Ever had one those Debbie downer days, where despite your best efforts, all you can think is, “I’m done. I can’t do anymore. There is no way I can make it,”? Don’t feel bad; it’s totes normal. We’ve all had times in our lives when we get discouraged, but one of the major keys (DJ Khaled voice) is to find what motivates you, and keep moving.
One of the things that motivates us here at Muslim Girl is learning about other women who are rocking it out and making waves in the world, and we hope learning about these successful Muslimahs will do the same for you. You may even see some of yourself in their stories, or something that will spark a fire within you, motivating you to move forward with your dreams. So, we’ve dedicated a whole series to it, called #MuslimGirlFire, and in this series, you’ll get to know some of the Muslimahs who are out here making major moves, one baddie at time.
Today, we want you to meet Sudduff Wyne.
Sudduf Wyne is a Canadian-born Muslim, engineer, MBA, and the creative director and founder of a super fabulous lifestyle boutique called Salam Shop. In a world where Muslims are under constant scrutiny, Sudduf has found her own way to stand out as a Muslimah. Sudduf’s role isn’t just limited to running a business; she’s also aiding Muslims in creating a positive image and fighting against negative stereotypes of women, Muslim women particularly.
As a “serial entrepreneur,” creative junkie, and female empowerment advocate, Sudduf is on a mission to spread the love and beauty of Islam through her creative lifestyle boutique. Her goal is to motivate other women to wholeheartedly pursue their own creative ventures, as well.
Muslim Girl had the opportunity catch up with this go-getter, and ask her some questions that may benefit anyone who may be struggling to overcome barriers and challenges in the pursuit of achieving their dreams.
Muslim Girl: Tell us a little about you, and your background?
Sudduf Wyne: I like to inspire others to follow their dreams. I’m currently working on a really cool project that focuses on spreading the love and beauty of Islam. I guess what I try to do is empower women through my love for Islam, and my love for seeing others succeed. I hope I can inspire them.
I am Pakistani, Kashmiri, and was born in Canada. I was brought up in a fairly large family with two older sisters and two younger sisters. My parents are immigrants from Pakistan. We grew up with our family focus always on education. The push was to make us independent women with good jobs, to be able to stand on our two feet, and be financially stable. I went on to study engineering, and then later got an MBA. I was always your classic overachiever as a young kid; it was exhausting, but I didn’t realize it until I turned 30–not that it changed much. I’m still an overachiever, but I take time to relax more often now, and spend more time “offline” with my family. The cool thing that I’ve learned from life is that failures are actually just great learning experiences, and in my background working for the government, startups, and now working for myself, I see that those experiences have helped shape who I am today.
MG: What is Salam Shop?
SW: Salam Shop is a lifestyle boutique for Muslims. It encompasses the idea of spreading the love and beauty of Islam, so we really cater to a diverse set of individuals, particularly Canadian Muslims. We really want to bring a Canadian experience to people who were born and raised here, people who want to incorporate Islam into their everyday life, but not in a traditional way–more in a Canadian Westernized way.
So what we carry is anything you would use in your life such as home decor, clothing, children’s products like books, teas, and even coffee mugs that remind you to make dua. We carry scarves, hijabs, jewelry, books that have specifically been written by authors from North America, and books specifically for women because we feel like there is a lack of books that are by women, for women. In addition to all of that, we’re the best gift shop in the city. We have lots of items that can be used for numerous gift giving occasions.
MG: What inspired you to launch Salam Shop?
SW: While I was planning for Hajj back in 2014, I was working at a tech start-up in downtown Toronto and I realized my life was getting mundane. My days weren’t 9:00-5:00. It was more like 9:00-9:00. I was working all the time, and I was traveling a lot as the role of a business development manager. It was your typical corporate sales job, times ten.
It was very busy, and I didn’t feel like I was getting closer to Allah (SWT) or Islam. Planning for Hajj really helped me prioritize what was important in life, and I realized I just wanted to be working for myself.
At the time, I was also operating a modest fashion business and I wasn’t really in love with it anymore. I was falling out of love with it, but what I really loved was working for myself. I was also doing some business consulting for female entrepreneurs who had shops on Etsy. It was then that I realized I loved helping those entrepreneurs succeed. So, I thought to myself, ‘Why not give these women an opportunity in a brick or mortar in Canada?’ Since I was good at the marketing aspect of things, and I also had a vast network in the Greater Toronto Area, I figured I could help facilitate the growth of all of these businesses, and create a career for myself. That’s what inspired me to launch Salam Shop.
