Building a sustainable business

an interview with Salima Visram.

It's 2020,  and sustainability matters now more than ever.  Today we are going to talk about why sustainability matters, some ways other businesses have implemented sustainable business methodologies, and interview Salima Visram of Samara Bags, about how she has created a sustainable minimalist fashion company.



With just $500, and a production run of 10 bags, Salima started SAMARA Bags in December 2017 because she couldn’t find a bag that was cruelty free, simple, and elegant.

She named the brand after her sister Samara, and the two of them run the company in memory of their mother who passed a few months before the company’s inception.

Today SAMARA produces over 70,000 bags yearly and still obsesses over every detail



Octane AI enables fast-growing D2C brands to increase revenue and collect data from the marketing channels your customers use.

Clocked in a time clock for Shopify.

With Clockedin your team members can easily clock in and out of their shifts from anywhere. You can manage your team's hours as they work remotely with an intuitive interface that can be used from desktop,tablet, or mobile. 

show notes.

(2:08) What is sustainability?

(4:04) Go paperless

(7:09) Sustainable packaging

(9:01) Favorite sustainable products

(10:54) Shoes made from water bottles

(11:42) Carbon offsetting

(14:26) Transparency

(16:26) Sustainability is a journey

(17:11) Introductions

(18:50) First bag you ever made

(20:54) Soular Backpack

(21:55) Can you achieve sustainability?

(24:36) Rhian is speechless

(25:19) Fruit leather, but not the kind you eat

(27:42) Find a mentor if you can

(28:18) Supply chain and sourcing

(29:54) Getting started on Shopify

(31:09) Favorite Shopify apps

(32:11) How is Klaviyo pronounced? Only Kelly knows

(32:51) Major acquisition channels

(33:50) Store recommendations



All Girls Shave Club


Bold Returns 

Return Magic


AfterShip Returns Center



Offset app




Girlfriend Collective

The Soular Backpack

Girlfriend Collective




Salima's Instagram

Samara Bags Instagram

Samara Bags


Rhian (00:00):

It's 2020 and sustainability matters now more than ever. Today, we're going to talk about why sustainability matters, some ways that other businesses have implemented sustainable business methodologies and interview Salima Visram of Samara Bags about how she created a sustainable minimalist fashion company. Grab a mug and join in.

Rhian (00:26):

Welcome to Commerce Tea, a podcast to help you succeed on Shopify. I'm Rhian.

Kelly (00:31):

And I'm Kelly. Grab a mug and join us as we talk about all things commerce.

Rhian (00:46):

Hey Kelly, how can merchants get more out of their Facebook Messenger and SMS marketing campaigns?

Kelly (00:51):

I recommend Octane AI, the leading Facebook Messenger and SMS platform for Shopify and Shopify plus merchants.

Rhian (00:58):

How does it work?

Kelly (00:59):

Using their built in flows, conversational ads and retargeting campaigns, you can easily unlock Messenger and SMS as new revenue channels. The platform has ready to go integrations with top apps, such as Cleevio, Privy, Recharge, and Justuno.

Rhian (01:14):

What kinds of returns can I expect?

Kelly (01:16):

Merchants using octane AI report 80 to 95% open rates, a seven X increase in click through rates and even a seven to 20% increase in revenue.

Rhian (01:25):

This sounds great. Where can I learn more?

Kelly (01:28):

You can start a 14 day free trial by requesting a demo at or by visiting the Shopify app store and searching for octane AI.

Rhian (01:36):

Hey Kelly.

Kelly (01:38):

Hello. How are you doing this morning?

Rhian (01:40):

I'm doing phenomenally. How are you doing?

Kelly (01:43):

I'm good. I'm good. I'm enjoying my coffee.

Rhian (01:46):

I am on the same wavelength that you are, my friend. Coffee is making my world go round. I know that we're called Commerce Tea, but caveat, we drink a lot of coffee. And today we're talking-

Kelly (02:02):

We should probably do something about that, but for the moment-

Rhian (02:04):

We should probably.

Kelly (02:06):

... We're going to stick to coffee.

Rhian (02:08):

Yeah, it's just one of those things. It's one of those things. Today I'm really excited because we're talking about sustainability, which is something I get really excited about. So, Kelly, do you want to go ahead and just define for our listeners what a sustainable business is?

