In November 2019, the world saw its first headlines of a new virus emerging in China. Within six months, the novel coronavirus had become a global pandemic, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives.
The virus crippled governments, shut down economies even forcing some into a recession and completely changed life as we know it. Businesses were impacted and those built on physical in-person sales or cash sales suffered the most.
This series is about how we at The Zola Collective have partnered with some small businesses to support them during this crisis in order to grow together.
Our first story is about an enterprising and cheerful woman named Salma. Jordanian but raised in Kuwait, Salma always had a drive for business and entrepreneurship. This led her to obtain a marketing degree in Switzerland and join her family business upon returning to Jordan.
In 1998, she moved to Dubai with her husband and found an opportunity to work with a company that dealt in printing equipment supply, similar to what her family business was.
Salma excelled at the many responsibilities that came with her position as a marketing manager, which she held for 10 years. During that time she began to explore her passion for organic farming and healthy eating, which birthed her iced cream business.
Her family loved ice cream, however, there was a problem of feeling thirsty after consuming regular mass-produced ice cream. Through research, Salma discovered that commercial ice creams contained a lot of sugar and salt which caused the thirst.
Sugar is added to keep the ice cream soft enough to scoop. Salt is added because ice cream freezes at a temperature lower than water. So it keeps the ice cream mixture liquid long enough to combine well and freeze evenly. This is what makes you feel thirsty after eating ice-cream.
The Birth of Salma’s Ice Pops
Salma began experimenting with homemade ice cream and found that her family loved her creations even more than store-bought versions. She describes her homemade ice cream as “milder and the flavors are more original-- what you taste is exactly what went into it-- there are no artificial enhancers or colors.”
Going a step further, she posted her creations on Instagram and was pleasantly surprised by the number of orders she got from friends and family. All this while still working a full-time job!
As her new business venture grew, Salma realized she may have found a way to combine her passion for healthy eating with her entrepreneurial drive. In 2017, she took the leap and quit her job to fully commit to her ice cream business.
A Passion Turned Into Business
Upon leaving her job, she got invited to work in a commercial kitchen where she could make her ice cream. This opportunity allowed her to grow her business in diverse ways. She was able to establish her business officially and register for a ‘trade license’, which meant she could join the farmer’s market.
Salma describes this point as her ‘happiest’ moment. She was meeting customers, sharing stories with them, and learning a lot about their flavor preferences, dietary restrictions e. g. nut allergies, and lifestyle choices such as being vegan.
This led to her experimenting with dairy-free options using coconut milk and other plant-based ingredients. Initially, these didn’t work too well for ice cream since they froze too quickly.
But being an innovator, she discovered they worked amazingly well as popsicles, which became a best-seller among her customers!
It was then that COVID-19 hit. Farmers’ markets closed down and people started opting for online purchases and cashless payments. Salma needed a way to take her business online, reach new customers, accept cashless payments safely, and arrange deliveries.
That’s when the Zola Collective stepped in. Join us in the second part of this blog post to discover how through a smart partnership and innovation, we helped Salma grow her revenue considerably in spite of the pandemic.
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