What inspires you the most?
What inspires me the most are people who come from challenging backgrounds yet succeed against the odds. Especially those that go from one country to another, under the most challenging of circumstances—refugees, and migrants, yet still succeed, against the odds. People who are literally forced to become pioneers – the first person from their background to challenge and change things. There is something incredibly powerful and satisfying to read about and watch journeys like that.
That’s the thing that keeps me going. My journey as a woman, a refugee, in a country that was not my own.
What I love more than anything is not necessarily the goal, it’s the journey that inspires me; the struggles, the hardships, and the disappointments that forces them to become bigger, better; the unshakeable strength and resilience that is forged from that struggle; And, most importantly, the willingness to share that journey, warts and all, with others, so that they may find strengths in the trials and tribulations of their own lives.
That’s the thing that keeps me going. My journey as a woman, a refugee, in a country that was not my own. I am striving to make a difference, not just for myself, but for future generations. I’m so inspired by the giants that have come before me.
What do you believe are the qualities of a great product?
I believe the qualities that make a great product are a few things. It goes without saying, especially in the beauty business, the product itself must be of the highest caliber and quality. There is far too much competition out there to make the mistake of having a half-baked, lack-luster product.
Another principal factor is the founder. People don’t realise how important it is to have a founder and a team that are 1000% dedicated to bringing their vision, their talents, the blood, sweat and tears to a successful conclusion. I’ve worked with lots of brands where the founders have a chilled, almost child-like naivety, with regards to what it takes to create a successful beauty brand. Especially in such a crowded, over-saturated, often indifferent marketplace. The beauty business is a little like the music business…so much has been achieved and covered already, so the innovation of the product itself can be limited. It will often be a variation of what’s been done already – so the tenacity and attitude of the founder is crucial, especially if, like so many, they are working with limited budgets.
Which brings me to another crucial factor of what qualities make a high-quality product. Often these qualities go beyond the actual product itself—like the founder, PR and marketing is probably the most crucial factor behind a successful product.
With so many layers to this, with the explosion of social media, PR, and marketing, and all the associated messaging, has to be a top priority. From the use of influencers – the success of the Kardishian-Jenners, has shown the power of influencers. But crucially, the right influencers and brand ambassadors. And the messaging behind the brand. What are the brand’s values, what do they stand for, how do they engage their audience, how do they stand in regard to current trends – both beauty and social. What problem, if any, do they solve? Just like the success of Fenty Beauty, addressing the needs and concerns of people of colour, or Jessica Alba, with her Honest brand, addressing the concerns around chemicals in baby products. There are so many factors that make up the essential qualities of an excellent product.
What are your thoughts on entrepreneurship and why did you decide to branch out on your own?
My thoughts on entrepreneurship are that it is tough. Tough but necessary, depending on your character. I think it’s easy to work for someone else. Give your time and attention to someone else’s dream. But for those that choose to be an entrepreneur – I think it’s a calling, often born out of hardship and uncertainty. So many women launched businesses during the 2020 lockdown. Many, like myself, chose to focus their energies on beauty and fashion. I believe they were answering that inner calling—taking control of their own destinies. I am so proud and inspired by the legions of women taking that tough road, in hopes of freedom, success and impact.
Why did I decide to branch out? Freedom, it’s as simple as that. Freedom, leadership, power, and self-expression, taking control of your own destiny. My trials and tribulations as a woman in an Arab culture, the turmoil of becoming a refugee in the UK, losing my father, having to make it alone in a foreign country, without my family – all these things almost forced me to become an entrepreneur. The hardships equipped me to deal with the uncertainty of taking this path.
The lockdown gave me the time and headspace to put all my ideas down. Create a blueprint for how I wanted to live my life. How I wanted to utilize my own time, especially having watched so many people lose loved ones. We have one life – we don’t even know how much time we have, so I had to branch out to discover what is possible for me.
Also, the ability to create my own platform, that I can use to really impact the lives of people, especially women. Women whose voices have not been heard. Being an entrepreneur gives me the ability to create my dream so I can help others with theirs.
In what ways does your agency help empower women?
Arabela Beauty Agency empowers women in so many ways. I am very selective with my agency. I don’t just work with any woman. I work with women that have a unique passion, a unique skill, a real authenticity, and a desire to succeed. And, of course, a high-quality product or brand.
I like working with women from similar backgrounds to me. I don’t necessarily mean women who were refugees, or from an Arab background. I mean women that were not given that chance to shine. Who haven’t had their voices heard. Women who have something – internal or external – that has held her back. Perhaps they’ve been told that they will never make it, or they’ve given up a wonderful job in order to go it alone and fulfil their dreams.
I also want to give women the access to support themselves, to support their children, to create a powerful woman with her own voice, her own self-expression. A woman that is a decision maker, able to independently impact not only her life, but the lives of so many others.
What is the key factor to a successful brand launch?
The ability to make as much noise as possible!
But before that – it is working to make the brand as cohesive as possible – everything just makes sense – the products, the packaging, fonts etc. To make sure the brand’s vision and mission is on point, and that the team, if there is a team, a fully in alignment with this. To make sure no stone is left unturned in pursuit of the brand’s launch. All partners, influencers, buyers, literally everyone is on side and ready to support.
And of course, the PR and marketing are on point. These are not areas to be penny pinching, but at the same time each spend as been considered and deemed worthwhile.
Then it is going out and making as much noise to the right people as possible, before, during and after the launch.
For me, a key part of this is getting the founder or founders ready. I really like the founders to be front and center of launches. It is their baby on show after all, so I want them front and center of everything. To be seen and to be heard with all the love, passion and enthusiasm they have for their brand.
What are the challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur, and how have you overcome them before?
The next thing is I surround myself with the right people. The incredible Mirela Sula, founder of Global Woman…
I’ve faced many challenges as an entrepreneur. The first is cultural. as an Arab woman growing up in Libya. There are not that many female entrepreneurs there, so I’ve had to become a bit of pioneer, certainly as far as my extended family is concerned.
Also, I studied dentistry at University in Libya, it doesn’t exactly prepare you for life as an entrepreneur. Another huge challenge is my English. Not only is English not my first language, but I also grew up with undiagnosed dyslexia—which has given me obvious challenges like, writing emails, making my ideals clear, and making my ideas legible. Related to this are the intellectual challenges I’ve struggled with, and the limiting beliefs that have gone with that. Thoughts of I’m not smart enough, not experienced enough, etc.
How I overcame these challenges is by tackling them head on. Rather than focusing on my limitations, I focus on my strengths. The fact that I am tenacious, bold, resourceful. The fact that I’ve had to face the worst life could throw at me – using all the lessons learned through this. My authentic love of people and my ability to create tribes around me that are committed to success, generously so. Practical things like outsourcing all these things I can’t do or can’t do well. Like finding the best social media manager, best business plan writers, best copywriters, best graphic designers, best interns.
The next thing is I surround myself with the right people. The incredible Mirela Sula, founder of Global Woman – being able to watch her come from difficult circumstances, yet triumph against the odds, has helped me on my entrepreneurial journey.
Lastly, my partner, Tre Lowe, has been a huge support in my journey as an entrepreneur. To have someone next to you that believes in you, that supports you in every way, has been so important. I would say to anyone starting out, find a tribe – that person, or those people that give you unconditional support.
Always believe in you, no matter what. You were born for greatness. The only person that can talk you out of that is you. Guard your thoughts, speak well of yourself, and keep moving forward.