It was a casual day at Mall of the Emirates for Nadia Shah when she realised that none of the options at the food court could satisfy her craving for a specialty burger. ‘‘There’s something missing here,’’ she thought to herself.
Of Irish and Pakistani descent, and growing up in Ireland, her taste had adapted to the handcrafted burgers commonly found in her home country. Fast food burgers proved disappointing, and their toll on her stomach was far from enjoyable.
Though Nadia returned home that day slightly discontent, the idea nagged at her like an itch she couldn't ignore. That night, she tossed and turned in bed, unable to shake the thought. At last, she got up in the middle of the night to jot down a logo and a name, realising, 'I have to write this down.'
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The next morning, she rang up her friend and future business partner to gauge the commercial potential of the burger shop concept she had dreamed up on a whim. This coincided with the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was forcing many businesses to shut down.
Quick thinking led the partners to realise that with no dine-in customers to serve, they could experiment with recipes and techniques from a ghost kitchen located in Arjan, Barsha.
Having completed an art degree in university, this served as a perfect opportunity for Nadia to blend her creative experimentation with an entrepreneurial venture.
Soon after, in the summer of 2021, Drip Burgers was born, delivering upscale burgers with high-quality, unique ingredients. However, the business was not the only thing being conceived during this time, as Nadia would become pregnant while running her operation full time.
“Motherhood was probably my greatest personal challenge,’’ Nadia said. Despite the piling responsibilities, she could not be deterred. "Everyone would say ‘you need to take things slow’, but I had a different mindset.”
Her family, initially cautious, became more confident in the burger boss' resilience and composure, even as she attended events just days before giving birth. However, in her professional circle, Nadia faced a different reality: “I lacked the resources, finances, network, and professional support."
Regardless, perseverance in the face of adversity has always been one of Nadia’s defining traits – a quality she largely attributes to her parents.
As a child of divorce, Nadia learned important lessons from each of her parents.
From her father, a successful entrepreneur, she absorbed the spirit of enterprise while serving as his right hand.
From her mother, who refused to accept any financial support from her father, she learned rigid independence: “She would always tell us that we had to earn our own money”.
This lesson became evident to her during her formative years when she would have to split time between the lavish accommodation with house help provided by her father, and the modest apartment without heating in the sketchy neighbourhood where her mother lived.
“It was through these pivotal experiences that I understood that it was always my father’s success, never mine.”
This success would come eventually for Nadia herself. A radio show would host a vote in February 2023 to determine the best burger in the UAE, where Drip Burgers would end up taking the top spot. ‘‘It means so much that our customers took the time out of their day to vote for us,’’ she says.
Now, she strives to give back to her community by hosting events for other food and beverage businesses and creating a support system for those who, like herself, didn't have such support when starting out.
She collaborates with organisations like WCGA (Women's Career Goals and Aspirations) to achieve this vision. 'I want to create a community where people can share ideas, network, and support each other, which was never there for me.'"
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