Kelly (02:25):

Yeah. So there are a lot of definitions around the internet of what a sustainable business is. So in my opinion, it's business that's economically viable, is socially responsible and it's also environmentally friendly. I think most of us think in terms of the environmentally friendly component and I think the other two get forgotten in terms of talking about [crosstalk 00:02:49] sustainable business, but maybe okay socially responsible pretty much goes hand in hand with being environmentally friendly in a way. But of course you want your business to be economically viable at the same time. I mean everyone knows that when you go for the more sustainable options, they tend to be pricier.

Rhian (03:07):

Almost always and that's just a trade off you have to make as a consumer, as a business and everything in between. I think also for a sustainable business, it's important to note that while we talk about social responsibility, also running an ethical business and having ethical business practices that you can... I always say, if you can stand up in the mirror and look yourself in the face and say, "I'm doing a good thing," that means hopefully you're doing a good thing, but if you have to ask yourself, I might've said this before on the podcast, if you ever have to ask yourself, "Is this unethical?" The answer is always, yes. You should never have to pause and wonder like, "Is this ethical?" If you're asking yourself that that means stop what you're doing and it is unethical.

Kelly (03:50):


Rhian (03:52):

Agreed. So, that is what a sustainable business practice is and sustainable business is. What's a great way that we can ease our way into becoming a sustainable business?

Kelly (04:04):

So it's important to note, as you said, easier way into becoming a sustainable business, that it's very much a journey of being a sustainable business as business models change, as technology changes, as our world changes and consumers change their buying habits. You're always going to be shifting the way that you operate your business. So I think an easy way to ease into it is to go paperless.

Kelly (04:29):

So big one, and this is automatically done by Shopify already is emailing receipts. So your order confirmation email, you don't need to print it out. That same note is considered not including a packing slip. I don't usually look at the packing slip when I receive a package.

Rhian (04:48):

No, I'm just like trash or recycle.

Kelly (04:52):

I mean, exactly. Recycle.

Rhian (04:55):

Whatever's closest is the problem. The problem is that's the actual answer.

Kelly (04:59):

Yeah. So I think a lot of people include the packing slips on their website because they want to include information about returning a product. If you need an exchange or didn't work, or you just want to get your money back, but there are other ways you can go about doing this. First of all, include the return instructions on your website, just the link to it in the footer of your website, link to it on your FAQs below the add to cart button, you can have a shipping and returns quick message on there and all of your order status emails.

Kelly (05:32):

So the order confirmation, your order has shipped, your order's delivered. All of those can contain the return instructions. But most importantly is use a returns portal app. There are a bunch of them in the Shopify app store. They all work slightly differently. So it's worth taking a peek and demoing them to see which one works best for how you operate your returns policy. I would look at Returns Manager by Bold, Return Magic, Returnly and AfterShip Returns Center.

Rhian (06:02):

I love that all of these apps have the word return in them. So if you go into the app store and you just search return, one would think you'll be able to pull all four of these up. But if that's not the case, we'll also link to them in the show notes.

Kelly (06:16):

Yeah. If you search returns app, you'll find even more than the four that I just mentioned. That's the beauty of the app store.

Rhian (06:23):

Developers are notorious for, we just name the app for exactly what it does. Like our order tracking app is just order a lookup. It's not a revolutionary name. It's like, what does it do? This. That's the name of it.

Kelly (06:37):

You know what? At least it's not the trend of like the original Twitter was what T-W-T-T-R or Tumblr. So at least the real words.

Rhian (06:47):

That's true. Yeah. We've gotten back to vowels.

Kelly (06:50):

I love vowels.

Rhian (06:52):

I love a vowel. What can I say? Grammar, Woo! Oxford comma, Oxford comma, Oxford comma.

Kelly (07:03):

It was a good try.

Rhian (07:04):

It was a good try. E for effort.

Kelly (07:05):

So [inaudible 00:07:06] is another way that businesses can be sustainable?

