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Sadaf Salout stands in front of an artistic mural in her Encino, California, restaurant.
Sadaf Salout is modernizing Persian cuisine at her self-named restaurant, Sadaf, in Encino, California.

An appetite for business

When Sadaf Salout isn’t busy running her Persian restaurant or buying a franchise, you’ll likely find her in the classroom, where she most recently earned her doctorate degree.

May 22, 2018

Here’s a top chef and entrepreneur who’s a voracious learner, too.

At 33 years old, Sadaf Salout has already bought and sold a business. She’s also the chef and owner of Sadaf, her self-named Persian restaurant in Encino, California. And, oh, by the way, she has two master’s degrees and just earned her doctorate in clinical psychology.

“I would have to say I get my work ethic from my father,” said Salout. “I hustle hard.”

After learning the restaurant business from her father, Ali, Sadaf Salout opened her own restaurant in Encino, California, with a vision of modernizing Persian cuisine. (2:31)

Salout’s penchant for hard work and her knack for learning made her an eager student while growing up in the Los Angeles area, where her father and uncle have operated their two Persian restaurants since she was a little girl.

“I was raised in the restaurant business — with my twin sister — running around the restaurant, falling asleep on the booths,” Salout said. “So as I got older and could see how a business evolves, I realized not only do I love cooking, I love the customer service aspect of it, and I love people enjoying my food.”

She was a quick study in the family restaurant business. After high school, Salout attended California State University, Fullerton, and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business — supplementing her real-world restaurant experience with more formal guidance on what it takes to be a successful business owner.

A young entrepreneur spreads her wings

Not too long after graduating, Salout pitched her father and uncle her vision to modernize Persian cuisine, and the family opened another restaurant — Sadaf — in 2011. While the partnership worked well to get the business off the ground, Salout decided to fully realize her plan for the restaurant — from atmosphere to menu — she needed full control, which meant buying out her uncle’s share of the company.

To do so, Salout reached out to Mike Bulda, her business relationship manager at Wells Fargo. The two had worked together a few years prior, when Salout applied for and received a U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan from Wells Fargo1.

Salout’s first SBA loan allowed the budding entrepreneur to purchase an in-home senior care business. Buying the franchise gave Salout the invaluable experience of running a company on her own — and allowed her to honor her grandmother, Akram Daneshpour, who lives in Iran and has Alzheimer’s disease.

“Because of the distance, we can’t be there with my grandmother very often, and that is particularly hard on my mother,” said Salout. “But we know she is being well cared for back in Iran, and that means a lot. Buying the business allowed me to help provide that same peace of mind for families in our community here.”

With no previous experience applying for a loan, Salout was pessimistic about getting approved, but she worked with Bulda on the loan application and together they made the case for financing her franchise purchase.

“I never thought I would get an SBA loan,” Salout recalled, “but with Mike’s help and encouragement, I said to myself, ‘Let’s shoot for it’ — and it happened!”

Sadaf Salout and Mike Bulda stand in Salout’s Encino, CA, restaurant.
Sadaf Salout worked with Wells Fargo banker Mike Bulda to obtain two SBA loans.

With that experience under her belt, a more-confident Salout applied for a second SBA loan a few years later to purchase her uncle’s share of their restaurant.

“When Sadaf has a need, what I try to do is to really understand what she’s trying to accomplish and how Wells Fargo can help get her there,” said Bulda. “In my job, I get to help small businesses grow and achieve their goals. And when you have a business owner like Sadaf, who loves what she does — it makes my job that much more rewarding.”

Salout added, “In the restaurant business, especially when you’re the owner, you can feel very alone. But Mike was always there shooting me little reminders, sending me an email, giving me a call — so I have someone I can depend on when it comes to my banking. Just like my dad, Mike and Wells Fargo always have my back.”

Restaurant owner Sadaf Salout demonstrates how to make Tahchin, a classic Persian dish. (1:00) View the complete recipe (PDF).

The next course

With things moving full speed ahead at the restaurant and Salout continuing her secondary education at the same time, something had to give. So after a few years of managing the senior-care business, she made the decision to sell the franchise.

“I learned so much by owning the business — I improved my marketing and sales strengths by working with hospitals and other healthcare providers — and I also met so many beautiful people along the journey,” she said. “However, since I had recently bought out my uncle’s share of Sadaf, it was time to make my vision come true, so I chose to focus on my restaurant.”  

But, for Salout, that aforementioned “hustle” has no quit.

And so, since slowing down isn’t really her style, Salout’s next planned venture isn’t a second location for Sadaf (at least not yet) or another franchise purchase — this time, she’s opening her own psychology practice.

“After I received my master’s in business, I got bored,” Salout said, laughing. “So I continued on and completed my master’s and doctorate in clinical psychology. I’ve always been fascinated by the ways peoples’ minds work and human behavior, which is related to everything, even running a restaurant.

“I like school — if you can’t tell — but my passion will always be for food and the service industry,” she said.


1All financing subject to credit approval and all U.S. SBA loans are subject to approval by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Contributors: Jennifer Donaldson and Hector Batista
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