Zayn Silmi, entrepreneur behind The People of Sacramento
“We the people” is a hot-button phrase these days, to say the least. Just before the November election, local entrepreneur Zayn Silmi started selling plain black tees emblazoned with “The People” across the chest, a Wagnerian nod to the current political maelstrom. But “The People” Silmi means are the people of Sacramento specifically. A Sacramento native who looks more like a Silicon Valley transplant, Silmi opened his own coffee shop just after graduating from Elk Grove High, but he quickly realized that his love of cafes is actually about the people who inhabit them. Now 23, Silmi is on a mission to put Sacramento on the world’s radar by profiling its people on his popular blog, The People of Sacramento, and slinging Sacramento swag at his favorite coffee shops.
What’s your history with Sacramento?
I’ve been in Sacramento my entire life. Out of high school, I founded a coffee shop because I was really into coffee and into people. At 17, I graduated, founded the coffee shop in Elk Grove and then eventually transitioned my lifestyle into downtown and Midtown. That’s really where the heart of the city is. Downtown Plaza is where I used to hang out, and I started realizing that now it’s being transformed.
And that’s why you started writing?
I was sitting at Temple Coffee with a couple of friends and just decided to start the blog. They were like, “What do you want to do with it?” And I thought: I just want to have a platform that spotlights Sacramento. I am tired of going to Chicago or New York or wherever and people are like, “What’s Sacramento?” Sacramento is the capital of California! People don’t realize all the amazing things that happen here, so I wanted to make that go international.
How do you find your subjects?
I meet them at events or discover them on Instagram. I’ll follow them for a bit to make sure that they are genuine. I want people who are really doing what they love, and not for the wrong reasons. They are doing it because it is actually their passion.
Now that the blog is successful, has your mission changed?
The mission is always to empower and inspire people. The slogan is: Do more of what you love. I just rolled out Sacramento Proud apparel, like the 916 hat. Next, I’m collaborating with local businesses. In honor of my birthday, February 10, I’m launching products that will be in all Temple stores.
You have a thing for coffee shops?
Coffee plays a big part in what I do. It was where I started the idea.
What are your favorite ones in Sacramento?
In order: Temple, Old Soul at Weatherstone, Seasons Coffee. The Temple where you could walk in almost any given time and find me is the K Street location. I’m there maybe twice a day. It’s about the atmosphere; I vibe off it. I can get creative ideas for how to write things just from the people around me.
Has writing always been a goal?
I don’t consider myself a writer. It’s just the way I curate the bios for these people. I write things in 22 characters because it has to fit on Instagram. That’s where people are going to read it. I know that writing is a craft, and I just consider myself a curator.
What are your thoughts on how the city is changing?
Sacramento is developing its culture right now. You have LA; you have San Francisco; your have New York, those cities that have already developed their cultures and aren’t going to change. Sacramento is building its culture, so you, me or anybody can be part of what the city is going to become. The development that’s happening is going to push us into a higher index level, to be a tourist destination.
What are the three biggest changes you’re excited for?
The public has no idea what’s going to hit Sacramento. It’s mind blowing to know what is actually happening. One thing is the completion of the Downtown Commons. There are three parts to that that will be completed in the next year and a half: the hotel, the commons, and the segue from Old Sac that will have retail.
How vital are the Kings to Sacramento pride?
They are the heart of it. I have a ton of NBA friends. Some that get traded off say they would never come to the Kings ever because they’re used to being out at Arco [Arena]. They’d just go there, the airport, and see Natomas. With the downtown now, it will bring free agents to the Kings, which will make the team better.
How would you finish the sentence, “Sacramento is ___”?
Sacramento is about being authentic.