Rhian (07:09):

One thing that I'm a big fan of is sustainable packaging. I actually launched my retail career at Aveda, which is an old school sustainable company. And they have for a very long time been using sustainable packaging, compostable packaging, and the like. In addition, they have a packaging size that makes sense. And they're just a really great example. I know they're a big player because they're owned by Estee Lauder. I do have to acknowledge that. And if you're starting up, you might say, okay, that's cute. You're talking about Aveda they bring hundreds of millions dollars a year. I'm trying to make face soap one.

Rhian (07:52):

But I think looking at them as a model, as an aspirational model of how to create sustainable packaging is why, so we're going to include a link to that in the show notes. So you can check out what Aveda does and how they do it. And even if you take just a fraction of what they do and use it as inspiration for your own business, they've gotten it down to a science.

Kelly (08:14):

For sure. I think on the opposite end of this is Amazon who is known for not reducing their package size. So you order a new phone and it comes in a refrigerator box. It's just not the best practice. So reduce your package size to fit the items that you're actually shipping.

Rhian (08:33):

That would be lovely. And then you won't be like my house where all of a sudden you have a daughter who's just making so many things out of the oversized boxes, because you can only fit so much into your recycling bin at one time.

Kelly (08:46):

Not to mention all the packing material.

Rhian (08:49):

And the plastic that comes inside of it, not a fan.

Kelly (08:52):


Rhian (08:53):

I'm not. Also let's be honest, puzzles don't need bubble wrap.

Kelly (08:57):

They're fine. They're fine.

Rhian (09:01):

Glass bottle, sure I'm behind you there. Puzzle? I can't see use case. Kelly, do you have any favorite sustainable products that you really love that you personally consume?

Kelly (09:16):

Yes. I think it's probably time that I bring up my favorite story that I mention in every episode, which is Allbirds. They are-

Rhian (09:28):


Kelly (09:29):

I know, I know. I think they've been known for their super comfortable shoes that I absolutely love, but being a sustainable business and choosing what materials they're actually using to create all of their products, whether it's their wool line or their tree line or whatever it might be. They're very clear about what materials they're using. Like recycled cardboard for all their store packaging, but castor bean oil, for example or recycled bottles. So-

Rhian (09:58):

I didn't know that.

Kelly (10:00):

Yeah. So the castor bean oil is used for their insoles and...

Kelly (10:03):

Yeah, so the castor bean oil is used for their insoles, and the recycled bottles are used for the laces, the shoelaces.

Rhian (10:08):

I love this non-conventional use of product, and I'm not going to give a spoiler to what happens later on in the episode. But our guest also uses a very unconventional product that is hyper sustainable. And I think it's, and you'll hear me say it then, just so cool.

Kelly (10:28):

It's so cool.

Rhian (10:28):

It's so cool. That should be the theme of this episode, is that's so cool.

Kelly (10:37):

So on the same topic of shoes Rothy's is another company that does really well with using sustainable products in their supply chain. So they make flats, and they probably make other things maybe, but I just know them for their flats.

Rhian (10:51):

Kelly's like I just have the flats.

Kelly (10:54):

But they make their shoes out of plastic water bottles as well. And on their website they have information that they've transformed over 45 million plastic water bottles into their material that they use. So they take these water bottles and they turn it into the thread they use to make the shoes. And I think that's super cool. I'm back to being super cool.

Rhian (11:16):

I concur that, that is super cool. Another way that merchants can help in terms of sustainability is offering carbon neutral shipping by offsetting emissions. Kelly I feel like you know more about this than I do. So can you talk to us a little bit about the Shop app and what it is first of all, and how it offsets emissions?

Kelly (11:42):

Yeah, so the Shop app was released by Shopify quite some time ago as just like a delivery tracker, and they rebranded to Shop, and they re-released it-

Rhian (11:53):

Formerly known as Arrive.

Kelly (11:55):

Yes, thank you.

Rhian (11:56):


Kelly (11:56):

They re-released it what three months ago now-

Rhian (11:59):


Kelly (11:59):

... this time is a blur.

Rhian (12:01):

This year.

Kelly (12:03):

It was sometime released this year. So not only can you track your deliveries on there, but you can also as a merchant you're able to offset your delivery emissions. So basically how that works is you pay for your orders online with Shop pay, and then your delivery ships from one of over 400 carriers that are participating in this delivery emission offsetting business. And Shopify tracks and calculates the emissions that are produced by your delivery, and then offsets your delivery emissions by protecting an equivalent number of trees. So they keep track, they have this count, this live counts of how many trees have been saved.

