Cocktails With — Sonja Salmon

Sunday, February 17, 2019

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Sonja Salmon is a Jamaian-born entrepreneur and founder of luxury luggage company Ebby Rane, a line which was born out of necessity. Salmon found it challenging to transport all that she needed to present herself confidently with clients and colleagues while on business trips, in the carry-ons available on the market. So she designed her own. The Quartermaster carry-on has been on the market for five years and is already a favourite of Doria Ragland and Jessica Mulroney, mum and bestie of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, respectively. Salmon recently relocated to Cayman from Toronto. SO caught up with her over rum punch while she was on The Rock for a mere 22 hours.

To date, what has been the brand's biggest achievement?

I would have to say our biggest achievement is the consistent, overwhelming positive feedback and recognition we receive directly from our customers every day and through the pages of North America's top media. It is validating when our customers tell us how much they love their Ebby Rane products and when those sentiments are amplified by the press, who reach millions of people, there is no better feeling.

We see that Meghan's mum Doria Ragland and bestie Jessica Mulroney are fans. How did they get their hands on Ebby Rane?

We are very fortunate that our product has been enjoyed by some notable travelers. There is some serendipity in the Royal connections to our Quartermaster. Meghan Markle wrote about it years ago in her now defunct blog called The Tig. At the time, she was an actress on Suits. It's the gift that keeps on giving! Interestingly, her mother, Doria Ragland, was photographed with The Quartermaster and Valise on her way to the Royal wedding and once again on another trip to London. It's definitely a boon to have our product associated with the most watched woman in the world… and her mother!

How old is the company and what's next for the brand?

Ebby Rane will be five years old this year. At this point in the evolution of the company, I feel that we are just getting started. We have plans to introduce new products to our collection, all designed to make travel easier for the sophisticated traveller. We are also telling inspiring stories of our customers and partners as a way to help business travellers experience new places and learn from people with whom they can relate.

What is your biggest aspiration for the company?

To be recognised globally as the undisputed leader in luxury carry-on luggage for women who travel for business.

What has been your experience as a woman of colour operating within the luxury industry?

As a woman of colour, I have been underestimated many times in my life. I have always operated at my personal best and assumed in professional situations there will be mutual respect until proven otherwise. My perspective as a woman of colour and founder of a travel brand is that we need to engage in a broader conversation about access to capital for women-owned and minority-owned businesses. I know these challenges personally, even as the founder of a company with a track record within a high growth industry.

Before entering the world of entrepreneurship what field were you in?

I spent 15 years of my career as a Mergers & Acquisitions lawyer and then working as an executive in banking.

What advice can you give young people who wish to start their own business?

I believe in building strategic partnerships and tapping into your professional network to maximise opportunities that are win-win for all. It's also key to branch out and expand into new networks, especially with other entrepreneurs who can share non-traditional and creative ways to launch, build, and grow the business — it's key to be open, adaptable, and agile in business and in life.

I also believe in knowing your own strengths and staying in those sweet spots — engaging with others who share their expertise in areas that your business requires. At a certain stage of my business, it was time for me to bring on a partner with luxury experience from one of the top global hospitality brands to help us take Ebby Rane to the next level. Above all, I would offer the simple advice of having confidence: if you believe in your brand or product or service, stand behind it tall and make it happen.

Which is your favourite city to visit?

I have so many favourite places so it is hard to select only one! Naturally, I love spending time in Jamaica which always recharges me and grounds me with perspective. When I'm in Jamaica with my entire family, we like to stay in villas or all-inclusive resorts where there is something fun for everyone across every generation and age. I also have a love affair with Barcelona, Spain. I have a secret desire to live there.

What are five things about you that many would find hard to believe?

1. I like country music.

2. I had a radio programme called the Romantic Rendezvous at my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario.

3. My first business was an early version of a pop-up shop at the age of 16 and it funded much of my first-degree tuition.

4. I took fencing lessons after the birth of my first son.

5. Watching HGTV is my idea of a fantastic evening!

What lessons has motherhood taught you?

My true legacy will live on through my children, and the values, respect and integrity with which they move through the world and how they treat others is a reflection of me. Motherhood has taught me to be more present in the moment and to take teachable opportunities to talk and share perspectives.

Heels or flats?


Jeans or LBD?

Both! LBD Monday to Friday. Jeans on weekends.

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