- 36-year-old Mallory Solomon left an exhausting job in corporate advertising three years ago.
- She decided to move to Morocco to start a business that helps women artisans.
- Solomon says she wishes she’d saved more, even before she knew she wanted to start her business.
Burnt out and exhausted, high-earning advertising executive Mallory Solomon took a trip to Morocco in 2018 to recharge.
While there, Solomon was inspired by artisanal hand-crafted rugs sold at the local souk, or marketplace. She learned about the women artisans who were taught ancient weaving techniques passed down by their ancestors. She also learned that merchants, typically men, low-balled women artisans so that they could pocket a bigger profit from selling the rugs at the souk.
Solomon was inspired to start a direct-to-consumer business called Salam Hello so that women artisans can make as much money as possible from each rug they sell. As soon as she got back home to Brooklyn from her trip to Morocco, she started drafting the business plan.
By April 2019, she gave notice at her job and said goodbye to her $200,000 annual salary, not including bonuses, to start a business in a brand new country.
After retiring from the corporate grind at 33, Solomon shares three things she would have done differently to prepare for a massive lifestyle change.
1. She would have saved more money
While Solomon was saving part of her six-figure salary regularly, she wasn’t exactly frugal. She says, “I had my own place in Brooklyn. I was going to SoulCycle and I had a personal trainer. I probably could have been saving a lot more money.”
To support the start of her business in Morocco and the cost of travel, Solomon took out a loan against her 401(k). She tells Insider, “What I did was, I moved my 401(k) to Salam Hello, and I’ve been reinvesting that money 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 at Childfree Wealth says, “Keep in mind that if you leave the company, or if it’s your own business that closes, then the 401(k) loan immediately becomes due. If you don’t pay it back within 30 days, you will owe taxes and possibly a penalty if you’re under 59 and 1/2.”
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. She would have let go of her New York apartment sooner
At first, Solomon traveled back and forth from Brooklyn to Morocco every few months. Once the pandemic started, Solomon finally decided to let go of her rent-controlled apartment in Bedford Stuyvesant and move to Morocco full-time.
“I took a couple of things with me, but I pretty much sold all my stuff,” she says. Solomon’s rent in Morocco is $500 per month, and she was even able to afford a small studio space for her business. “I have the ability to do that because I didn’t have any of these other expenses tying me to New York and the United States.”
3. She wouldn’t have taken any side gigs
At the beginning of the pandemic, Solomon took a freelance advertising gig to make extra money. She says, “I’ve done advertising for so long that I can do some of it with my eyes closed. Because of the pandemic and everyone working from home, it was kind of simple for me to do, especially when there were travel bans within Morocco.”
She took advantage of isolation time to build up her funds, but she says she would have rather spent more time working on Salam Hello. With the cost of living so low in Morocco, Solomon didn’t feel like she had to hustle as hard as she would have if she still lived in Brooklyn.
She tells Insider, “In Morocco, you really can survive off little to nothing. The dollar really stretches, and the lifestyle itself is different, from the cost of food to the pace.”
Leo Aquino (they/he) is a Spending & Saving Reporter. Before joining the Insider team, they covered relationships, sexual wellness, beauty, fashion and more, always uplifting stories of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. You can reach Leo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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