Rhian (12:43):

And as of right now at this very moment, 11 million, 489,395, now six, now seven, now eight, now nine trees have been saved.

Kelly (12:56):

And what's really cool also, just kind of fun is on the app they gamified it a little bit. So you can compete with your friends to see how many trees that you've personally saved. And I don't do that much online shopping right now.

Rhian (13:11):


Kelly (13:12):

[inaudible 00:13:12] since I know. I haven't since this app has been updated, so I have saved one tree.

Rhian (13:18):

That's okay, you can save more.

Kelly (13:21):

Thank you. That gives me permission to buy more things online.

Rhian (13:23):

I believe in you, I believe in your ability to save more trees. You can do it. Now there's a new app in the app store right? That also offsets? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Kelly (13:34):

Yeah. So speaking of offsetting emissions and names of apps that are very clear, this app is called Offset, it is built by Shopify, and it allows you to neutralize your shipping emissions that contribute to climate change. So as a merchant every month Offset calculates the total emissions that are generated by your shipping orders, and that number becomes your monthly Offset cost. So it is less than 10 cents per order. It can be as low as half a cent per order. Like it's not a significant cost on your side, and charges automatically appear on your Shopify bill, so you don't have to do anything and you can opt out whenever you want to opt out. And what I think is really cool about it, and we'll get into this in a second here, is you can actually display the total amount of shipping emissions you've offset on your website. So it's kind of a transparency thing, which leads us into our final topic.

Rhian (14:26):

What a perfect segue into our next topic of transparency. A pillar of sustainability is transparency. And A, let's talk about how that's just a great ethical business practice in general, being transparent. So okay, let's talk about that briefly, okay we've acknowledged it, move it aside. If we and other brands are transparent and talk about their practices on their site, it helps surface that for the consumer, and also just for everyone and for other businesses to see how transparency has a positive impact on their business. And there's a few really great examples of that. And that's Aveda is one, which I already talked about. Girlfriend Collective is another, their transparency page is amazing. Buffy is another one. They're a duvet comp ... I love a direct to consumer company, everybody, so you're just going to be like, okay you're talking so much direct to consumer, because I love it.

Rhian (15:23):

Buffy the duvet company, Allbirds the list goes on, we're going to link to these in the show notes, but they do a really phenomenal job of laying things out, keeping within their brand voice, and staying true to who they are as a business while being absolutely transparent.

Kelly (15:42):

Yeah, and the reality is consumers want to know who their brand is that they're spending their money on, who are they giving their money to? And these kinds of practices of being transparent, even if it ends up costing you a little bit on the sustainability practice side, it's going to help you bring in more customers who are also very socially conscious, who are trying to make socially conscious and environmentally conscious decisions. So it's a win, win, win-

Rhian (16:11):

Win, win.

Kelly (16:12):

To help with the environments. Win, because you're being transparent, win, because you're getting more customers, I'm sure there are more wins in there.

Rhian (16:20):

I feel like there are, we're going to add a couple win, win, win, win, win. Do it.

Kelly (16:23):

Perfect. All right, there we go.

Rhian (16:25):

Do it.

Kelly (16:26):

So all of this to say sustainability is a journey, it's not a destination. It is something that you do have to continue to work at, but it's a good business practice and it's something that's really worth doing, and being transparent about. And our discussion around sustainability is really only the beginning here. And on this note we're really excited to introduce our guest for this week, who's been focused on sustainability for her business since day one. Today we are joined by Salima Visram of Samara Bags. Salima thanks so much for joining us today.

Salima (17:07):

Thanks so much for having me.

Kelly (17:08):

So I'd love to kick things off by just telling us a little bit about yourself.

Salima (17:11):

So I grew up in Kenya, I'm currently in Toronto, Canada, and I started Samara in 2017. It was a branch off of the first company I started, which was the Soular backpack. And in 2017 in December I was at a point where I was looking for a handbag, I couldn't find one that I liked. And the short story is that we put some online and they started selling, and I just went with it ever since. So we're a 100% cruelty-free fashion house, we're designed for the minimalist, and we really want to be the fashion company or the fashion brand that really thinks about the future of the world, and where we're going in terms of the materials we're using, our supply chains, and the people we employ and involve in our supply chains as well.

