This interview was by far the most personally relatable for me because business advice plus mommyhood advice are equally welcome right now. I scribbled a dozen takeaways to apply later to my own business of trying to lock down a publishing deal for my books. In a word, Danielle Sallam’s hiccup was juggling the overwhelming needs of launching a brand with a new born baby in her arms and another by her side.
A resident of Dubai going on 7 years now, Danielle Sallam has a teaching and fitness background and is a doer in the purest sense. Originally from Vancouver Canada she has that appreciation of health and nature, but my big question is what possessed her to launch a start-up alongside a little baby? Most mamas would find their hands full at the mere prospect of a newborn.
With the perfect striped shirt from Zara, Danielle has short blonde hair with a high-energy vibe about her hazel eyes and could easily be a TV presenter or work in fashion. Instead of a watch, she wears a simple black bracelet of round circles. Pure simplicity. Stay with what works. Kinda like how popcorn is just good no matter what’s drizzled over it and everyone agrees on that.
“I had my first daughter when I was 29 and we moved to Dubai when she was 3. We initially moved to Dubai with my husband who was starting his company…” Don’t we all? “I honestly didn’t do much when first here; I worked out and trained friends.”
How The Salad Jar started is one of those life-changing moments that comes in the most mundane packages. “I was on Skype with a best friend and she suggested I put my trademark quinoa salad in a jar for my husband’s lunch. My eavesdropping husband came home with some Mason jars and encouraged me to actually do it.”
Danielle’s second daughter was 5 months old and not sleeping through the night so the thought of starting a salad business was absurd. And yet, it’s been almost 2.5 years since that first quinoa-salad-in-a-jar. Danielle credits her Irish-Egyptian husband, who was also born in Canada, for part of her success. “I’ve known him since I was 13 and he relates to me completely when no one else can.” Visions of a fusion of kushari and River Dance flood my mind.
She started doing costings and coming up with recipes and, like anything in life, “looking for inspiration” became finding inspiration. She was suddenly making 10 salad jars a day. She moved operations out of her kitchen to the perfect space in Al Quoz (industrial area in Dubai). Soon she was making 140 jars per week, working 12-hour days.
How did she not burn out? “Hard work, patience, timing, and…” she gives me a small smile, “luck.” The business model appealed in that people could stay where they were and their salads were delivered. “Be where you are and I bring it to you.”
The actual hiccup was juggling all of the ingredients to grow The Salad Jar plus two amazing daughters. She was always up at night because Amira was sick a lot with allergies. “I needed… patience. Sure I had my moments but then I had to let it go. Not holding on is key because that’s when things get heavy.” That’s the key, to my ears, parenting is like following a certain recipe… if it doesn’t work tweak it and implement something new until you are in the flow again.
Danielle admits to “feeling guilty that I wasn’t with Amira like I was with Julia. But she’s happy. I had to balance taking care of my babies, working around clock and being present.”
Her advice to mamas looking to do something is to look to your obvious talents to share because it’s easier to share something you love. Start small and build a solid base. Be open to adapt to what comes your way. People who like it will follow. Keep your head down and build a brand as fast as you can.
She’s honest in telling me that she doesn’t know the feeling of being tired or down. A delicate bulldozer with clear vision and a ‘let’s get it done’ attitude, Danielle’s all about working with her own flow. She didn’t have to tweak who she was to fit in, she brought who she is at her core to her business, and to mommyhood.
Now, The Salad Jar is blooming with 16 staff added in one year. Like the best leaders, Danielle attributes the success to those who surround her leaving no space for self-glorification. She regards her employees as her #1s, and her customers as #2. “I’m a mom at work and home.”
She runs her company like you would imagine the best companies are run with a staff lunch every Thursday and lots of mini birthday celebrations. I can imagine group hugs are the norm. “Simple things are not easy to do well.”
As I get up to go and she reminds me not to forget the three salads she brought me (because my Preggo brain did forget and she knows that). So what’s her secret ingredient, literally? “Really, I have so much patience. I didn’t realize that until Amira and starting The Salad Jar. Neither would have happened without patience and they definitely wouldn’t have happened at the same time without patience.”