Women on Top: Isabelle Bou Khalife Saliba

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If you have a dream, set out a plan and work for it and it will become reality.

Isabelle Bou Khalife Saliba is the managing partner of Al Berdawni trading – owner of the Golden Son brand. She graduated with a bachelor’s in law from the Lebanese University of Bekaa. Her work experience spans from FMCG management, to NGOs and education. 

She worked to develop a new branch of the Labora in Zahle, an NGO whose mission is to provide guidance and training to all job seekers and reduce Lebanese migration abroad due to unemployment. She played an essential role in promoting and operating the new branch and was able to provide a variety of services as a teacher to Lebanese students.

She is an active member of the Lebanese League for Women in Business – LLWB. She shares with us below her inspiring success story in building up Georges Saliba Mills in Zahle. 

The Interview

What was the main drive that pushed you to start your business? 

Several factors led me to launch Gold Son in the market. My husband owns Rim Mills that produce borghol (fine and coarse), couscous and moughrabiyeh and he sells in wholesales bulk to distribution companies. I decided to create a retail brand that generated higher profit than wholesale, while providing the consumer with a high-quality product that tastes good, holds its shape while cooking, preserves its vitamins, has a proper color, processed in stainless steel with high food safety standards, and presented in modern packaging. 

What was your biggest challenge when you started? How did you overcome it? 

My biggest challenge was that I didn’t have a packaging machine so the packaging at the first stage of Golden Son was done manually until I bought a semi-automatic machine, which reduced enormously the packaging time and improved the operations process.

How do you describe your core business activity and what’s the key value you offer to your customer? 

We sell premium quality fine and coarse burgul in addition to moughrabieh and couscous using prime sundried raw material. 

What are the key strategies you use to expand your business? 

Since 2018, we have expanded to 120 points of sale in Lebanon. We are also present in the USA, Sweden, Dominican Republic, Australia, and Kuwait. In order to expand the sales channels and target new potential distribution markets, we attend trade fairs like Gulfood in the UAE and SIAL in France. We also initiate contacts with international distributors and make online submissions. 

How do you advertise your business? How do you advertise your product/service?

Golden Son uses Facebook and social media channels to communicate directly with customers, to reinforce brand loyalty and spread brand awareness, especially in new markets. 

What do you look for when recruiting an employee? 

When recruiting an employee, I look for personality, communication skills, experience, work history, skills and knowledge, personal presentation and manners, technical skills, education and training.

How many employees do you currently have? How do you describe your management style? 

We currently have 5 employees. I follow the situational leadership style, which is based on adaptability, allowing me to move from one leadership style to another to meet the changing needs of my organization and its employees. Also, as a business owner I need to be able to make good decisions quickly in order to keep the business moving forward. I treat our employees as family members and this, in my experience, improves their work satisfaction.

How do you describe yourself in 3 words? 

I am optimistic, ambitious and also a dreamer. 

What’s your favorite part of your business, and why? 

My favorite part of the business is being presented with new challenges. I’m in a business that has unlimited possibilities and that makes me excited to be part of it. 

What made you choose this type of business? 

I chose my business because I believe in the huge potential of the food industry. I also chose it to prove to people who think that this is a man’s job that they are wrong. Another reason I chose it is to support my family and my husband’s work. 

If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be? 

My advice is that if you have a dream, set out a plan and work for it and it will become reality. Don’t wait for the “right time” because every minute can be the right time. To be successful you must be confident in yourself, your ideas and your business. You also must be proactive in what you do and how you do it.

How do you balance the different aspects of your life? (well-being, family, social and professional)

I started Golden Son while I was working with my family at Rim Mills and as the Bekaa coordinator of Labora NGO. As a mother of three children, I balanced the different aspects of my life by planning everything. Always remember that the key for you to start your journey and succeed is passion.

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