Rhian (18:06):

That's wonderful. I try to buy as sustainably as I can, and oftentimes I feel like I do a little bit of a swing and a miss. And so it's awesome to meet founders who that's their core vision and mission for their company. What was the first bag that you made?

Salima (18:25):

It was the classic.

Rhian (18:27):


Salima (18:27):

So I was at a point where I just couldn't find a bag that I liked, and I didn't want a designer $400 bag. Ideally I wanted one that was not made out of leather, and I just couldn't find it. So it was the classic. And then I paired it with the little mini, which is still one of our best sellers now.

Kelly (18:45):

So talk to me a little bit more about how you source your products?

Salima (18:50):

The first product that we created was actually made by the same supplier as the solar backpack. So I can go into telling you a little bit about the Soular backpack and it'll explain the process of how we found the supplier. But growing up in Kenya I really noticed how a lot of kids my age weren't able to do their homework every night, and they would use this thing called kerosene. So kerosene is a carcinogenic jet fuel that 1.2 billion people rely on every night as their source of light, and where I grew up a lot of kids my age were using that to study and it wasn't conducive to learning. And it was the reason why a lot of kids were not getting into secondary school, which meant that they would still live in poverty after, and go into things like child prostitution and human trafficking just because they didn't have access to education.

Salima (19:44):

And so I worked on that full time after I graduated from university, and I was at a point where I was like, I think it's really cool that we've created this product. We ended up working with Disney and Lupita Nyong'o to distribute them across East Africa. But I was always feeling like I had to ask people for donations ...

Salima (20:03):

I was always feeling like I had to ask people for donations. And then, the best way I thought to create impact would be to create a product that people love, and then use that to channel into creating some sort of impact in Kenya. So, when I had the idea for the first SAMARA bag, it wasn't with the goal to sell it. It was just to make it for myself, and friends and family started asking me about it. So, I started with $500 and a production run of 25 bags, that sold out overnight. That's when I was like, "I think we're just going to keep going with this."

Salima (20:37):

We ended up using the same supplier as our backpacks at the beginning. Now that we've grown a bit, we've had to change factories. A lot of it has come from intros from other people and other brands that we really look up to.

Rhian (20:54):

Is this Soular Backpack still available?

Salima (20:58):

Yes, it is. So, every purchase from SAMARA, funds a Soular Backpack or part of a Soular Backpack. We produce those in Kenya now, so it provides local employment, or we provide employment to women on the ground.

Kelly (21:15):

That's amazing.

Rhian (21:16):

Yeah. I'm sitting here, I'm just like, "You're so cool." This is what I just kept thinking over and over to myself.

Kelly (21:22):

[crosstalk 00:21:22] so cool.

Rhian (21:25):

Yeah. I'm like, "Wow. You're really making a difference. Yeah, you're so cool." That's-

Salima (21:33):

I hope so.

Rhian (21:35):

Oh, without a doubt.

Kelly (21:38):

I'd love to talk some more about sustainability as well, because I also try to purchase sustainable products too. But, there's definitely a challenge from the customer side of finding them. I imagine you've probably experienced some challenges as well, for sourcing products to create a sustainable product too.

Salima (21:55):

Absolutely. I think, something I'm also trying to tell myself, is that sustainability is never going to be achieved. It's always going to be something that... It's always going to be a work-in-progress, because true sustainability is being able to not cause any harm to the world. And, I think every product, whatever we buy, whatever we wear, whatever we eat is causing some... we're taking something from the planet. So, it's something I'm trying to also come to terms with, that what is the best way to create a brand that is... It's never going to be fully sustainable, but taking steps in the right direction to at least minimize our impact on the planet.

Salima (22:41):

Yeah, I mean, I think it has been a huge challenge, because your factories are all over the world. Your materials are sourced from a different place. And yes, vegan leather is a better alternative than actual leather, even environmentally, because the dairy and cow industry are pretty damaging to the environment, but vegan leather is ultimately still plastic.

