- Mallory Solomon, 36, left a backbreaking job in corporate advertising three years ago.
- She decided to move to Morocco to start a business that helps women artisans.
- Solomon says he wishes he had saved more, even before he knew he wanted to start his business.
Mallory Solomon, a weary and exhausted advertising executive, traveled to Morocco in 2018 to recharge.
While there, Solomon was inspired by the handmade artisan rugs sold at the local souk or market. He learned about the women artisans who were taught ancient weaving techniques passed down from their ancestors. He also learned that the merchants, usually men, look down on the artisans in order to make a higher profit from the sale of rugs in the souk.
Solomon was inspired to start a direct-to-consumer business called Salam Hello so that women artisans can earn as much money as possible from each rug they sell. As soon as she returned to Brooklyn from her trip to Morocco, she began writing the business plan.
By April 2019, he gave notice at his job and parted ways with his $200,000 annual salary, not including bonuses, to start a business in a new country.
After retiring from the corporate grind at age 33, Solomon shares three things he would have done differently to prepare for a massive lifestyle change.
1. I would have saved more money
Although Solomon regularly saved part of her six-figure salary, she wasn’t exactly frugal. She says, “I had my own place in Brooklyn. I went to SoulCycle and I had a personal trainer. I probably could have been saving a lot more money.”
To support the start of his business in Morocco and the cost of the trip, Solomon took out a loan against his 401(k). She tells Insider, “What I did was move my 401(k) to Salam Hello, and I’ve been reinvesting that money back into my business.” Her initial loan against her 401(k) is $45,000, which she used for advertising, marketing, and inventory.
While this strategy works for Solomon, financial planner Jay Zigmont of Childfree Wealth says, “Remember that if you leave the company, or your own business goes out of business, then the 401(k) is due immediately. If No Yes If you don’t pay it within 30 days, you’ll owe taxes and possibly a penalty if you’re under 59½.”
At this point, Solomon still hasn’t paid herself a salary even though the business is finally turning a profit. She says, “I believe in the business and I believe in the story behind it. As with anything in life, it was part luck, part hard work. I totally believe in what I do.”
2. He would have left his New York apartment earlier
At first, Solomon traveled from Brooklyn to Morocco every few months. Once the pandemic started, Solomon finally decided to leave his rent-controlled apartment in Bedford Stuyvesant and move to Morocco full-time.
“I took a couple of things, but I almost sold all my stuff,” he says. Solomon’s rent in Morocco is $500 a month, and even he was able to afford a small studio for his business. “I have the ability to do that because I didn’t have any of these other expenses that tied me to New York and the United States.”
3. She would not have taken any side jobs.
At the start of the pandemic, Solomon took a freelance advertising job to earn extra money. She says, “I’ve been advertising for so long that I can do anything with my eyes closed. Due to the pandemic and everyone working from home, it was a simple thing for me to do, especially when there were travel bans within Morocco.”
He used the time of isolation to accumulate his funds, but says he would have preferred to spend more time working on Salam Hello. With the cost of living so low in Morocco, Solomon didn’t feel like he had to work as hard as he would have if he still lived in Brooklyn.
She tells Insider, “In Morocco, you can really get by on little or nothing. The dollar really stretches, and the lifestyle itself is different, from the cost of food to the pace.”