Kimia Kalbasi: “Learn as much as you can, wherever you can”

Pass on the positivity with a simple act of kindness. It may not sound like a lot, but this is profound and impactful beyond measures. Whether it be leaving the door open for a stranger or organizing a volunteer group and hand out food to the homeless, do it because you want to help and […]

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Pass on the positivity with a simple act of kindness. It may not sound like a lot, but this is profound and impactful beyond measures. Whether it be leaving the door open for a stranger or organizing a volunteer group and hand out food to the homeless, do it because you want to help and give back. Share the abundance, there’s plenty to go around. Try it out and report back 🙂

As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimia Kalbasi.

Ambitious, bubbly, and charismatic are just a few of the ABCs that describe Kimia Kalbasi in a quintessential nutshell. Born in LA, raised in OC, schooled in SB, worked in NYC, and now residing in SF, Kimia is the creative content marketing powerhouse behind Kimia’s Kravings, your ultimate go-to guide for where to eat, drink, and play in style intertwined with puns and positivity. She has been featured in Forbes, Buzzfeed, Good Morning America Digital, and Huffington Post. Throughout her career, she leveraged her personal interests and goals into her full-time livelihood and transitioned from her extensive background in tech sales to content marketing and social media by utilizing her hobbies as her creative outlet. She thrives off networking, building and cultivating relationships and long-term partnerships, and above all, mentoring others. In her personal time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, staying active through hiking, hot yoga, boxing, cooking, and exploring hidden gems playing tourist as a local wherever she goes. The quote she lives by is, “It takes 10 years to create an overnight success” and is always more than happy to share a detailed background of her roller coaster of a professional journey. You can learn more about her at and follow along on her adventures @KimiasKravings.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

At 15, I created my own e-commerce website called K. Gift Baskets and then started a nutrition blog called NutriNerd back in ’08 (#TBT OG blogger days) and started a little greeting card biz with my sister where she wrote heartwarming poems inside and I drew the artwork on the outside. I’ve always had that go-getter, entrepreneurial spirit instilled within me for as long as I can remember. Above all, in a quintessential nutshell, I loved creating and I especially loved playing by my own rules. I knew what my interests were (I also was well aware of my weaknesses), and I had a vision of what I wanted my life to look like but I didn’t know how to get there. That was the exciting part of it all. I had always loved storytelling, documenting, and sharing experiences, and opening my world to the rest of the world. When social media emerged, I was hooked. Funny enough, ever since I was a little kid, my dream job was to be a journalist. I loved being in the know and keeping up with current events. Instead of watching Nick Jr, I’d watch the news with my parents. I found it so fascinating how the journalists would tell the stories and I loved knowing what was going on locally or around the world. As I got older, I felt the pressure of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life career-wise. I had embarked on a variety of internships and jobs before entering college and during college as well and I was constantly networking everywhere I went. It didn’t matter where I was, I would leverage my story and share it with whoever I met. Longest story short, after college, I took a corporate job and halfway through it, I began to freelance for an online food and travel site (which funnily happened through my networking where everything surfaced full circle but that’s a whole other story in itself). Since I was always documenting what I was up to and my adventures whether it was hanging out with friends or checking out new restaurants in the city, I was consistently uploading my experiences and this was way before “influencers” were even a thing. My interests aligned with today’s social media space. One day a friend reached out to me and said, “Kimia, I’m so surprised you never started a food blog! You go to the best places to eat.” That’s when the light bulb moment happened — I rebranded my social media from my first name and last name and specialized it to be more specialized niche and I still actually have the notes in my phone where I was brainstorming quirky names to rebrand myself 0 “Hungry Heart,” “Feels for Feels,” the list goes on and on. It was actually my cousin Parisa who came up with “Kimia’s Kravings” and she told me that when I grow, the term “Kravings” will still align beyond food, and boy oh boy, was she right. My rebranding occurred 2 years ago from this time around and I can’t begin to explain the endless opportunities this journey has brought for me and as much as it has brought on, I’m extremely humbled grateful for all of the incredible, mind-blowing, indescribably experiences, endeavors, lessons, and people this has brought into my life, and so excited for what’s yet to come. I still pinch myself to this day and quite frankly, it never gets old.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I have countless stories on stories on stories but the most profound one that comes to mind is definitely the story of how this all came to be. Longest story short — before college, I interned at a boutique PR agency in LA and one day my boss Kelley took me out to lunch with her friend Kat who at the time was writing for a major magazine and had interviewed all of the A-listers and I was simply in awe and asked her for guidance and advice (At the time I told her I wanted to be the next Giuliana Rancic). Funny enough, I recall she had mentioned wanting to get out of that scene. Fast forward to post-college, I was working my first corporate job but knew I was capable of so much more and wanted to something for fun where I could express my creativity. Funny enough, I remember stumbling upon Kat’s profile only to see that she left the magazine and was writing for a food and travel outlet and was also living in SF. I decided to send her a warm reach out and outright asked her if I could also write and contribute to this food and travel site. I’ve always loved writing for as long as I could remember and who doesn’t enjoy food and traveling and all that comes with it?I had always documented wherever I was going, the places I would go to explore and eat, etc. It provided me the opportunity to connect with publicists in the food and hospitality space to visit restaurants, hotels, travel destinations, etc. By going to all of these places, that allowed me to get creative and create content! It was perfect timing with how big influencer marketing has grown within the past year. Anyway, from there, Kat connected me to the editor-in-chief at the time who’s now one of my good friends Chelsea and from there I started writing away and taking on assignments. One day, Chelsea forwarded me a press release for an assignment to work on and I noticed that the press release came from “Kelley” and I thought to myself, “Hmm I wonder if this is my boss from my very first internship..there aren’t very many Kelley’s who spell it like that,” I scrolled down and sure enough it read Founder of Melrose PR and chills came down my spine. I immediately called her and we were cracking up. I couldn’t believe how the networking came into a full circle and to this day it still blows my mind.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake was thinking initially before I started that running a business is a smooth linear operation..think again. It’s a roller coaster and you’ve got to enjoy the ride, every up and down and those upside-down twirls that make it all worthwhile. The lows are low and the highs are high but regardless it’s a matter of keeping the momentum going. After all, it’s the journey that creates your unique story. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a finish line or “making it,” it’s a matter of going no matter how tough the going gets. I’ve also learned that you learn as you go. There is no manual or guidebook. You essentially create your own path and keep following that path. Keep going, keep building those blocks of your business and above all, keep building those relationships, and keep showing up. You realize how small the world is, particularly within each niche and industry and you never know you’ll run into again so keep nurturing those relationships.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

