From 90% Paycut to Restaurant Owner, Ji Hye Kim, Part 1 Ep 84

In this episode we hear Ji Hye’s move from being 13 when she came to the U.S. to her decision to become a managing partner and creator of Zingerman’s newest restaurant, a Korean cuisine restaurant, Miss Kim.

Ji Hye Kim and me in the Miss Kim Restaurant

I do all these shows with the Zingerman’s team because they’re so generous with their time. Getting guests on the show isn’t quite as easy as I previously thought, so when I send an email out to the Z-Team and they work with me to get 4-6 interviews over two days, I’m going to jump at the chance. And with the exception of Ari, I’ve had different people for 3 years in a row now. Amazing.

What’s interesting and what I would like you to hear from this set of interviews is their heart. The consistencies of the stories. The consistency I got from editing this set of episodes with Ji Hye Kim, managing partner of Miss Kim, was an institutional heart for the worth of people.

Ji Hye says that she’s a skeptic and a tougher person when it comes to personal interactions. The beautiful thing though is the systems and her ZCOB mentors all teach the importance of showing gratitude of the team’s work and of gaining the perspective of the team. She mentions a couple instances during our talk that show that it supports her in her growing as a leader that balances people, purpose, profit.

In this episode we hear Ji Hye’s move from being 13 when she came to the U.S. to her decision to become a managing partner and creator of Zingerman’s newest restaurant, a Korean cuisine restaurant, Miss Kim.

Again, hear the heart of Zingerman’s that inspires her to make some big decisions, like taking a job that meant a 90% cut in pay. 90%.

I would love to see your comments below, on our Facebook group page, or in an amazing review on your favorite podcast app.

Also, please join the email list to get an email every 3 weeks or so when I announce the latest series and also share any tips or news I’ve seen that will help you design a company that will engage your employees with inspiration and intentionality.


Miss Kim’s website –

MLive story titled, “Zingerman’s newest partner: San Street’s Ji Hye Kim is guided by passion”
— MLive

Notes Taken during the editing of the episode.

346 – When she moved to Ann Arbor, she finally felt she was able to make a decision on her own, throw caution to the wind and applied at Zingerman’s Delicatessen.

She saw an article in the NY Times about Zingerman’s Deli. And it seemed very different than all the places where she’d worked before. After reading

She worked accounts payable for large hospitals.

620  – She took a 90% step down in income coming to the deli.    It was also a step down on the level of responsibility and autonomy. Stepping down as an immigrant was a big step.

Decisions had been made for her and now she was able to make her own. She moved to Ann Arbor without a job, but back with her husband. It was liberating to make her own decisions. Financial situation made it easier. And the support of her husband helped her to make it as well.

Her mom owned her own nail salon. Her aunt owns a restaurant. Her Grandmother would sell food on the street in Korea after the war.

If she was going to spend 70 hours a week at a job, she wanted it to be something worthwhile and fulfilling.

It took her a couple years to grasp onto the idea of starting her own ZCOB business.   

What caught her attention about the NY Times article? Both it and the Inc. magazine article about Small Giants really captured her. How they treated employees, empowering employees and Open Book Management all were aspects of Zingerman’s grabbed her.

Her previous boss didn’t believe in training and also not in empowering people.

Bigger picture which helped her team to think independently and to make their own decisions. When her team understood the ramifications of their decisions, they

This is the list of the things you need to do and just do it.

Her moment or point of decision to become a partner: in her life she’d been poor and out of legal status. What would is the worst that could happen if the restaurant failed? It wasn’t as bad as she’d been in the past plus she would have a ton of experience after the fact.

Are you inspiring people to want to join your company based on how you treat your people? Why would someone be inspired to take a 90% pay cut to work for you?