Salima (23:04):

So, how do we communicate that to our customer in an authentic way, but also look for other solutions that are better and that are really thinking like 10 years down the line, when a lot of consumers also realize that most vegan leather is made out of PVC, which is very damaging to the environment. We try and never use PVC. So, we only use polyurethane and microfiber where we can. But, more recently we actually found a little factory in Italy that makes leather out of apples.

Kelly (23:37):


Salima (23:38):

So, we started-

Rhian (23:39):


Salima (23:39):

... working with them and we've made a few bags with them. Now, we're actually taking it a step further and we're hiring a team in Kenya to work on developing a material there for us. I think it's things like that that keep me up at night because I'm like, "Yeah, people love vegan leather right now. It is definitely a trend and it is a catchy word." Everywhere you go, Forever 21 when it existed, but H & M and every fast fashion company is also saying, "Yeah, we make vegan leather bags and jackets." People automatically think that it's better for the environment, but it's not always like that.

Salima (24:21):

I think, as customers and as consumers, it's important to be educated that we have to take other steps in the right direction and educate ourselves on every option that we have.

Kelly (24:36):

Rhian's speechless.

Rhian (24:37):

I am speechless. I really, truly am. For a lot of reasons, and they're all good reasons. It's because when you're sitting here and you're talking about PVC as why that's damaging, I actually didn't know that. So, every time I've bought vegan leather and if it's PVC, I'm like, "Oh, well, it's vegan leather." I did not know the difference between those. The fact that you're making leather out of apples...

Kelly (25:06):

I'm so curious.

Rhian (25:07):

Yeah. Can you talk more about that? That seems... I'm so intrigued.

Kelly (25:14):

Yeah, how does it work?

Rhian (25:15):

Yeah, how does it work?

Salima (25:19):

About a year and a half ago, I was like, "Well, it's is..." I mean, it's great that we're making vegan leather bags and our customers loved it. But, it was like, "Again, it's not as sustainable as we can get." So, at that point I was in Kenya and I was like, "Maybe we can try and make leather out of coconuts." They tried in our kitchen and that didn't work out too well. And then, we tried pineapples and pineapples were great. Pineapple leather exists, but it felt a lot like paper and it didn't have that luxury feel to it.

Salima (25:48):

And then, we found apple leather. So, they work with a lot of the orchards that produce juice, like apple juice. What they do, is they take all the remnants from the apple juice industry and the whole idea of taking everything that's left after the juice is made and they dehydrate it. They turn it into powder, and then mix it in with it with some PU, because PU has to be used as a binding agent. We don't want it to be entirely not waterproof or not bio-degradable. So, yeah, that's a bit about the process.

Rhian (26:27):

Is this Apple leather in your bags right now, that are at market or to market?

Salima (26:33):

Yeah. So, we have a few minis made out of them and we're working on our laptops sleeve and our totes being replaced entirely with apple leather.

Kelly (26:42):

That's so cool.

Rhian (26:43):

I'm going to buy an apple leather bag today.

Kelly (26:48):

You know like when we buy a dress that has pockets and somebody compliments your dress, the immediate thing you say is, "Thanks. It has pockets." It's going to be [inaudible 00:26:56] buying a handbag made of apple leather. If somebody compliments it, "Thanks. It's made of apple leather."

Rhian (27:04):

I really will, too. I am that person all of the time. Okay, so can you talk to us a little bit how you learned the supply chain process? We have a lot of listeners out there, who are just dipping their feet in, and I think that's that whole process can be really overwhelming.

Salima (27:24):

We got really lucky, because we started with the Soular Backpack. So, we already had a bit of a supply chain established. But, I would say now we work with factories who produce for like Lululemon or brands that we really look up to, and all those factories came through intros.

Salima (27:42):

So, I'm always such a huge advocate for just reaching out to people and finding mentors and connecting with people based on experiences. I think so many people out there are willing to give advice and willing to just chat and want to be helpful. Because, I know for me, I wouldn't have been able to build SAMARA if it weren't for standing on the shoulders of a lot of people. So, yeah, I think that was really helpful for us in finding the best factories.

Salima (28:18):

There's so many funny stories. Like, I went to Asia year ago and I remember I found one of our factories on... I found this guy on LinkedIn and he said he was in Vietnam. I noticed that he had produced for brands that we really like. So, I was like, "Hey, we're looking for factories." He was like, "Well, our factory isn't taking any more clients right now. But, I have a friend in China who I can introduce you to." I was alone in China at this time. He was like, "He's a really good guy."