A Thought Leader is someone who is not only a widely acclaimed expert in their designated field but rather someone who empowers others in a thoughtful manner through spreading a wealth of knowledge. A thought leader is different from an influencer in the sense that a thought leader is recognized for their individual whereas an influencer is recognized for their audience base.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

It’s important to become a thought leader because it establishes authority, credibility, and trusts amongst an audience. If what you have to say is valuable, empower others and spread the knowledge. By empowering others, you empower yourself more and it makes the entire process the most worthwhile. The best part of being a thought leader is

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

1. Network! Network! Network! — For as long as I can remember, for the past decade, I loved going out of my way to find networking events and meet people and introduce myself everywhere I went. My goal was to ultimately create relationships with new people and swap stories everywhere I went. As the years go by, you realize how connected we truly are and it never ceases to amaze me.

2. Learn as much as you can, wherever you can

3. Do your homework


5. Pitch yourself

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Simon Sinek. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his books on leadership and the power of connecting with people through empathy and simply being human. I’m currently reading, “Leaders Eat Last.” He is constantly stretching people’s thinking about leadership, organizational structure, and busting myths about Millennials. My biggest takeaway from Simon is, “Leaders aren’t responsible for the results. They are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.”

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

Thought Leader is undoubtedly one of those “buzz words” — I think beyond the term, focus instead on the problem you’re trying to solve, such as growing your business 10X, creating a place where people want to come to work every day, or building a company with unlimited potential.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Make time for yourself! Set a few hours if not a couple of days in the month where your calendar is completely open for a “Me Day.” The work will always be there and it’s up to you to put a pause to the madness. There will always be countless emails to respond to, events to attend, people to meet with, and deadlines to meet but although at times it will appear as if you have no control over your schedule, you do by setting those boundaries. I personally like to set a couple of Sundays every month where I keep my days open to do what I enjoy most — from solo trips to the farmers market, walk around town with a coffee at hand and podcast plugged in, or cooking a new recipe at home. As a leader, you must also serve yourself to best serve others.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Pass on the positivity with a simple act of kindness. It may not sound like a lot, but this is profound and impactful beyond measures. Whether it be leaving the door open for a stranger or organizing a volunteer group and hand out food to the homeless, do it because you want to help and give back. Share the abundance, there’s plenty to go around. Try it out and report back 🙂

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It takes 10 years to create an overnight success.” For as long as I can remember, I had a clear vision of what I wanted my life to look like and have built the momentum that has lead to today. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Every step you take leads to the beautiful journey ahead and there is no finish line, you just keep going and enjoy the experiences along the way, even the hardest days. Those are the ones meant savoring the most. Attaining success doesn’t mean you’ve hit the final destination, it means what you’ve worked towards is coming to fruition and now you can enjoy the fruits of your labor to see what else you can grow in your garden.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

One word, Oprah. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a private breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, coffee, or midnight snack with Oprah? I remember rushing home from school to watch her show when it was on back in the day. Her energy was simply magnetic. Oprah exudes charisma, authenticity, strength, and overall wisdom and resilience. The way she carries herself so confidently in a poised manner is exactly what I emulate about her. She has impacted countless lives beyond her charitable efforts but through her ease of connecting with others and I’ve always admired that about her. The term inspiration doesn’t even cut it when it comes to Oprah.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@KimiasKravings 🙂

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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