Dreaming Big: Haifa Addas, Founder Of Dubai-Based Instaglam, A Beauty On-Demand Service
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It’s often said that women have a better eye for beauty- Instaglam founder and CEO Haifa Addas might attest to that. But Addas also has an eye for gaps in the market that offer opportunities to establish businesses that can potentially thrive- and that is indeed how Addas, an experienced marketing and communications professional, discovered a convergence point between the UAE’s thriving beauty and events sectors that proved a fertile ground for her enterprise. Based out of Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Centre, Addas’ company, Instaglam, is an on-demand beauty service startup that arranges for professional hairstylists and makeup artists to come to you and service you at your homes, at your convenience.
Beauty is an area that UAE consumers are not prepared to compromise on- just recently, Euromonitor International reported that UAE consumers spent US$247 per capita on cosmetics and personal care, which is more than any other MENA country and ninth worldwide- this figure is expected to grow to $294 in 2020. At the same time, the general attitude among the Emirate’s residents shows a preference for frequent socializing and networking, for both professional and personal reasons. Therefore, a typical UAE-based woman, both expat or local, has plentiful events and functions to attend on a daily basis, and is voracious in her consumption of the newest and the best in order to be able to present her personal best to the public.
And Instaglam promises to live up to these expectations, explains Addas, adding that beauty is traditionally at home among Middle Eastern women. “As a child, I was surrounded by women who were an inspiration to me in many ways,” she says. “My mother was a makeup artist and hair stylist, and my grandmother, who was crowned Miss Lebanon in 1924, taught me that a woman can look good at any time and in any place. Growing up, I lived in many different countries -Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, France, Switzerland, and Canada- and was exposed to a wide range of cultures. From those experiences, I discovered that the demand for beauty is universal, and that the desire to look good and feel good about oneself is essential for every woman.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Instaglam is a platform for beauty professionals who, once vetted by the Instaglam team, receive a broader exposure to the UAE market and an easy-to-use tool for handling their bookings. Addas explains, “My career has taken me from working as a Marketing Manager for Lancôme and L’Oréal, to Communications Manager for luxury brands like Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, and Helena Rubinstein, to working with celebrities for leading pan-Arab magazines, where I got to take care of the celebrities’ beauty needs while they were in town. This was how I slowly grew my network of talented beauty professionals, each unique in her and his own way, and how I truly came to understand that these professionals have visions, skills, abilities and ambitions. Whether they were beginners or experts, one thing they all had in common was that they all have talents to share and grow.”
In 2016, she came up with an idea to combine function and beauty through Instaglam, spent a year researching the market, and finally launched the website towards the end of 2017, while the soft launch of the app is scheduled for May 2018. However, launching in the UAE is only just the beginning, and Addas is very clear that she considers her brand to be global. “As a woman who travels frequently for business functions, events and leisure, I know first-hand the difficulties of finding a suitable beauty professional in an unfamiliar city, sometimes even in Dubai, where I have lived for years,” she says. “That was when I realized that there is a need in the market, here and abroad, for a consolidated platform that can connect beauty providers with customers looking for glamour services. Based on this realization, and equipped with an intimate understanding of the beauty industry from both the supply and demand sides, I decided to launch Instaglam. Its vision is to become a worldwide leader in the beauty and glamour industry, both in simplifying and revolutionizing the journey to on-demand beauty services, and in bridging the gap between conventional beauty standards and shifting perceptions of beauty across regions and people.”
Typically, on-demand startups disrupt industries, but only if they prove able to meet very high customer expectations. For that reason, Addas opted to self-fund the business in order to preserve decision-making power needed to achieve service excellence she strives for. “At this stage, our priority has been to maintain creative license to build a solid foundation upon which we can grow the business,” she says. “We have received interest from investors, and will certainly consider taking outside investment in the near future to help scale the business. For now, although the UAE is a great place for startups with a vibrant community that is thirsty for knowledge and success, and also many incubators and mentors willing to offer guidance and help, the biggest challenge we faced was finding the right app developer. Particularly for a concept like Instaglam, our app is the face of the brand, and its platform through which we will connect with the majority of our customers and beauty professionals. Finding a developer that would enhance the customer experience was quintessential to our goals.”
Going forward, she sees Instaglam’s growth potential in both expanding geographically and adding different service verticals. The aim is to grow both in parallel, while testing a variety of services and ideas with different customer groups. “As with many service-oriented platforms, we anticipate challenges at the customer acquisition and retention stage,” Addas says. “In 2018, we intend to roll out our platform of services based on ongoing feedback from customers and focus groups, with the flexibility to respond swiftly to changing user habits. Another challenge is managing the user experience for both the professionals and the customers using our platform. Balancing the needs of both in a single app has been no easy feat, but one we have been determined to achieve.”
As our interview comes to an end, I notice that Addas’ flawless makeup says a lot about her style and personality, which makes me wonder how challenging she finds entrepreneurship to be. “I believe the biggest challenge of starting your own business is creating a divide between work and personal life,” she says. “The line that separates the two is much blurrier compared to when you work for someone else. I focus on the big picture and why we started, and I find myself enjoying every day with all its challenges. The Instaglam team is diverse, but what binds us is our shared vision for a platform that can transform how people, and women especially, view themselves and beauty in general.”
‘TREP TALK: INSTAGLAM Founder and CEO Haifa Addas' tips for entrepreneurs
Plan first- but remember to put them into action too
“Outline your ideas, then act on them.”
Be agile, and be ready to iterate
“Do your homework, but know that perfection is an ongoing process, and not a condition for launch.”
Keep the right people around you
“Network, network, network! Seek guidance, and surround yourself with the right team.”