Salima (28:53):

So, I ended up just into a cab with him and he drove me to his factory, which is an hour and a half away. He's become like our lifeline now. But, so many times I look back and I'm like, "On so many levels, that could have gone so bad." That was not a good decision on my part at all. But, luckily it worked out. But, I think at that point I was so desperate to just find people that were in our corner and that understood where we were trying to go as a brand, that I didn't even think of the safety or just all the risks involved with getting into a cab with a random guy I'd never met before in China.

Kelly (29:38):

At least a good story came out of it.

Salima (29:42):


Rhian (29:42):

And, a good relationship.

Kelly (29:43):

A really good relationship.

Salima (29:44):

Yeah. Yeah.

Rhian (29:45):

Yeah. It's a win, win, win. But, yes. So, I know you sell online. I know you sell on Shopify.

Salima (29:52):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Rhian (29:54):

Talk to me about how you got started on Shopify and that process.

Salima (30:00):

Yeah. I think I got started on Shopify, again-

Salima (30:03):

Yeah, I think I got started on Shopify, again with the solar backpack, because at that time I thought it's the best platform and the easiest platform to get on and just, you can start in a day, you don't need much. So that process was pretty straightforward, I didn't even consider any other platform.

Salima (30:24):

And then I think I was also exposed to a lot of people who are dropshipping at the time. And I was pretty intrigued by how they didn't even see the product, and they didn't even know what it looked like, and they were able to make a lot of headway in building brands and building whatever they wanted. I think I wasn't ... Dropshipping is never something that I wanted to make my career, but I think I was pretty inspired by the way you could figure out an entire supply chain by just clicking a few buttons. So yeah, I would say a bit of dropshipping, and then the solar backpack is probably what got me onto Shopify.

Kelly (31:09):

What are some of your favorite Shopify apps that you use?

Salima (31:13):

Ooh. I wish Reelio had a better interface and didn't seem as in ... It works because it's in your face, but I wish it looked a bit classier. But Reelio for sure, because I think it's been great for us to collect emails. has been amazing for reviews, and I love that we didn't have to custom code anything or change anything on our website in order to have it.

Salima (31:41):

Honestly, I would say Reelio. Reelio has collected over 120,000 emails for us.

Kelly (31:48):


Rhian (31:49):


Salima (31:49):

So yeah, it's been [crosstalk 00:01:50].

Rhian (31:50):

Not a small number.

Kelly (31:52):

What are you using for email marketing?

Salima (31:54):


Kelly (31:56):

Good choice.

Rhian (31:57):

I'm going to tell you, we've done quite a few of these now. Every single person has said Klaviyo so far.

Salima (32:05):

Kelly (32:09):

Just a side note.

Rhian (32:11):


Kelly (32:11):

It's pronounced, "Clay-vio."

Rhian (32:11):


Kelly (32:15):

The only reason why I know this is because when I was going through my training for becoming a Klaviyo partner, they had a bunch of quizzes as we completed each module. The last question on every single quiz was, "How do you pronounce, 'Klaviyo'?"

Salima (32:31):

Wow. Okay, well we learned something today.

Rhian (32:34):

Well, we've learned a lot of things, including that apple can become leather, and also other fruits can become leather. This is-

Kelly (32:40):

I know, we're suddenly talking about pineapple leather and ...

Rhian (32:47):

So what are your major acquisition channels?

Salima (32:51):

Right now ... So it's funny because I always think about, "What type of brand do we want to be? And do the acquisition channels you use portray the type of brand you are?" And so we started off with quite a few paid ads last year, and a little bit in 2018. So I'd say Instagram, Facebook, for sure. We've just started exploring Pinterest as of last week, because I think we have quite a few of our customers who love Pinterest. And then, I think we're really trying to increase our, just our community and referral program and really get that going. So I would say that one is probably next, but for now it's Facebook and Instagram for sure.

Kelly (33:50):

Awesome. Well, we like to finish each of these episodes by shouting out a store we're really inspired by, or a person we're really inspired by. So I'm going to put you on the spot. Who would or what would you like to shout out this week?

