Anela Malik is the food writer and advocate behind local blog Feed the Malik. Anela is best known for her advocacy for restaurants owned by marginalized peoples, particularly Black-owned restaurants. She created a widely used directory of Black-owned restaurants open in the DC area and has been working to match Black-owned restaurants with free services to help them survive and thrive during the pandemic.
- CEO Hack: Cleaning out the messages and staying on top of the inbox
- CEO Nugget: Shake off the pressure to be like everyone else
- CEO Defined: Making my own rules and decisions
Directory of Black-owned restaurants in the DMV: https://www.feedthemalik.com/post/dc-black-owned-open-covid-19
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.
Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today Anela Malik of Feed the Malik, it’s awesome to have you on the show.
Anela Malik 0:38
Thanks for having me. I’m really excited.
Gresham Harkless 0:40
No problem super excited to have you on. And before we jumped in, I want to read a little bit more about Anela Malik. So you can hear about all the awesome things that she’s doing. And Anela is the food writer and advocate behind local blog Feed the Malik. Anela is best known for her advocacy for restaurants owned by marginalized peoples, particularly Black-owned restaurants. She created a widely used directory of Black-owned restaurants open in the DC area and has been working to match Black-owned restaurants with free services to help them survive and thrive during the pandemic. Anela, are you ready to speak to the iamceo community?
Anela Malik 1:12
Gresham Harkless 1:13
Awesome. Let’s do it. So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit and hear more about what I call your CEO story. And we’ll let you get started with all the awesome things you’re working on.
Anela Malik 1:22
I actually was living abroad, and I wanted to push myself, you know, when you’re an American living abroad, I think the easiest way to go about your life is to hang out with other English speakers to hang out with other Americans. And to do the things that are pretty, you know, pretty widely covered on the travel blogs or the travel guides. And I wanted something more. You know, if I wanted to only get to know Americans, I would have stayed in the United States. And so I started blogging, I started teaching myself about photography and videography, as an avenue to further explore my community. And that’s really how I got started. And I saw that, you know, the work I was doing was really powerful when I had friends who came to visit me and I was in the Middle East at the time, who admitted that, you know, because of the common perception of the Middle East as being really unsafe and unfriendly, they would have never traveled in this region. But they decided to come after they, as my friends you know, followed my blog and saw kind of the the generous hospitality of the people in my community, the depth of you know, friendships and relationships I had built there, and just the amazing things to do and incredible food. So that was the moment that I really realized that what I was doing as just a fun project could be really powerful. And I continued that project when I came back to the United States, and I moved back to Washington DC about a year ago.
Gresham Harkless 2:50
Nice, I definitely appreciate you for doing that. And you know, helping you know, your friends and not helping so many other people out there. And I think the strongest word that I, you know, I heard was that exploration part. And I think so many times that if we just kind of sometimes do the things that we’re passionate about things that we’re interested in a whole entire world not only opens up for us, but I think as you’ve been able to do, it opens up for so many other people.
Anela Malik 3:12
Yeah, that’s definitely true.
Gresham Harkless 3:14
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. So I wanted to drill down a little bit deeper here a little bit more about your blog, and all the awesome things that we can find there. Could you take us through exactly what we can find there and what exactly it does to serve the community?
Anela Malik 3:24
Absolutely. So I blog primarily through Instagram, my handle is Feed the Malik, and I also have a website, feedthemalik.com. And now that I’m based in Washington, DC, I focus on highlighting the work of marginalized peoples in food, be that women, you know, minorities, undocumented folks who frankly, really make up the underpinnings of our food system, but so often are not lauded or given awards. So that’s the work that I do in general, but what you’re going to find on my, my Instagram page, and on my blog, our reviews of places you might not ever see anywhere else, you know, they’re not going to be an eater, they’re not going to be an edible. These are places without budgets for PR teams, their mom and pop shops most often, you’re going to hear the stories of the people who created these businesses, who you know, really follow their dreams to to feed people. So often what leads folks to working in food is that they love food, and then it becomes a career for them. And now because of this particular moment we’ve been in since the outgrowth of you know, the civil rights movement that we’ve seen in response to George Floyd’s death and the deaths of others. I have focused a lot on promoting and supporting local black owned businesses. As we know historically in America, black owned businesses lack the same access to capital and lending that other businesses might have access to. So you know, if we think about them, starting From an unequal position, then the COVID crisis has a dramatic impact on that business community. And so I’ve been trying to use my platform to, to fill the gap however I can, and whether that’s to drive customers or to share their stories, or now to help, you know, align these business owners with resources.
