Rachel King of Kaneh Co: “A dash of Fearlessness”

A dash of Fearlessness. If I were super cautious, I wouldn’t be here. Sometimes you need to take risks. You also need to realize that everyone is simply a person, just like you. So when you go into meetings with people that are supposedly more successful or wealthier than you, always remember that. How does a […]

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A dash of Fearlessness. If I were super cautious, I wouldn’t be here. Sometimes you need to take risks. You also need to realize that everyone is simply a person, just like you. So when you go into meetings with people that are supposedly more successful or wealthier than you, always remember that.

How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rachel King.

Rachel King is an acclaimed pastry chef, and the founder and culinary director behind Kaneh Co. Before kicking off the company in January 2016, Rachel spent years creating desserts for several of San Diego’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Mister A’s, NINE-TEN, Searsucker and Herringbone. A graduate of the San Diego Culinary Institute, Rachel has received numerous accolades for her creations and was nominated for Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Pastry Chef in 2013 and was recently featured on ABC Nightline’s Moms in Cannabis segment to share her growing business in the cannabis industry. With her knowledge and passion for pastries and sweets, Rachel transitioned from pastry chef to founder to build an elevated cannabis edibles brand with the vision of producing only high-end desserts, made with premium ingredients. Rachel lives in San Diego with her husband and two young sons. When she’s not baking delicious pastries, you’re likely to find her exploring the outdoors with her family.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I grew up in San Diego and spent most of my free time dancing. I attended a performing arts school where I danced and did drama during the day and went to ballet classes after school. Besides that, I was the typical San Diego kid growing up in the 80s; beach days, playing outside until the street lights turned on, slumber parties with friends. I got a little burnt out on dance once I was in high school and focused on having a good time and socializing. My grades were always up and down depending on how hard I tried. I graduated from SDSU and went to law school for a year after that. I then realized that I would never be that great at something I didn’t actually enjoy and decided to follow my passion and enroll in culinary school when I was 24. I worked at a bakery on the weekends and threw myself head-on into the culinary industry. I’ve always loved cooking (and eating), so I did a lot of that in my free time, but never actually believed it could be a fruitful career.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

I reluctantly fell into the cannabis world. My restaurant and hotel career was intentional and well thought out. The opportunity to work in cannabis presented itself to me when I was ready for a change. I was very much in the mindset that I would just give it a try and if it didn’t work out, I would go back to what I was already doing. But here we are six years later and I’m still at it.

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

It’s always surreal when you reach goals that you think are somewhat of a pipe dream or meet the people you look up to. I’m not particularly a five year plan, grandiose goal kind of gal. I’m a one foot in front of another and position yourself to be available for the best opportunities when they arise kind of goal-getter. So meeting culinary heroes and later calling me for advice is crazy for me, or doing events and being lumped in nationally recognized chefs. It’s a wild, full-circle feeling.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Ahhh. Like most people that are “successful,” I still debate whether that is the case and definitely have a case of imposter syndrome. But that’s another conversation for another time.

I would say my judgment, ability to adapt, and determination.

In terms of judgment, I know what I am good at and what I’m not. I’m confident to cut through the noise and see what’s real and what’s superfluous. And I’m great at pinpointing others areas to excel in. That allows me to help build our teams and place people optimally to grow.

Additionally, throughout my career I have always been quick to adapt. Every day is different and brings a new hurdle. Instead of focusing on what went wrong first, I always focus on the solution and then circle back to what happened. That way we are always moving forward.

Determination has played a major factor in my life. If I am going to do something, I am going to do it well. Failure because of not working hard enough or not being prepared is just not an option for me. I will use all my grit to find a way.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?

Centuries of conditioning and patriarchal programming are going to take years to extinguish. Things are moving in the right direction, but ultimately I believe it will take more time.

Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?

Unfortunately, it’s the classic “you are overreacting” when I respond to something versus a male counterpart being “passionate.” This happens all the time and is beyond frustrating because pointing this out rarely is helpful to change viewpoints.

A couple of months ago, a male colleague sent my staff and I an offensive and inappropriate email out of frustration with some issues they had been experiencing. I took responsibility for the issues but also set some boundaries for my team and let the colleague know that this type of behavior was unacceptable. The colleague continued to berate us through email and told me to “save my melodramatics.” This was then followed by apologies with excuses about being too passionate in additional emails.

Women do not get that luxury of being able to dismiss their behavior because of being too passionate. If the seats were swapped, I would have been deemed a bitch and the male colleague would have been applauded for defending his team.

This sort of thing is quite standard.

What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?

Perhaps this isn’t the most helpful, but in my opinion, nothing. Own your worth and take up space. I have struggled with this in the past, but always come back to the same place. Don’t diminish yourself to appease others.

What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?