Salima (34:07):

I think it's my friends at Bloom. I'm actually doing an Instagram Live with them later today. But they create all natural skincare. They really target Gen Z and really boosting confidence in younger girls going through puberty. And it's the brand that's your best friend when you're going through puberty.

Rhian (34:30):

That's great. I'm going to look them up right now. What's their website?

Salima (34:34):

It's just Bloom. I think they're ... Actually, I think it's It might be, but I think it's Bloom.

Rhian (34:42):


Kelly (34:42):

I'm just going to try all the options.

Rhian (34:44):

Yeah, we will, absolutely.

Kelly (34:45):

We'll link to the correct website in the show notes.

Rhian (34:48):

Yes. I have a teenager who is always looking for new skincare. She's skincare obsessed. And teenagers now are really into skincare, where as when I was younger, my mom's like, "Wash your face." And I was like, "I don't want to." So it's been a very, it's a big pivot. My daughter's using a different mask every day.

Salima (35:11):

I know.

Kelly (35:14):

I didn't do anything skincare when I really needed it.

Salima (35:16):

Me, either.

Kelly (35:16):

It was just not even in my frame of reference anywhere. So I think it's great that there are brands that exist, skincare brands that exist [inaudible 00:05: 30], because I know the pain I went through.

Salima (35:34):

Yeah. They're awesome. What are your favorite brands right now?

Rhian (35:37):

So I'm really digging Passion Fruit. They're a queer owned store that has Pride merch for everyday. They're ethos is, "Pride is up all of the time." And as there weren't pride marches this year, you can celebrate your pride anytime.

Salima (35:59):


Rhian (35:59):

Like right now, I've got one of their sweatshirts on that says, "Protect Trans Kids," on it.

Salima (36:05):


Rhian (36:05):

So yeah, it's really great. The founder's in Toronto, and she's a wonderful queer woman and I just, I love their brand, and the aesthetic is really cute so you should check it out. Kelly, what about you?

Kelly (36:20):

So I'm going to actually shout out one of my clients this week. It's All Girl Shave Club. So her whole idea behind the brand is when you're young and it's finally time for you to start shaving. It's socially, they want you to start shaving. Her brand is introducing shaving in to younger girls who want to get started but feel weird about it, and it eases them into it. And she has like a lot of really cool things that come with it, like, "The Shine Girl Box," and a book that comes with it and stuff like that. So it's a lot more of a comfortable ease. And also, I have one of the shavers and I absolutely love it. It's weighty.

Salima (37:07):

I'm going to check it out.

Rhian (37:08):

That's awesome. I love how many brands are finding a way to serve girls in a moment that I think all three of us wish we would've maybe had a product at that time to serve us. So it's really nice to hear of two different brands in one episode that do something complimentary to one another.

Kelly (37:30):

That was perfect timing.

Rhian (37:31):

That was perfect timing! Okay, so, important. Where can we find you on the internet?

Salima (37:39):

Well, my personal Instagram is Salima Visram. And then our company, or brand Instagram, is BE.Somara. And then our website is

Rhian (37:56):

Perfect. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time. And I will also say that she has a bag called the Rhian bag, and I have to buy it because it's my namesake. I know it was designed by another designer whose name is Rhian, but I have to buy it. It's the rule now.

Kelly (38:14):

You don't have much of a choice.

Salima (38:16):

I think you need to have it.

Rhian (38:17):

I have to have it!

Salima (38:18):

You do need to have it.

Rhian (38:18):

I have to have it. So thank you so much. You are so awesome. And I can't wait to see all the awesome things that your brand continues to do. You've done so much already.

Salima (38:27):

Thank you so much for having me.

Rhian (38:29):

It's absolutely our pleasure.

Kelly (38:33):

Thanks for tuning in, and thanks again to our sponsors for supporting this episode. You can subscribe to Commerce Tea on your favorite podcasting service. We post new episodes every Tuesday, so grab your mug and join us. See you next week.

Rhian (38:53):

Clocked In is a time clock for Shopify. With Clocked In, your team members can easily clock in and out of their shifts from anywhere. You can manage your team's hours as they work remotely with an intuitive interface that can be used from desktop, tablet or mobile. Check it out, or in the Shopify app store.




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