Gresham Harkless 5:21
Nice, I definitely appreciate that. And, you know, as you said, so Well, I think so many times, especially during this pandemic, you know, organizations, businesses, restaurants, very specifically, you know, get overlooked sometimes in those opportunities. So I think one of the big things that, you know, you’re you’re definitely reminding us of is that we sometimes have a platform by which we can use data to be the change we hope to see in the world. I think so many times, those organizations and those businesses, black owned organizations, those marginalized people, they’ve started their business in order to give a gift to the world. And, you know, I appreciate you by being a way by which they’re able to do that to even more people than they could have. Because I think, you know, it’s a shame because they have such a passion and gift for the businesses and things that they create. And being able to kind of have that opportunity to share more with everybody else is definitely something phenomenal. You’re doing.
Anela Malik 6:11
Absolutely. Thank you. I do my best.
Gresham Harkless 6:13
Anela Malik 6:14
I do what I can.
Gresham Harkless 6:15
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that’s, you know, the thing that we all have on our forefront. And that’s the beauty of this time of day and age is that we have the opportunities, we have more tools than we’ve ever had, I should say, to really get those names out there, whether it be Instagram or your blog, and all the awesome things you’ve been able to do. They’re awesome, awesome, awesome. So I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. And this could be for yourself, or your business or combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?
Anela Malik 6:43
Oh, I’ve never been asked this question. Um, yes, I would say in the food blogging space, my secret sauce has been that I’ve been, you know, explicitly political and outspoken in a space where, for so long, the the narrative has been dominated by trends. And so I do think that set me a part where, primarily what you’re going to see in the food blogging speed scene, or food writing scene is, you know, simple reviews, backstories of chefs. And what I call food porn, which is, you know, melted cheese, things with lots of sauce. Like, if you can pour the syrup over a stack of pancakes really slowly, that does well. And all of that’s beautiful, right? It speaks to us, because we can we can see it, and then we can almost taste it. And that’s what you want. But I think what set me apart was that I, you know, I acknowledge these trends are powerful. But I also acknowledge that the very human stories that make up the food industry are also powerful. And, you know, I’ve been really satisfied to see that people want more than just pancake syrup, and fried cheese. And people do want to hear and learn about where their food comes from, and who makes it and how they learn to make it. And I think that, particularly in the food space, that’s really powerful, because we all like food. And we all have personal stories connected to food, either an incredible meal we had with friends, or a dish we learned to make, you know, from our parents at home, or even the way that food is kind of a, it carries historical memory, right? The dishes we make now are informed by generations of folks before us who made similar things, or perfected this technique. So in the food space, I’ve really think set myself apart by embracing the fact that food is complicated, and, at times very politicized, and also very human.
Gresham Harkless 8:53
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an apple book or habit that you have. But what’s something that makes you more effective and efficient?
Anela Malik 9:05
Mine, it’s gonna be something probably controversial. clean out your messages. What as your as your business grows, or your side hustle grows, or your hobby grows, you’re going to receive more and more correspondence from other people who either want to work with you or they want part of your expertise, or they have a suggestion or they have a question. And that’s because you’re, you know, your profile is grown. And I have seen and heard a lot of folks who are like, Oh, you know, if it doesn’t seem worth my time, I don’t reply to these messages. I just delete them. Or I know other other folks who, you know, they let their inboxes pile up and I have come across I kid you not some of the most incredible, like life altering opportunities in my inbox that at first seemed like nothing if they seemed like the things that you would push to the bottom or maybe not reply to And, you know, even if it’s a quick No, even if it’s a, an ask or you’re asking, you know, how exactly do you view my participation in this project, I think staying on top of your inbox is essential, because you never know what you’re going to miss. And, you know, you never know who the person on the other end is if you ignore a message that you think isn’t worth your time. And and I really speak as someone who operates in kind of the the social media space, because I think this is more common in social media than it is for traditional businesses that operate primarily through email. But if you ignore a message from someone, because you don’t think it’s worth your time, and you don’t know who that is, you never know in the future, if that person is going to be someone you want to work with. And even a quick Hey, I don’t think this aligns with the project we’re working on right now. But thanks so much for reaching out. That type of professional communication builds relationships, and it, you know, it helps position you to others as someone that they’ll keep in mind for projects for the future.
