hero image Salmaan

Salmaan

SALMAAN

Meet Salmaan, an inspiring entrepreneur and community leader at BounceSpace in Amsterdam. Growing up in the heart of the city, Salmaan's journey has been shaped by international and medical schooling and a passion for creating supportive communities. Join us as we delve into his life, exploring his unique leadership style and his vision for BounceSpace as a "third space" for like-minded individuals.

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Salmaan, whenever we speak, you seamlessly mix English and Dutch, which gives you this intriguing cosmopolitan air. But I heard you grew up right here in Amsterdam! Can you share some insights into your early years?
Haha, yes! I grew up right in the bustling centre of Amsterdam, living above my father's Pakistani restaurant on Muntplein. I learned how to ride a bike in the Kalverstraat, at night when it was closed. Sounds cool, right? But growing up in that part of town was also pretty intense. My father’s restaurant was a vibrant and diverse environment but also chaotic and not the best environment for raising kids. This setting exposed me to a wide range of people and cultures, which was incredibly enriching. However, my father's ways of running a business taught me valuable lessons about entrepreneurship—specifically, how I wanted to do things differently. 
Did the chaos in your upbringing shape you into a more structured entrepreneur?
Maybe, becoming a structured and organized entrepreneur is something that was more autodidactic and learned when I started my first company and foundation about fifteen years ago. What also shaped me was attending the European School in Bergen, which was a profoundly diverse environment. This school was such a cool place. From kindergarten through high school, I was surrounded by students from all over the world—children of scientists, diplomats, and entrepreneurs. This international environment fostered a deep appreciation for different cultures and perspectives. It was a melting pot of ideas and traditions, which broadened my worldview and taught me to be open-minded and adaptable in human relations and personal development. I think the diversity at school helped me develop a strong empathy and understanding for others, which has been invaluable in my personal and professional life.
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It sounds like building relationships has always been deeply important to you. How does that translate into your work now?
Well, I describe myself as a “culture architect”. I help create inclusive and collaborative working environments by designing and facilitating leadership and team interventions. This involves working with teams to build trust and foster a sense of belonging, where everyone feels empowered to do their best work. My journey into this field started somewhat unexpectedly. Once, as a medical student,  I wanted to change the healthcare system and dove into topics of leadership and change within the system. After starting the foundation and movement in ‘compassionate healthcare’ and running a foundation and company, I was recruited by a bespoke consultancy working on leadership journeys and impact. After six years, I took a break, after which I  began receiving requests from people who needed help with organizational culture and leadership challenges. I found this work incredibly rewarding and decided to pursue it full-time. Since 2021, I've been running my own consultancy, providing services to various organizations. In addition, I also speak at events, moderate discussions, and offer masterclasses on topics like storytelling and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Do you see yourself as a team player?
In my professional life, I see myself as a team player and a leader. My leadership style is deeply rooted in collaboration. For me, leadership is about self-management first—understanding how I handle my challenges and responsibilities before guiding others. When I'm out of sync, it's hard to be effective in helping others. Leading by example is crucial, whether in maintaining my health, communicating effectively, or handling interactions with integrity. It's not just about giving directions; it's about being a role model in every aspect of life. I believe in the power of vulnerability, as Brené Brown is known to talk about on the TED stage. Showing my team that it's okay to be human and to have struggles creates a deeper connection and builds trust. 
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It sounds like you take a lot of responsibility, even when you're not officially working. How do you manage that?
It can sometimes feel like a heavy responsibility, but I see it as a mindset rather than a burden. Being a good person means setting a positive example, even in small everyday actions. I've learned to be honest about how I feel and to communicate openly when something isn't right. I’m not saying that I always succeed; I mean—it’s tough.  But, taking a moment to breathe and reflect helps me stay grounded and avoid being overwhelmed by the fast pace of life. I want to live my life actively, not passively, requiring conscious effort and self-awareness.
“I'm learning that it's okay to disappoint people sometimes and that setting boundaries is necessary for my well-being.”
Do you see this conscious attitude as a role you take on at work, or is it a mindset you maintain throughout the day, including at home with your family?
Absolutely. My family is the cornerstone of my life. My life partner Mahsa and my daughter Indi are my greatest sources of joy and inspiration. Balancing work and family is not always easy, but it's essential for me. I want to be present for my family while also pursuing my professional goals. BounceSpace has been instrumental in this balance. It is a "third space" where I can seamlessly blend my work and personal life. My family often visits BounceSpace, and it's heartwarming to see my daughter feel at home here, asking for her favourite babyccino at the bar. Creating a space where work and family coexist harmoniously is a priority for me. Mahsa has been a tremendous support, helping me in the many different phases I have gone through since we started dating in 2011, and we've been a strong team ever since.
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You mentioned BounceSpace as a "third space." Can you explain what that means to you?
A "third space" is a concept that refers to a place beyond home and work where people can come together and feel a sense of community. I know how important it is to feel a part of something. For me, BounceSpace embodies this idea perfectly. It's a place where I can work, connect with like-minded individuals, and feel a sense of belonging. My focus is to make BounceSpace the ultimate third space in the heart of Amsterdam. I want to work on increasing the diversity within the community, ensuring that people from all backgrounds feel represented and valued. It's already a wonderful place, but there's always room for growth. I'd love to see more creative and collaborative events that unite people and inspire innovation. My vision is for BounceSpace to be a hub of creativity, connection, and support—a true home away from home. But in all honesty, due to my busy work and life schedule, I haven't been able to implement all my plans as fully as I'd like. I want to make more time to really bring these ideas to life.
Time must be a challenge for you with so many roles and responsibilities. What's your biggest struggle in managing them all?
My biggest struggle is saying no. I have a hard time turning people down, when people or a good cause need help, which can lead to overcommitment and stress. I genuinely want to help everyone, but sometimes I spread myself too thin. This often results in late nights and early mornings, trying to fulfil all my obligations. I'm learning that it's okay to disappoint people sometimes and that setting boundaries is necessary for my well-being. It's a work in progress, but I'm getting better at it. Another challenge is ensuring that I'm present and attentive in all my roles—whether as a leader, a team member, a partner, or a father. It's a continuous learning and adaptation journey, but I'm excited about the possibilities ahead.
Text: Janna Nieuwenhuijzen
Photos: MADEBYSEM
Studio: Parq Studios
Make-up: Joran Hoffschlag
Links: Salmaan Sana

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