Nadia Shah is making a mark on the city’s culinary scene, one delicious bite at a time.
It was a casual day at the Mall of the Emirates for Nadia Shah when she realized that none of the options in the food court could satisfy her craving for a special burger. “There’s something missing here,” she thought to herself.
Of Irish and Pakistani descent, and raised in Ireland, her taste had adapted to the artisanal burgers commonly found in her home country. The fast food burgers were disappointing and the effect they had on her stomach was far from pleasant.
Although Nadia returned home that day a little dissatisfied, the idea bothered her like an itch she couldn’t ignore. That night, she tossed and turned in bed, unable to stop thinking. Finally, she got up in the middle of the night to write down a logo and a name, and she realized, “I have to write this.”
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The next morning, she called her friend and future business partner to evaluate the business potential of the burger concept she had dreamed up on a whim. This coincided with the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced many businesses to close.
Some quick thinking led the partners to realize that, with no customers to serve, they could experiment with recipes and techniques from a ghost kitchen located in Arjan, Barsha.
Having completed an art degree at university, this was a perfect opportunity for Nadia to combine her creative experimentation with an entrepreneurial venture.
A mother and a burger boss
Shortly after, in the summer of 2021, Drip Burgers was born, offering exclusive burgers with unique and high-quality ingredients. However, the business was not the only thing that was conceived during this time, as Nadia would become pregnant while she ran her operation full-time.
“Motherhood was probably my biggest personal challenge,” Nadia said. Despite her accumulation of responsibilities, she could not be deterred. “Everyone would say ‘you have to take things easy’, but I had a different mentality.”
Her family, initially cautious, became more confident in the burger boss’s stamina 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.”
Still, perseverance in the face of adversity has always been one of Nadia’s defining traits, a quality she largely attributes to her parents.
As the child of divorce, Nadia learned important lessons from each of her parents.
From her father, a successful businessman, she absorbed the entrepreneurial spirit while serving as his right-hand woman.
From his mother, who refused to accept any financial support from his father, he learned a rigid independence: “She always told us that we had to earn our own money.”
This lesson became evident to her during her formative years, when she had to divide time between the luxurious accommodation with domestic help provided by her father and the modest unheated apartment in the poor neighborhood where her mother lived.
“It was through these pivotal experiences that I understood that it was always my father’s success, never my own.”
The ‘best burger’ in the United Arab Emirates
This success would eventually come for Nadia herself. A radio show would organize a vote in February 2023 to determine the best burger in the United Arab Emirates, with Drip Burgers ending up taking first place. “It means a lot 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 companies and creating a support system for those who, like her, didn’t have that support when starting out.
Collaborate with organizations 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, something that never existed for me.”