Finding Flow: The Duality of Competition and Authenticityread article
By: Synne Linden
Growing up in Mombasa, Kenya, Salima Visram’s purpose took hold of her at an early age. She has seen the impact of poverty on individuals and communities; she understands the immense difference good employment can mean for a family. The background has shaped her core, and been a defining pillar throughout her life - and within her business ventures. Ingrained in her purpose are all those first- or second-hand experiences of how much work there is to be done.
It’s made me realize that there are so many, I don’t want to say problems - but so many things people need in the world. And that just keeps me so grounded. Because whenever I’m in a challenging situation or I’m in a position where I feel like I don’t know what to do, I always think that it’s so trivial. There’s so much other stuff going on in the world. And that keeps me motivated.
"Whenever I’m in a challenging situation...I always think that it’s so trivial. There’s so much other stuff going on in the world."
Salima started her first business, The Soular Backpack, in 2015, as a direct line of contribution to her community. By donating solar backpacks to children in East Africa, students are able to study for longer at night - which means a greater chance of entering secondary education. After a while, though, Salima found that it was difficult to sustain the venture by donations alone. And parallel to this, she lost her mother to cancer. Samara rose out of Salima’s immensely powerful personal experience - and also became a business for channeling even more impact through its profits, interlinking with The Soular Backpack.
I was feeling like I had so much energy inside; I was feeling so many emotions that I just wanted to channel into building something that could almost be an embodiment of my mother. I feel like she embodied so much elegance and kindness and simplicity, in a really beautiful way. She had so much positivity, and went through the world, just exuding kindness to the people around her. Whenever I think of what Samara is, I go back to those values.
Salima is a pioneer in the future of fashion. Samara’s bag production is highly innovative - using only cruelty-free, sustainable and ethically sourced materials. Furthermore, by donating back to The Soular Backpack, Salima has created a continuous chain of kindness. These values are integral to her business’ target market, too. The Samara girl is someone who cares about the world - who wants to look good, feel good and do good.
When Salima speaks, it’s easy to forget that she’s in her late 20’s. She possesses a grounded presence; and a calm pace that emulates so much more experience and knowledge than one might expect from someone her age. Her approach to a philanthropic ethos is utterly holistic - so holistic, in fact, that Salima at times finds herself questioning it.
Sometimes I feel like it’s too much, and that we need to hone in. But I have this vision of an ecosystem that does good in different ways, right? And, it feels like such a long path to get there, but hopefully we will.
The uncertainty isn’t of herself; of wondering whether she is able to build a sustainable ecosystem of good. It’s of not knowing exactly what that ecosystem will look like, or when and how it’ll manifest. Salima points out that an aspect of her personality that she struggles with is overthinking things - and needing to know the outcomes of different situations. She wants to be in control, and sometimes it’s so consuming that it robs her of being present in the moment.
When you consider the path Salima has walked, it’s easy to understand why clairvoyance would be important to her. In 2017, two of the people she loved most were going through cancer - in different parts of the world. That was also the year Salima started Samara, which pulled her through some of the most difficult moments of her life - and became a beacon, of resilience and of hope. Today, the business serves as a manifestation of Salima’s strength, and reminds her of what she is capable of.
I think probably, in the last couple of years, I’m most proud of my resilience. Understanding that I can be whoever I want to be. There’s nothing stopping me from doing what I want, in terms of career or what I want to build or achieve - the options are limitless. And I think that understanding, and resilience, go hand in hand (...) You know, if I can build something good from all that darkness, there isn’t really anything I can’t do.
"I can be whoever I want to be. There’s nothing stopping me from doing what I want"
Salima gets her energy and joy from spending time with the people she loves; from experiencing meaningful interactions. And with that authenticity and kindness being such guiding pillars in her life, it’s not surprising that social media is where Salima feels the most insecure. Navigating the landscape of comparison, where someone is always ahead of you, no matter how well you’re doing - and that no matter what you say it can always be misconstrued.
Salima’s journey has made her crystal clear on one thing, though: Only you can be you. Which is also what #OwnYourGlow means to her. Be yourself. And shine while you’re doing it.
I think it’s just to know your path, and be relentless at it. Not giving up until you get there; realising that you can be who you want. And then in doing that, being unapologetically you, cause you’re the only one who can be that someone. Often I think ‘Should we get a brand consultant or a PR agency?’ for the business. And sometimes, it’s like, maybe you know all the answers, and someone else can’t always tell you what you should do with your life. You have to figure that out for yourself.