This is going to be a long game, a generational shift that starts with how children are raised. Gender “norms” and traditional gender roles should not be the baseline. I am raising two boys and it is important for them to see me work, keep my boundaries, and excel. I will do my best to instill respect, equality, and social understanding upon them. It is important that understand that these artificial standards that society has impressed upon us are not real.

In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?

How much time do you have? Of course I do. Whether it is a me too moment or just mansplaining, I’ve experienced it all. But, I’ve always been a fan of setting standards from the get-go. First day on a job and someone demeans you? Make sure to cut it off right then and there. I guarantee it won’t happen again.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Two main things are at the top of my mind.

Communication style. Generations of women have been taught to be polite and be nice. Men have been taught to go after what they want. Although society is changing, I think whether many of us know it or not, we still fall back on what we have been taught. We sometimes miss opportunities because we are afraid to speak up.

There is also a well-circulated quote by Amy Westervelt that perfectly describes the main issue I deal with: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work.” These gender stereotypical roles don’t affect men in the same way. We are expected to do it all and sometimes that can lead to burnout, as something always has to give sooner or later.

Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?

Absolutely. Coming into the cannabis industry, I felt like an outsider. I was not the (false) stereotype of someone that would have an edibles business. I felt at home in restaurants but not at a grow or a cannabis festival. The industry has changed, and so have I, so I feel more at home now.

But I essentially helped start the business and got pregnant right away. It’s interesting to show up to a cannabis meeting eight months pregnant. Since starting this, I’ve taken two maternity leaves and have had to learn the hard way that I can’t crush it at everything, no matter how hard I try. There is always a give and take.

What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?

Boundaries. The realization that not everything needs to be handled at the moment and some things can wait until the next day or the following week. I still struggle with this even though I know it. It’s a work in progress. I got into a terrible habit of responding to emails in the middle of the night when I had post-partum anxiety and would be up at night breastfeeding. Now that my kids sleep through the night, I’ve gotten out of that, thankfully.

It’s really about realizing that there is an ebb and flow. Some days it’s 100% business, and some days it is 100% family. I can’t do it all every day and need to be present at what I’m doing at the time.

I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?

I think most people can be beautiful depending on their personalities and how they take care of themselves. I think society is opening up to different forms of beauty than the cookie-cutter mold that no one could fit into before.

When I was younger, I really cared about how I looked. I still care, but in a much different way. I care about taking care of myself and putting my best foot forward. I’m not worried about beauty in the kitchen, as it is definitely a hot unglamorous place, but in meetings and events. I think there is value in taking care of yourself as a leader as it points to how you take care of things as a whole. If you are a slob in how you live, you probably are the same at work.

How is this similar or different for men?

In my opinion, it is the same. How you do one thing is generally how you do everything. In terms of beauty standards, men versus women, that’s a long conversation. But in terms of business, I think everyone should be aware of how they present themselves.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

Resilience. Maybe something didn’t work. Oh well. Are you going to wallow about it, or are you going to get up, adjust, and try again? It happens. But you need to reassess and move on accordingly. Products that I have created and absolutely loved haven’t sold. Ok. Let’s discontinue them and figure out why they didn’t sell. Maybe I make a misstep and there are consequences I have to deal with. I try to fix it and then move forward. We can’t get stuck on things that went wrong or would never evolve.

Confidence. Even when that imposter’s syndrome kicks in, keep going. You are in this position for a reason. If you don’t have confidence, then no one else will have confidence in you. How are you going to pitch your product to someone else if you don’t actually believe in it?

Self-trust. Trust your knowledge. Trust your skills. Trust your intuition. Whenever I try to force something to work, even though I feel something is off, I always regret it. Always. Pay attention to red flags. Go with your instincts.

Humility. Know when you need help or don’t know how to do something. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer or to apologize. People can smell a bullshitter. Say you don’t know, and then try and get the answers.

A dash of Fearlessness. If I were super cautious, I wouldn’t be here. Sometimes you need to take risks. You also need to realize that everyone is simply a person, just like you. So when you go into meetings with people that are supposedly more successful or wealthier than you, always remember that.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Can I pick two? Please?

Both moms, athletes, and all-around powerhouses.

First, I would pick Serena Williams because I am deeply fascinated by people who are the absolute best at what they do. It’s not necessarily what they do but how they got there. I would want to hear all about her journey to greatness, her work ethic, how she overcame obstacles, and commiserate about motherhood. Maybe, just maybe, I could get her to partner with us through Serena Ventures.

Secondly, I ride my Peloton at least 4x a week and love all of the instructors, but Robin Arzon is 100% my vibe. I love her style of motivation and real talk advice. I would want to discuss her journey from law to fitness, motherhood, and how she has refined her authentic no nonsense approach.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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