo, and it was a chocolate bar, we put the new chocolate bar up in the center panel and it sold a ton of chocolate bars. When the center panels aren’t focused on chocolate bars, we really don’t sell any, so it does make a big difference what you highlight on that center panel, which has been really interesting to figure out.
At The Pastry Project, because we’re so small, we focus mainly on social media since it’s a low-touch thing that I can always be doing it. It has actually gotten us a ton of customers. A lot of the people that have signed up for a Goody Box or that come to a pop-up found us through social media.
We do want to start doing a more editorialized newsletter. We want to do features on our students, on our partners, or share recipes. I have this vision of making it more of an editorial — a couple of pages out of a magazine — kind of newsletter that people get once a month or once every couple of weeks and we’ll have original content in there.
Heather and I are also calendaring out our online content strategy for video. We're doing a lot of pastry tips and tricks videos, videos on how to make our pastry kits at home to try to promote those a little bit more, and then we're going to do a series called Baking from Books and Blogs. I might do some social impact videos on, “Did you know?” type of content, as well. We’re going to really try to video a more robust focus. Heather loves watching videos on YouTube of people baking or learning techniques and so she wants to be able to do that for other people and show her really cool techniques, as well.
What has been your favorite marketing campaign at either Molly Moon’s or The Pastry Project, and why?
My favorite marketing campaign at Molly Moon's has been Women's History Month. We started doing it two years ago and we're going to do it again this year. Every March, we partner with four women from history, are making history, or are in our communities. Last year, it was women changing the workplace.
We make a flavor that is in honor of them and, if they're still alive, we have a meeting with them and their team and see what their favorite flavors are. Then we pick somewhere to donate proceeds to that month. We put really fun signage with all of the women in our shop windows. It has been one of my favorite things we do and it's really fun because it weaves in everything. We get to do a partnership, we get to do fun flavors, we get to do fun marketing materials, and we get to give back those proceeds to a nonprofit.
What's one piece of advice you'd tell your former self (whether related to career or personal life)?
You're going to end up where you're supposed to be if you just keep doing what you're doing. I think everything happens for a reason and each step will guide you in the right next direction.
To learn more about Emily and The Pastry Project, visit https://www.thepastryproject.co/.