MG: What do you hope to accomplish through Salam shop?
SW: I really wanted to make a dent in Canadian/North American society, eventually the world, in showcasing that Islam is a beautiful religion, Muslims are beautiful and loving and we aren’t really that different than anyone else who is a believer or anyone else who has good character. The goal is twofold; I hope to inspire people who come into the store, whether Muslims or non-Muslims. I just want them to feel that Islam is beautiful and when they leave the store, I want them to think even more highly of Islam and love Allah more. I also want to inspire other women to pursue their dreams and passions and to just go for it. I feel like I have so many goals now and I’ll just add another to the list. I want to help increase and promote professionalism in businesses. So this means operating ethically, in a manner that would be similar to leading businesses in Canada or North America. I want to be the go to person people would think of when they think of Islamic businesses that are successful. That’s what I want Salam Shop to be, in shaa Allah (God willing), and when people think of a businesswoman who is ethical in her practices, I want people to think of me.
MG: As an entrepreneur, what challenges did you face with Salam Shop and how did you overcome them? Name a few.
SW: There are always challenges and failures, and we call them learning experiences. The first challenge was starting up, getting traction with our community, and offering a more premium product and not knowing what the response would be. Alhumdulilah, (praise be to God) we overcame that challenge by just believing in what it was we were doing, and just really offering quality all around, whether it was in our customer service or whether it was in our product displays, product offerings, and making sure each product was also high in quality, so that it can be a premium product.
The current/on-going challenge that I am facing now is that instead of the community coming together and uniting and taking this idea and innovating on it, or collaborating and potentially building the Salam Shop brand, there are a lot of similar businesses popping up that are not true to their own brand. Our community does not need a million Salam Shops. What it needs is a million creative, unique and innovative businesses that support one another. Part of having a great idea and a great business is that there will always be folks that try to jump on the same train, and I’ve experienced that first hand; however at the end of the day, I try to stay true to my own brand and encourage people to build their own brand that is a reflection of their own personal values and self. There is no other Sudduf Wyne, just as there are no other Ayesha or Maria’s, so why not take your individuality as the driving force behind your business and make it truly unique or successful? I know many businesses besides my own are facing this issue, and all I’ve got to say is imitation isn’t a form of flattery; it is a sign of utmost sheer laziness. Go-getters and successful businesses don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel; they can simply use the same wheel and upgrade it with things that reflect what’s important to them.
Another challenge is time, making sure I have enough time for family and enough for business. I did realize that for the first year and some, I was working 7 days a week. I would take days off here and there for family, and to travel, but I didn’t have any specific days of the week where I wouldn’t dedicate my time solely to work, so this year I decided that the weekends are my off days. I won’t answer e-mails or calls when I’m off or when I’m on vacation. I won’t schedule meetings, either. I want to make sure I have enough self-care time, and that I when I am working, I’m working 100 percent and that I can give it my all.
MG: Where do you see Salam Shop and yourself in the next 5 years?
SW: I see Salam Shop expanding into a larger location to accommodate the retail aspect, but also to host more events, as we currently do host a number of them, and they usually always sell out, Alhumdulilah. I would also like to see us as a household name for Muslims around the world, something that would be a destination they would visit when traveling to Toronto. Salam Shop would become a hot spot in the world of Muslim travels. Finally, I want to continue seeing Salam Shop practice a high level of business ethics, practices with an utmost level of customer service.
As for myself, I see myself being a part of Salam Shop but I would have expanded my team to have a store manager, or at least a full-time store employee working for me, in shaa Allah. I currently have three part time staff members. There are a lot of ideas I have in mind for expansion and growth, but they are kind of top secret at this point. All I really want is for Salam Shop to be successful and profitable so we can continue spreading the love and beauty of Islam.
MG: How does Salam Shop contribute to the community? What programs do you offer?
