Huda Kattan has built her global beauty business from scratch. As a Dubai-based makeup artist and beauty blogger.
The American-Iraqi entrepreneur saw a gap in the market for bold, wearable makeup products. She set about doing her research through her social media platforms and her blog ‘Huda Beauty’, getting feedback from her followers that would ultimately become the basis of her company. After taking a loan from her sister Huda created a line of false lashes which were picked up by Sephora in the UAE. Through her promotion on social media and her growing following the lashes became (what seemed like to an outsider) an overnight success, with the likes of Kim Kardashian wearing them. Huda’s company, which even until today is based out of Dubai, later began to offer other beauty products, including eye shadow palettes, liquid lipsticks, highlighter palettes, foundations, concealers and more. Her latest venture WISHFUL sees her move into the skincare category.
This true success story has been an inspiration to women not just in the UAE, but all over the world. Huda’s quest to promote a positive mindset about beauty, encouraging confidence and for all women to feel beautiful in their own skin, has made the brand image one that all women can relate to. Her current following on Instagram stands at almost 50 million and her reach is far greater than that. Huda has defied the odds to become a global beauty brand based out of Dubai so just how did she do it? We find out more about the true story behind her success and what we can expect to see in the coming months.
This year has been a strange one for all – what is something you have learnt during this period?
I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a pause. Since we started the blog ten years ago and the brand seven years ago, It’s been non-stop for me and the family. This period forced me to hit the pause button and to take the time to reflect on the last ten years. It also forced me to think about how I wanted to move forward – the things I wanted to start doing and the things that I wanted to change. This forced pause was truly a gift and I think I’m better for it.
You have launched a number of products throughout the COVID-19 period – how were you able to keep up the momentum?
We start developing our products long before they are actually released. In some cases, it takes several years before our products actually come to life, so that’s why we had a consistent stream of launches this year. That being said, we did delay the launches of some of our products as the timing just didn’t feel right and also made sure to put some of our launches to good use by dedicating them to front line workers.
Are there any changes you have made within the company during this time that you think are for the better? And is there anything you believe you will do differently moving forward?
We’ve really made it a point to listen to our consumers right now. We want to be as empathetic as possible as the world is changing so rapidly. One of the things we’ve done is delay the launch of some of our upcoming products as we wanted to make sure that consumers were ready for and open to hearing about new products. Additionally, we foresee that the current situation will accelerate the digital revolution and e-commerce will be a bigger part of all of our lives. Something else that we did this year, was that the family and I decided to forego our salaries to ensure that we could keep our teams at Huda Beauty around the world intact. Our people are the most important thing to us, so it’s imperative that they feel secure in order to be able to perform to the best of their abilities.
What can you tell us about your latest products or what we can expect to see soon?
We launched our debut skincare brand WISHFUL earlier this year and we want to make everyone’s skincare wishes come true with our gentle, simple and effective products! Great skin makes for a great makeup application, so WISHFUL and Huda Beauty go hand in hand. We are launching more new products this year, across our brands, all of which I am very excited about…you will have to watch this space!
Take us back to the beginning of your journey before you launched Huda Beauty – what was your goal and how did you set about achieving it?
When I understood how powerful makeup was, I wanted to share that power with the world. Makeup became a tool that I used to give myself confidence because I never felt beautiful growing up. My passion for beauty comes from the feeling that makeup can give you, no matter how much or little you choose to use and apply. It’s a vehicle for confidence and creativity and with that, you can conquer anything
You have had global success with your brand – what was your biggest “pinch me” moment?
Without a doubt, Sephora stocking our lashes for the first time was a surreal moment for me – I literally had to pinch myself! If anyone knew how many times that I had emailed them to schedule a meeting to give my business pitch, they’d think I was crazy!
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?
When we were just starting, we weren’t taken as a serious brand for a long time. There was a lot of frustration because retailers and distributors thought we were just silly girls with a hobby! I am so proud that my sisters and I stayed true to our vision and were able to take Huda Beauty from an idea to what it is today. One of the biggest rewards has been succeeding in a space where it isn’t common for an individual or a family-owned business to do so.
What would you still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
I really want to change the perception of beauty and make a big difference in the industry. I’m a firm believer in the power of beauty; it’s transformative abilities and how they give you the confidence to change the way you feel about yourself.
How important has social media been in the growth of your brand and what do you think it adds to your company?
We’re a social media born brand, so social media is the helm of everything for us! Starting my business as a blog and then developing into a brand, it was our social community that allowed us to make this jump. We wouldn’t be where we are today without our followers around the world. Our social family is a constant inspiration for me and I am so thankful to be able to connect with them every day. When it comes to creating new products, we always take into account what our community are looking for.
With every success comes setbacks and failures – how do you deal with this and stay motivated?
For me, it has always been about creating authentic beauty content that could help and inspire others. The relationships that I have built with my followers and the trust that I have gained is far more valuable than any business setbacks. I have been way more focused on the long-term impact and it has created a super-strong foundation for the brand.
What is a challenge you have faced throughout your journey and how did you overcome it?
One of the most challenging things was getting started. In order to start the business, I took a 6,000 USD loan from my older sister Alya to get going. Once we got off the ground it was extremely challenging to get investors to take us seriously. I think a lot of people overlooked us because we were women working in the beauty industry, so I think changing the misconceptions of investors was one of the biggest challenges that we had to overcome by believing in ourselves and pushing forward.
If you could look back, what is something that you would tell your younger self?
Be ready to sacrifice a lot, and that sometimes that means passing up on awesome opportunities. When you really want something, you have to work for it. You need to push through and never give up. Keep focused, and only do it if you are 100% passionate about it.
What is your secret recipe to success?
Focus on the right things and surround yourself with the right people. Your surroundings are so important, so you want to spend your time with people who uplift and inspire you and are constantly challenging you. It’s very easy to absorb the energy around you, so you need to make sure that energy around you is positive and upbeat. I also think it’s so important to trust your gut. Everyone knows what’s right for them, so trust your instincts. They’re usually right!
What is something you would love to change within the beauty industry?
I want everyone to be able to feel beautiful. Everyone is so different and has different features and personalities and stories and for me, that is true beauty. So I want everyone to be able to find a home within the beauty space.
What do you think women really want from beauty products today?
Every country has its nuances, but there’s an overall desire for high- quality makeup products worldwide. In the Middle East, we can see a for bolder makeup as women in this region love to take chances with makeup so there is a demand for things like dramatic lashes, contouring products and long-wear foundation.
The beauty market, particularly in the Middle East, is so competitive – what do you think made you and your brand stand out from the competition?
I think we have our own place in the market, and I think this is attributed to our relationship with our social media family and their role in our business. We pay attention to trends in the market and what’s driving growth for other businesses. Our inspiration comes from what our community wants, and we take that and figure out how to deliver using the best technology and formulas. I also think that we try to keep it real with our social media. I always try to show the most stripped-down, vulnerable side of myself, which I think a lot of brands and people aren’t willing to do. It’s this relatability that people gravitate towards.
What would you say to anyone at the beginning of their business journey?
Believe in yourself and surround yourself with people that believe in you as well. When you have support around you, you can do anything! I’d also say don’t be afraid. It’s OK to take risks and fail. Every step along the way is part of a learning curve. If you’re passionate enough to persevere and keep going, then every failure will be something to learn from and you’ll eventually get to where you want to be!
What is the life motto you live by?
Don’t take no for an answer. Listen to yourself, trust your gut and go for it! Be kind to yourself, stay positive, keep fighting and chasing for your dreams.