Super excited to bring you this week’s Spotlight interview with Sudduf from Salam Shop!
Salam Shop is an inspirational lifestyle shop for modern Muslim and is based in Ontario, Canada, and we are very lucky to be able to have some of our Life Of My Heart prints and products stocked in this awesome shop!
We love our retailers and for Salam Shop that is exceptionally true, it’s an honor for us to be stocked all the way over there in Canada 🙂
– Marryam x
Where is Salam Shop located?
Toronto, Ontario in Canada
In one sentence, describe your motivation in life:
To serve as a devotee to Allah swt in everything that I do and make sure that my intention in everything I do is pure,
to do everything I can to reach the highest level of Jannah Al-Firdaus inshallah.
Tell us the story of how you got started with your artwork/business:
I went to University for Materials Engineering, I’m an engineer and I worked in the industry for 3 years. I actually worked at a nuclear power plant – it was a very technical job, I even had a hard hat and everything! I loved it, it was a lot of fun and it was really challenging but it wasn’t fulfilling.
I didn’t feel like I was making a difference in the world, and the only way I could kind of make myself motivated to go to work everyday is by telling myself that I’m turning the lights on in people’s homes and in hospitals and that is important, but after a while, I realized that I really wanted that face to face communication with people that I was making an impact on.
So I decided to back to school to get my Masters in Business, so I have an MBA from the Richard Ivy School of Business, and my purpose with getting the MBA was to start my own business. Before that I had dabbled in several different businesses. I was always doing something on the side when I was working and in school but I wanted to have more business knowledge so that I could do it in a way where I was able to build the strategy and have the skills, tools and the network needed to succeed.
So that’s where I started developing the concept of starting a business that would bring me closer to Islam and I dabbled in a modest fashion business at the time and after a while I realized that alhamdulillah there were lots of other businesses coming up that were doing modest fashion and were doing it a lot better than I was, so I realized ok I’m going to step back now, and come up with something else.
And that’s when I was also preparing for hajj, when I came up with the concept of Salam Shop.
So Salam Shop is a lifestyle boutique for modern Muslims, we focus on products that are predominantly locally made, handmade, ethically produced or fairtrade. Our vision is to spread the love and beauty of Islam. So when you walk into Salam Shop, you feel like you belong regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of how serious you are about your faith, or how you practice your faith, and regardless of your cultural background – you feel like you belong alhamdulillah.
So when I was planning for hajj I just wanted to do something with my life that was more meaningful, and that’s where I started coming up with the concept and alhamdulillah because of the network that I was in I felt that I had access to these wonderful businesswomen and businessmen who had amazing products and just didn’t have the means to open up a storefront location. And I realized that by bringing the different brands together I would be able to do that in a financially possible way.
So that’s how I got started, and my intention was always to showcase Islam in a beautiful way, and I always tried to keep that intention, and my focus on why I am doing this and that is so in my daily life I can spend predominantly most of my working hours for the sake of Islam, so that I’m working towards the Hereafter insha Allah.
What is one of your favourite parts of working on Salam Shop and why?
That’s a great question! there are so many favourite parts of working on Salam Shop, I would say my top favorite part or my number one reason why I love working on Slaam Shop, is that I learn so much about Islam in the process.
Sometimes it’s a print that has an ayat on it that I may not have seen before, which I then go and research – I just pull out my Qur’an and it just gives me another reason to learn more about the religion, so I love that. I love that I’m always surrounded by Islam so even when I’m at the shop working, I can just pull out one of the Islamic books that we sell.
I get inspired by the different artwork that we have, and the modest fashion motivates me to dress in that way – it just completely encompasses every part of my life now, whereas before it wasn’t as much.
When you’re working a corporate job of course you try and remind yourself, but this is in such an in your face way – it’s 24/7 and I love it! I always wanted something like that and I feel so blessed to be able to be surrounded by Islam all the time alhamdulillah.
Of course my other favorite parts of working on Salam Shop is I love meeting new people, I love meeting female entrepreneurs, I love helping them with their businesses, I love interacting with people – our customers, we call them our guests. I love interacting with them I love learning about them.
And events, I love being able to plan events and have a venue to hold them in, and just the idea of being able to have a creative outlet. Anything that I want to test out on the market, or explore, alhamdulillah I have a venue where i’m able to do that. I have a group of customers that I can run the idea by, or try out on it, and for that I feel incredibly blessed.
What has been the highlight or ‘I can’t believe this!’ moment so far on your artistic/entrepreneurial journey?
Alhamdulillah, I feel like the moment was actually on the night of Layla-tul quadr, I was at ISNA masjid in Mississauga with my friend Annum and we were just on a break I believe, from our prayers, and I received a text from someone saying ‘have you seen this?’ – it was a link to an online article by the Toronto Star on us, on Salam Shop.
I had done the interview a few days prior and I didn’t know when the article would appear or what the tone of the article would be, but alhamdullah I just felt ohmigosh we’re in the Toronto Star, we’ve only been open for less than 6 months, this is amazing mashallah and just imagine the positivity that they’re portraying Islam as in this paper that everyone here reads.
So I thought it was awesome, especially when there’s so much negativity in the media about Muslims, so that was amazing. The the next day when I went to go pick up the paper from our local grocery because I wanted to buy a copy for my dad, I noticed that the article and my face and a few of our products were actually on the front page header!
It was just amazing to see a girl wearing a hijab and the caption was something like ‘where Muslims buy cool stuff’ or something with the word cool and muslims in the same sentence which I thought was insane!
