We had the good fortune of connecting with Zulfar Shaker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zulfar, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
A static life is a boring life to me. I find I like a new challenge/project that can keep me motivated in achieving higher limits. Much of my motivation started as a kid, seeing my parents’ hard work and dedication even as we were new immigrants from Afghanistan. Not knowing the language and forced to start a new life, they persevered with challenges in various ways; over time, they built a new life and made sure we learned the lesson of everything that was achieved. I never took for granted the blessings and made sure I tried to build on these strong habits as I grew up. I finished my undergraduate studies in 3 years at UC Riverside while also completing an internship with the I.R.S. I made sure I had all the boxes checked before I graduated to create a strong resume. Then at age 20yrs, I landed my first job in the Accounting profession. A few years later, I married and began my next stage of life as wife and eventually became a stay at home mom of four boys. Along the way however, I continued to learn new crafts, improved in my culinary skills, and loved to attempt do-it-yourself projects. I felt the satisfaction of pushing myself was always worth it. When SAUBOON was started during the middle of this pandemic, it brought on its challenges. However I continued to find ways to motivate myself and create products that served a need as well as showing my kids how easy putting your mind to something can produce successful results. Learning, perseverance, dedication and challenging myself are some of the headline habits helping with the growth of my business today.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Whenever we took family vacations I always would purchase soaps for myself and for gifting when we returned back home. A few years back, I started to wonder just how soaps were made. Everything onward after that built up to where I am today. I watched hours of youtube videos with makers creating the most amazing cold process soaps and read books and researched. I eventually started testing and creating small batches and the addiction grew from there. I come from Afghanistan originally and for generations in that region clays were used for its beneficial properities to cleanse and purify skin and hair. I wanted to add this ingredient in my soaps and it certainly contributes to the experience in using my handcrafted soaps.
Certainly there were mishaps along the way with learning and creating soaps and the many other products I make, but it helped me learn and grow. I learned certain ingredients sometimes are more difficult to work with so I eventually found a better substitute. I also learned a lot from seeing customers at the local Farmer’s Markets which I sell my products in. I’ve had 8 months of market analysis, to observe customers and their behaviors of what attracts them to my booth (usually the visual appeal brings them in, then the smell factor keeps them standing) and how to strengthen my business model.
Lastly, I’ve persevered with going weekly during this pandemic (some periods of time very anxious) to the La Jolla Open Aire Market, alot of it for the sake of my children.. They were forced to do virtual schooling since March 2020 and lost that time in having social interaction. I wanted them to have roles in the business, to speak and explain to customers about what we have to sell, to handle the transaction of sales and to learn how the hard work does pay off in the end. They’ve been able to recognize customers returning back month to month and take pride in this small family business, SAUBOON, which they are apart of. I’m grateful to have this ability to give them this experience which I hope will help shape them later on in life.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
San Diego is my most favorite city. We have the most beautiful, scenic beaches (Coronado is my fav) just a few minutes anywhere you are so I would definitely head to spend a day at the beach. Also, you can’t leave San Diego without seeing the San Diego Zoo & Safari Park so that too would be a favorite San Diego destination. Another activity we love to do in San Diego a couple of times a year is renting a pontoon boat from Mission Bay Sports Center and spend a few hours out on the Mission Bay.
My family and I love mediterranean and Afghan cuisine. Take out usually are from these places around town, which I would provide to visitors : Mystic Grill, Baba Kabob, Ali’s Chicken & Waffles, Kabul Kabob House, Sufi Mediterranean Cuisine and Tahini.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?Well I preluded to my parents being a big inspiration to me and they’ve shaped me to be the person I am today. My father passed away 5 yrs ago and I do wish he could see all that I have accomplished in this time.
My husband, Salim and my four boys: Yusuf, Amin, Hasan and Zayn I also have alot of gratitude for. They’ve given me support when I needed, feedback when I asked, and let me take over a lot of space in our home for SAUBOON studio to be housed. I’ve missed regretfully Yusuf’s Spring Season soccer games, many family outings so that I could stay back and do what I love to do – create and make beautiful soaps, bath and body products.
My mom, sisters, family and friends of course all have encouraged me and motivated me too. Starting a small business requires a village and mine is a beautiful, loyal and supportive one. Thank you to all!