A Conversation About Mezcal, Mexico, and Family-Run Business
This year I had the chance to meet Ashley Kvamme, an absolutely lovely human and the co-owner of Kimo Sabe, a mezcal company that she runs with her father. We hope you enjoy this little conversation with Ashley about her journey into the spirit business and why she loves the tradition and history of mezcal.
CHELSEA: What inspired you to start a business in the spirit industry?
ASHLEY: Agave, the source product for mezcal, was really the inspiration for starting our journey into the spirit business. My family has been in the agrarian business for over 30 years, having started the first USA chocolate plantation in Hawaii in 1985. The cacao plant took us to Mexico where we were cultivating a large-scale social growers’ project with organic cacao. The more time we spent in Mexico, the more we got to know the real spirit of mezcal – the ceremonial drink of the country – and fell in love.
CHELSEA: What do you love most about the industry?
ASHLEY: Spirits take you into so many different realms of the world. Learning about the Mexican culture, its 12,000 year history of accepting and integrating various people into its culture, and, of course, the different mezcals has changed my philosophy about life. Mexico is so heart-centric; every time I visit I’m reminded of the spirit of Kimo Sabe: trusted friends. It feels like we are creating an extended family across the world. It brings me joy to know that the essence of trusted friendship contained in every bottled is well received by the people who drink it.
CHELSEA: What did you do before starting Kimo Sabe?
ASHLEY: I worked with my father in the chocolate business on and off my whole life. But for a few years I had a modeling and acting career in Los Angeles. I am so thankful for that time as it was really a training ground for all the public presentations and media talks I have to do now like seminars at Disney or conversations with publications.
CHELSEA: What is the most challenging thing about running Kimo Sabe?
ASHLEY: The most challenging thing is also one of the most rewarding, and that’s team management. I love our team. In fact, our first employee, whom we hired three years ago, is still with us, and I find that humbling. She is family to us, and ultimately that’s how I feel about our entire team. It also makes it very difficult when you are forced to part ways, as our connection to them is usually deeper than just an employer / employee relationship.
CHELSEA: And the most rewarding?
ASHLEY: The time I get to spend with my father, and really my whole family, on a daily basis. It’s a blessing to have this relationship and work partnership. It makes every day worth it – even at its hardest moments.
CHELSEA: What are your biggest fears related to the business right now?
ASHLEY: The state of the US relationship with Mexico is concerning. But we created our Building Bridges partnership with the state of Zacatecas to implement a growers’ program to help build the agave trade and bring jobs and agri-tourism to Mexico.
CHELSEA: What kind of impact do you hope to make on the world?
ASHLEY: Growing up in an entrepreneurial family and then marrying into one, I see the joys but also the heartache and loneliness that comes with being an entrepreneur. My goal is to help guide other entrepreneurs on their journey as it’s a varied terrain that can be very scary when done alone (which is also what drew me to Bossladies as your mission is so similar!)