When Reem Abou Samra had the initial idea of creating a chain of beauty salons it was based on her own experience and what she believed was lacking in the market in the UAE.
The Syrian-born entrepreneur wanted somewhere that she could go that would make her feel like a star. Somewhere where she could socialise with friends and have just a few hours completely for her. She was tired of feeling stressed or unwanted in beauty salons and realised the only way she could get the experience she was looking for, was to create it herself. Reem opened her first Laloge salon in Emirates Hills, Dubai and today she has five locations, with more on the horizon. What’s different about her salons is that they were built on passion and experience, so every fine detail has been considered to ensure every woman that passes through the doors, has the best experience possible.
At the beginning of the year, Reem had hopes of opening salons outside of the UAE, with plans to launch across the GCC and even in London. But of course, these plans came to a halt when the global pandemic arrived in March and the business was forced to shut for a month during the lockdown. But things are getting back on track with the salons welcoming even more women than expected through the doors every day. Cleanliness is of the utmost importance and ensuring that women feel safe when they come to Laloge is at the forefront of Reem’s mind. Her plans to expand internationally are starting to move forward and things are looking positive for the future. We find out more about how this period has given this passionate entrepreneur time to reflect and build for a better future.
How have you spent this year so far and have you changed anything about the business moving forward?
I don’t see this year as a problem but as an opportunity. First of all, it gave me the chance to relax as we had to close the beauty salons for a month. I needed this month because I had been working very hard so it gave me time with my family and enabled me to get into a routine of doing a lot of yoga and meditation. This helped me a lot to come up with new ideas of how to change the business and how to move forward. So it was a blessing for me. But of course, for the business, it was slow and challenging. But challenges give me motivation and desire so I embrace them. I realised that we would need to move very fast in order to navigate through these tough months so we put together a lot of new strategies and processes. After the quarantine period, we started to go full speed ahead. We cleaned all of the locations and started to push the salons with marketing and on social media and it has been doing very well, even more than we expected. I think coming to the salon has helped a lot of people as it gives them a chance to relax and think about only themselves just for a while. It has also reassured women that life is still the same. When women look beautiful they feel positive and that is what I want.
What is something that you have learnt throughout this year?
I’ve learnt that we should really think about how to balance our lives. I’ve realised that everything in the universe was imbalanced and the pandemic has allowed us to slow down and reassess what is important. I also think it has been a time for people to think about their mental health, as well as reassessing when it comes to shopping and whether we really need all these material things. When it comes to family, no one ever had the time to spend with their family and this has changed which I think it’s something really beautiful to have come from this. What’s special about this moment is that it’s universal, it’s not exclusive to one particular country or place, it’s all around the world and we have really seen people coming together as one family during this time.
What do you think makes your salons different from others in the UAE?
For our salons, the most important part is what our intention is and that is to make everyone look beautiful and feel happy. Of course, I have to make money, but this is not my main objective. So we focus more on making sure that when a woman enters the salon she feels like a normal lady, but when she leaves she feels like a star. She will be treated like a star when she’s in the salon and she will transform and feel special when she leaves. I created my salons because I felt something was missing in the market. I wanted something that captures what a woman wants and makes her feel better. I like to create an atmosphere where even if she comes to the salon for three hours she feels happy and at home. I invite women to make new friends or come together to socialise and enjoy themselves while having some much-needed me-time.
Last time we spoke you mentioned how you were looking to open international salons – can you tell us any more about that?
Before the pandemic, we had several enquiries about this, especially for the Gulf region – Bahrain, Doha, Saudi Arabia, as well as London. But of course, everything has stopped for a while because of the situation. But now we are looking to start again and we are now ready to franchise to anywhere in the world and we want to start doing it as soon as possible. I think we will start with Saudi Arabia as we have a number of offers, especially with many hotels opening there. We will be picking and choosing the best!
This issue is about celebrating success – how would you define success?
Success for me is first of all to be yourself and then you will make all the right decisions. If you are yourself you will know exactly what you want from your business and that will allow you to have a better future and a better you. For me, it’s about learning and evolving, not just making money. Money comes and goes but the real goal should be how to become a better person and create something new for this world. Some people like to invest for success, I like to create something new and give something unique back to the world.
With every success comes setback and failures – how do you deal with this and stay motivated?
When something happens I don’t see it as a failure, I see it as a challenge. I have to be stronger and go ahead and figure out what needs to be changed. As long as you are yourself and you have the right energy, everything will eventually open up for you.
What is a challenge you have faced throughout your journey and how did you overcome it?
When I first came up with the concept of my salon it was very hard to get a good location as nobody wanted to take a chance on me. I found the location I wanted and I spent six months chasing the manager of the hotel. I wanted it to be somewhere that I wanted to go every day and I was determined to have this location. But the hotel wanted to have a salon with a well-known name and at that time I was still growing my company. So they signed with a big name but I felt it would come back to me somehow. After the summer I went back and the salon wasn’t there, so I went to see the manager and he told me that it didn’t work out. So I told him my concept and he saw the passion that I have for it and finally, he took a chance on me. He said I was the only owner of a company that had come to him and really explained why I wanted to be there. So that’s how we opened the first salon.
Another challenge is that I want my stylists and the people that work with me to feel that they can come here and grow and learn and change their mindset. I want all of my team to achieve their best.
If you look back, what is something that you would tell your younger self?
Believe in yourself and follow your dreams. Always dream big and support others. And be happy for them when they have successes.
How do you keep a family/work-life balance?
It is hard but of course, things have changed a little this year. The one thing I always do is that whatever I’m doing I give it one hundred per cent. Whatever it is and for however long, I focus purely on that one thing in that moment. When you give one hundred per cent to something you will get one hundred per cent back. It’s not easy but it’s something very important to learn. Meditation also helps me with this.
What is something you would love to change within the beauty industry in the UAE?
Not only in the UAE, but in the Middle East as a whole I would like to see an academy and criteria for hairstylists to train and receive proper qualifications. This is something that is already in place in Europe but we don’t have it yet in the Middle East. There needs to be more education for all of the talented people in the industry.
What would you say to those at the beginning of their business journey?
Firstly you need to be prepared to work hard and focus. It’s very important to have passion for what you do because otherwise even if you succeed you will not be happy.
Who or what inspires you to succeed?
There is no one specific but whenever I see any person I learn from him or her. It can be anyone around me. This is the way I think you can be more successful in a shorter time.
What is the life motto you live by?
Love yourself first. There are many more mottos that come later but this is what you start with!