Alhamdulillah that led to a lot of non-Muslims coming to the store after they read the article and purchasing eid presents for their neighbors, their family and their friends – I almost had tears in my eyes when we had very old women come in saying ‘oh my neighbors are muslim and I want to purchase them a gift for eid because i know they’re going to be celebrating it’ – these people were so excited to be able to come in and do something special for their neighbors so alhamdulillah that was a crazy moment, I still get chills thinking about that!
How does your faith affect your approach to your art/business?
I think going for hajj really changed the way I do everything, it’s been about a year now so I really want to renew those intentions, and try to continue them today.
I realize that everything I do is part of my story. There’s nothing that I will do or say that isn’t recorded so it’s not about the the profit or the fame at the end of the day, although of course the purpose of business is to make a profit but it’s at the end of the day, have I conducted business in an ethical way that Allah swt would be happy to see.
Will He be happy with it? I think that’s the biggest thing, sometimes there are moments where I’m incredibly frustrated and i just wish I could, you know, do x y or z and then I take a step back and realise that, okay, why am I doing this? Why am I here, what’s my purpose?
And I realize that those frustrating situations are tests from Allah swt, so you react in a way that you think He will be happy with. And you want to pass the test of course!
What/where/who inspires you?
Definitely Khadijah (ra) inspires me, just the fact that she was this woman who was incredibly powerful in a time where things were very different than they are now. And the fact that she was also an incredibly supportive wife, she was a mother, she had been through so much in her life, and she was still able to be so influential and honest along the way.
Other than that my mum is my biggest inspiration, the fact that she immigrated to this country super young, she had kids when she was young and brought us all up to be independent women, career oriented but also family oriented. Also her ability to just laugh off the challenges that life throws at her, is definiltey a part of my inspiration for sure.
How do you handle the inevitable creative block?
I make lists, and then I make lists of the lists, and then I have these little boxes beside the items to check them off. So it’s all about creating the lists and then checking them off.
When I feel like there’s too much to do and I can’t handle it, I pull out my rainbow quran and just read it – everything is always better after that alhamdulillah.
And how I handle the creative block, I think alhamdulillah I’ve learnt to have a business bestie!
I feel that my sales staff as well as a few close friends of mine and of course my husband, they help with the creative block. So I have people that I go to and tell them my goals and ask them if they think they are good ideas, and definitely the idea you come up with after speaking to people is always a bazillion times better than the one where you just came up with it on your own.
What 2 pieces of advice, based on your own experience, would you give to a fellow entrepreneur starting out?
Oh great this is my favorite thing, i love talking to entrepreneurs who are just starting out – specifically female entrepreneurs, I love having that conversation with them!
1 ) What are you passionate about? You have to be passionate about the idea that you are pursuing. Is it something that if you made half the amount of money that you would make in your current full time job would you still love it? And is it something you could see yourself doing 5 years from now?
Some ideas will make you tons of money but if you’re not passionate about it you’re not going to make tons of money from it because you need to have that passion piece.
2) Focus, focus, focus! It’s better to focus on one idea and do it amazingly well and execute it in a strong and great way, than it is to execute 10 ideas and do them in a bad way. Make it very clear to your customers what it is that you’re all about and go from there.
Favourite Social Media or Marketing Platform?
Instagram is amazing, we have people coming in multiple times a day to the shop and saying that they saw us on Instagram and they saw x, y, or z product on Instagram and they want to purchase it. I fear the next bout of social media apps that I need to catch up with! Insha Allah Snapchat will be something that we join as well pretty soon and Periscope as well..but for now Instagram is amazing!
I try to promote a lot of positivity and positive energy on my feed, sometimes people think that Instagram is not real life, but for Salam Shop it’s all about making people feel the love and beauty of Islam, so I post a lot of positive things – we want people to feel a certain feeling!
If you could travel to one place anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
That’s a great question, it’s really fitting because it’s Hajj season and if I could go anywhere in the world right now, or anytime, I would want to go to Mecca or Medina..I love Medina, I love the feeling you get when you are there, you just feel at peace being in the Prophet’s (saw) city and life is so simple, you literally sleep and pray and eat and then you repeat that whole cycle!
You realize what’s important in life, you realize the baraka of being in that city and just how life could be if you didn’t have all your other obligations and responsibilities.
So yes that’s where I would go right now, I would go to hajj again. Insha Allah one day I’ll get to go back there and I hope that inshallah everyone who is reading this will be blessed with the invitation to go for Hajj.
If you’re ever doubting when to go – a lot of people advocate going when you’re older, but I say absolutely not! Before you buy a house, before you buy a car, start saving for Hajj – it will change your life for the better! It puts a whole new perspective on your life.
Where would you love to see your business in 5 years time?
We’re going to be expanding, we’d like to open up licensed stores in other countries insha Allah, so we’re looking at a few other locations right now.
We love the idea of Salam Shop being a sort of tourist destination that it has become. We have noticed that people travel from other countries to visit their friends and family in the area, and make a stop at Salam Shop, but we’d love it if there was a Salam Shop in other cities, or wherever, maybe even Australia!
I would love to just keep sharing the love and beauty of Islam and spread the message of so many entrepreneurs and their products in a way that is profitable for all of them.
Any other words of advice?
I come from a big family – I have 4 sisters. My parents are from Pakistan and they came to Canada about 36 years ago, and I think one thing that reminds me of how grateful I should be is that I just remember their story, they came here with not knowing anyone and basically starting their life with nothing.
I just think that today there is no way I could be doing what I’m doing if my parents hadn’t literally sacrificed their entire youth on their kids. It always makes me feel like I wish I could do more for my parents, and I try my best but I feel that I’m not doing enough.
Your life here is so short, just cherish your parents and everything they’ve done for you, there’s no way you could be here without your parents regardless of your relationship with them – just remember that you couldn’t have what you have without them!
You can find Salam Shop here: