Turning Points: Huda Kattan, Founder And CEO, Huda Beauty
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In 2010, a talented makeup artist launched a beauty blog out of her flat in Dubai, with the only comments to her posts coming from her sisters. Two years later, in the summer months of 2012, two McKinsey & Company colleagues decided to quit their jobs, and start a ride-hailing digital business. Another two years later, in February 2014, a passionate publishing and sales executive gathered a group of like-minded colleagues to create a media publishing house that would truly deliver and cater to the needs of the Middle East region, vowing to give a voice to the current and future generations of business leaders in the Arab world.
Today, as we open a new decade, it’s good to see what the aforementioned personalities are up to today. Huda Kattan is the founder and CEO of Huda Beauty, one of the world’s fastest-growing beauty brands, which is valued at US$1 billion. Magnus Olsson and Mudassir Sheikha have already put their signature on the largest technology sector transaction in the Middle East, having agreed to sell the enterprise they founded, Careem, to Uber Technologies for $3.1 billion last year. Likewise, Wissam Younane, CEO of BNC Publishing, the media house behind Entrepreneur Middle East, is gearing up for the sixth anniversary of his enterprise’s flagship publication for the MENA region's entrepreneurs and business-minded readership in February 2020.
With these being just a couple of the turning points that have characterized business and entrepreneurship in the region over this last decade, we asked a few enterprising individuals to tell us more about instants in the last 10 years that have had a significant impact on their career trajectories. It is our hope that these will serve as insight and inspiration for a whole new generation of upstarts that will rise from this region (and beyond) over the next decade- we’re looking forward to the future!
Founder and CEO, Huda Beauty
One of the biggest turning points for Huda Beauty, Huda Kattan says, happened in 2017 when she agreed to sell a small stake in the business to TSG Consumer Partners, a San Francisco-headquartered private equity firm focused exclusively on the branded consumer sector. Kattan explains that it was a struggle to find an investment partner who would take them seriously, understand their vision, and treat them with respect. “When the search originally began, I could immediately tell who was in it for themselves, and who understood us and respected our magic,” Kattan explains.
“TSG was among the very few that felt authentic and understanding from the start. There were so many times where we would have meetings with people who would try to sweet-talk us into a deal, because they thought we were naïve women who would take anything in order to get started. That was honestly one of the biggest learnings for us: to stay true to the value we believe our company offers, and to not allow people to undercut us just because we’re women. Being women behind a massively growing business is not an easy task, and the journey to find the right investors and to secure true partners has proven that."
"And while we’re talking about investment partners specifically, I do want to note that this learning came from many different experiences throughout the process of building the business– not just locking in private funding. We experienced this same way of doing business from certain manufacturers to retailers to various stakeholders when Huda Beauty was just getting started. Just because we wear a full face of makeup doesn’t mean we don’t understand finance and business.”
Learning how to be a successful woman leading a business will remain the main lesson Huda Kattan aims to keep in mind in the decade that has just started. In fact, understanding how to succeed as a woman in a business environment, and recognizing just how hard it can be is what sparked the idea of Huda Beauty Angels, the first investment initiative within the Kattan family’s investment office, HB Investment. “This is a huge investment initiative for us, and something that I hold really close to my heart,” Kattan says.
“With Huda Beauty Angels, we’re investing a portion of our personal family wealth to women-led brands that we believe in! We know what it’s like to have a great idea, a ton of passion, and a lot of purpose with limited resources to get you there. We understand the struggle, and want to provide this to people we believe in, because we know how important funding and resources are to the success of a budding company. We’ll be sharing more about Huda Beauty Angels in the near future, but we’ve definitely already gotten started on the initiative in a big way.”