SW: In Ramadan last year, Alhumdulilah, we were in a position to take on a project called Corporate Social Responsibility. It’s something we use to do at a company I previously worked at, and a lot of corportations usually take part in this. In essence, its just taking on community projects to show our social responsibility. We chose an organization called Nisa Homes, which is a transitional home for women. There are two locations, one in Vancouver, and there is one in Mississsauga. They take women in who are abused, who are in violent relationships, or just in unhealthy relationships, and they bring these women in to help them transition from that unhealthy relationship into a better place. They help them get the skills they need to help them get back on their own two feet so they can go and get a job, rent their own apartments, and manage their kids’ daily lives. It was a really great cause, and I felt very attached to it because they do empower the women who come in. They don’t just give them a place to stay and kick them out later; they are really training them, and equipping them with the tools needed to succeed on their own. We collected donations on Eid and had a team that put together meaningful gifts for the women staying at Nisa Homes, and for their kids as well. We had fresh flowers, balloons, as well as books about success, and nice gift baskets some of our volunteers put together, and delivered to Nisa Homes. To this day, one of the women who runs the programs at Nisa Homes says that that is the happiest she’s ever seen the women in the home. We continue to offer financial assistance to Nisa Homes on a monthly basis. They send us a list of products and components they need to run the home, and we have someone on our team who takes care of that based on the donations we get from our customers. In shaa Allah, in the future, we hope to have the one-third model where we give one-third of our profits each month to charity; we would keep the other third to invest in the business, and then the other one third would be for expenses and pay.
In terms of other programs we offer for the community, we house a number of community events, and we try to keep them very diverse so that we attract Muslims from all walks of life. We also offer programs for people who feel like they don’t want to associate themselves with Islam, but because the event is something cool, they are willing to come into a Muslim store for it. The best thing we do is that we don’t preach Islam at all in the store; we preach good character and we preach inclusivity.
For example, we had someone who was gay come in and want to purchase our rainbow Quran. He had never read the Quran, but it appealed to him. In a world where people assume Muslims to be judgemental and not inclusive, as I said before, we are an inclusive space and try to promote good character, and above all things, personal choices and decisions.
Another girl who came with her friend came back another day with her mom, and her mom said “Oh my God, she couldn’t stop talking about the shop, so she made me come here again today.” That was very nice, because from what she said, she had not read the Quran nor could she read Arabic, but she just loved the notebooks we had with Quranic ayahs, and she hung up a print with a Quranic quote in her room; its honestly a beautiful experience to be a part of these people’s lives on a daily basis.
MG: Does Salam shop contribute to causes of empowerment? If so, how?
SW: Absolutely. Through Nisa Homes, we had a networking session for women who were interested in business. We also took part of the “Being Me” conference, which is associated with empowerment and in general, as the owner of Salam Shop, I try to make sure even my Instagram posts promote empowerment and empower the women who read them.
I took a course where they taught us to hold girls to a higher standard, and that is something I want to live by. I want to hold our girls to a higher standard, hold our Instagram followers to a higher standard, and help them see that it isn’t about what you are wearing, even though it may be fun dressing up. It’s more about who you are, and what is in your heart, and that is really what is important. You should always strive to be the BEST at what you are doing. There is no reason to not be the best at it; we’re Muslims.
MG: You mentioned dealing with imitators or similar businesses; how do you feel about that, and what advice do you have for people who want to follow a similar path to the one you’re on?
SW: I think the best thing to do is innovate. Innovate, innovate, innovate. Don’t copy, don’t imitate. If you like what I’m doing, go ahead and do what I’m doing, but innovate it. Make it yours, don’t make it mine. Salam Shop’s brand consists of unique products with stories and Salam Shop also has its own aesthetic feel. My staff is trained in the story of each product and we strive to find brands and products that tell a story. Everything we have is something I would carry in my house; in fact, my house is full of Salam Shop items.
Though it may seem easy because you can simply go on my Instagram page and see which brands I’m carrying and carry them too, I’m not selling products. I’m selling stories. I’m selling an experience. You can try to do the same and I can guarantee you it won’t be successful until you make it your own. I know that it won’t work unless there is substance behind it. Innovate on the idea and make it your own.
MG: What are the three “dont’s” of business you’ve learned through Salam Shop?
● Don’t burn bridges. A lot of young people think they can say and do whatever they want, and it won’t affect them in the future, and I feel really bad because some of them are really disrespectful, and say things that cannot be taken back. Of course, I would never hold a grudge, but I wouldn’t forget either.
● Don’t disrespect people’s time. This is my biggest pet peeve. When people disrespect my time, I no longer want to make time for them, nor do business with them.
● Don’t copy. Don’t copy other people who are in the same exact segment/industry as you. For example, if you are in the children’s book business, don’t make a children’s book that is very similar to another author’s.
MG: What are the 3 “do’s ” of business you’ve learned through Salam Shop?
● Do be humble. Always be humble, regardless of what happens. Your success is from Allah, and it can always be taken away from you.
● Do spend as much time as you can with friends, family and loved ones. You never want to look back and think that your business prevented you from missing birthdays or important occasions.
● Do be grateful for what you have and say Alhumdulilah. For example, if you launched a business, and you’re not doing as well as you want to be doing, just be grateful and feel it truly from your heart.