Gresham Harkless 11:05
Absolutely, absolutely. So I love that. Thanks for that reminder. And now I’ll ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. And that could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, it might be something you would tell yourself, you were to happen to a time machine,
Anela Malik 11:18
I would tell myself at the beginning that, you know, I should just shake off the pressure to be like everyone else. Especially when you’re first starting out with a project, you want to learn from others who have done similar things successfully. But, you know, I, I hesitate, because in I think in the early stages, it’s easy to want to become those people, and to emulate them so much that you follow in their footsteps without kind of listening to your inner direction. And you can build a similar project, you can work in the same niche, but you will never be that person because your background is different. Your education is different. And even your leadership style is going to be different. And so you know, learn from others network, ask questions, don’t be afraid of sounding dumb, just keep asking questions, but don’t feel pressure to become someone else, or to do exactly what they’re doing. Because there is always space for a new idea.
Gresham Harkless 12:22
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. So now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO and a whole bunch of different quote-unquote, CEOs on the show. So I know I would just be the CEO means you
Anela Malik 12:31
Making my own rules. And I say that as someone who, you know, has this, this blog, this project that has grown from me figuring out how to make my own website to now I’m looking towards, okay, in the near future, I’m going to need to hire staff. And that is an incredible feeling. But, you know, I’ve I’ve done that from the beginning by saying, Okay, I’m going to do this my way. And I want to do this because I want to work for myself. I want to make my own rules. And I want the person who I check in with at the end of the day to see, hey, was this work satisfactory? Should I do this different? Should I, you know, push harder, I wanted to be me at the end of the day. And, you know, I, I’ve had a lot of a lot of jobs. I was I worked in the restaurant industry for almost 10 years, I was a server for a long time and a hostess and a busser. And all the things and what I learned from those experiences is that ultimately, I wanted to be the one to make the decisions at the end of the day.
Gresham Harkless 13:44
Nice. I absolutely. You know, love that definition, that perspective. And you’re absolutely right. I think when you I mean, I think that obviously you can take steps, you can follow trends, you can do all those things, as we kind of spoke to during the interview. But I think that when you look in the mirror, can you honestly say that you are quote unquote free? Do you really have that opportunity to play by your own rules to create those rules and set those rules? And I think that what you speak to is something that I think when we kind of look at ourselves in the mirror and understand exactly what we’re hoping to accomplish. If you can’t answer to yourself in Are you really free. And I think that that’s a incredible perspective and definition that we all need to remind ourselves of,
Anela Malik 14:22
I still remind myself of it every day,
Gresham Harkless 14:24
if you absolutely have to, right. So I truly appreciate that definition. In that perspective. I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic so to speak, just to see if there’s anything additional you can let our readers and listeners know and of course how best they can get overview and find out about all of us and things you’re working on.
Anela Malik 14:39
So I would say my final note to your readers and listeners is that podcasts like this are invaluable. You know, as I started my project where I admitted during the interview, I didn’t know very much I wasn’t a photographer, I wasn’t a videographer. I didn’t have these skills. I didn’t know anything about CEO or all of the other things you need to be successful. a blogger and writer. And I learned so much from free resources that were primarily podcasts. So don’t discount, you know, the expertise that’s available just because it’s packaged in a free form, don’t think you always have to pay for a class, though there might be times where that is most appropriate. So that’s my, that’s my, you know, my final note, I always try to remind people that there is a wealth of free information on the internet, if you do a little bit of digging, or you know, on your phone. And if you want to find me, I’m on Instagram at Feed the Malik, or my webpage is feedthemalik.com you’re gonna find good food there, you’re gonna find, you know, some historical stories, some funny stories and a whole lot of, of humanity.
Gresham Harkless 15:48
Absolutely, why I definitely appreciate that. And now that we will have the links and information in the show notes, but definitely, you know, appreciate that reminder. You know, I always say that when you peel back down, you know, business, sometimes you forget about that human aspect. But each of the businesses and organizations are made up of people, and understanding that human aspect and I appreciate you for highlighting that as well too. And, of course, reminding us of the University of Google and the University of YouTube and the University of podcasts as well to where there’s loads and loads of great content and information that can make us bigger and better in so many different aspects. So thank you so much again, and hope you have a great rest of the day.
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