Kuwait's Souffle Beauty Is Ready To Make Its Mark In The Probiotic Skincare Market
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This article is part of a series on pioneering entrepreneurs in Kuwait that Entrepreneur Middle East has built in collaboration with Kuwait Finance House. Kuwait Finance House is considered a pioneer in Islamic finance or Sharia’a compliant banking, with it being the first Islamic bank established in 1977 in the State of Kuwait, and is today one of the foremost Islamic financial institutions in the world.
Founded in 2017 by Tarfa Al Farhan and Minnie Ang, Souffle Beauty was born out of the duo’s curiosity for personalized skincare, especially formulated for people living in hot and humid climates such as the Middle East or South East Asia. The duo met in university and have gained experience in various industries, such as hospitality, tech, and international trade relations. They reconnected on shared beliefs and values on personalized skincare. With Al Farhan in Kuwait and Ang in Singapore, the co-founders wondered about the possibility of a skincare range that can be personalized to the climate one is living in. “It started with us struggling to find the right skincare range, suitable for perpetually hot weather we were living in, and [our] active lifestyle,” says Al Farhan. “We wanted something light, potent, and effective that can be used on daily basis. We were aiming to provide a skincare routine that does not require much time or effort, since our target market are those who are on the go.”
Once they formulated their hypothesis and problem they aimed to tackle, they did a survey research among friends and acquaintances to understand if adjusting skincare to the climate one is living in is a factor they consider important. After validating this, they started forming their target markets. Since the skincare range was formulated for hot and humid climate, they decided to focus on Middle East and South East Asia, with the objective of proving that skincare routines should be adaptable to the environment. The team focused on creating a formula free from alcohol and parabens, as well packed with probiotic, antioxidant and rose ingredients. It is a PETA certified cruelty free brand, with its products made in Singapore under regulatory guidelines and in a GMP lab.
Minnie Ang, co-founder, Souffle Beauty
From the inception stage, like any other startup, the duo said they focused on adapting and learning from mistakes. “We sometimes cast our net wide, at the expense of our resources, but all in the interest of learning more about our customers and key partners. No matter how calculated our moves are and how lean our team is, mistakes are still part of the game, especially for someone new to the industry. We were learning and studying ingredients, analyzing competitors, selecting key partners, and looking at key indicators which would indicate a specific territory to be of high interest to expand into next.” And they’re seeing the fruit of their fruits- they have been able to focus on a few markets and customer segments which are a fit for their brand and are now ready to expand further.
Though the company started off in Singapore, they decided to have another headquarter in Kuwait to fulfill the demand of Middle East orders. Al Farhan says a benefit from being operational in two countries is being able to learn from each other and implement new ideas towards on another location, such as a new process or tactic in Singapore can be implemented in Kuwait too. Ang points out that one of the other main benefits is being able to expand the brand’s customer base and community. “We can learn from our community of different cultures and share the learnings with everyone,” says Ang. The challenge lies in shipping internationally and regulations, as well as logistical processes that can sometimes be painful to deal with, and which they manage by understanding the processes better and shipping in bulk to reduce future costs.
Currently, the brand is retailing in Kuwait, Dubai, Singapore, and Philippines. They also ship internationally through the website. They have a number of strategic partners too: in Kuwait, they are partnered with Brandatt, Vavavoom, Amavi, Urban Point, Zay, and boutique salons and gyms, while in Singapore, they are teaming up with Watsons, Naiise and Airport Pharmacy at Changi Airport and other local marketplaces, and in Philippines, they are partnering with e-commerce beauty marketplace platform BeautyMNL.
Source: Souffle Beauty
With the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a predominantly retail-based strategy, the duo had to pivot their strategy by pushing their online marketing. With stores being closed down and the disruption of cross border deliveries in some regions, they utilized the website and social media channels to make announcements and share business information during COVID-19 as well as continue customer activation online. The co-founders had to get creative and hands-on, with Al Farhan taking initiative to conducting deliveries herself with available drivers as there was a limited time for deliveries with set curfews in place. The duo emphasized on the importance of being flexible with your business model. “Never be afraid to pivot your strategy,” says Ang. “Your previous strategy may have been perfect to execute pre COVID-19, but it is not wrong to look back and change your direction to get to your end goal. In times like these, it is important to try living a balanced life to keep yourself centered. Work hard, eat well, sleep enough. Keep fine tuning your strategy for your business while you work until you find something that works.”
With the goal of being pioneers of probiotic skincare in product development, they have managed to successfully launched new products amid the setback from the global pandemic. They are also in discussion for new dates for tradeshows in Dubai and China. Plus, the startup is also in the process of launching their own app with new tech features, so stay tuned!
Source: Souffle Beauty
‘TREP TALK ME
Tarfa Al Farhan and Minnie Ang, co-founders, Souffle Beauty
What are some of the main considerations that entrepreneurs should keep when starting up a business in Kuwait and why?
Some considerations would be to understand the market and develop a feasibility study. The market research will change throughout but the goal will remain the same. An open mind with lots of patience. We all know the rigorous paperwork system can demotivate someone to start a business, however with experience, it does get easier. Kuwait is a small country that is built up on connections- build your relationships and connect with like-minded people to help you gain insight. This will keep you motivated in your entrepreneurial journey.
Hire quality and not quantity– there are many young, motivated people that would add value to your business. We are lucky in Kuwait to have many young graduates that are innovative and willing to work that add value in the business as they are hungry to grow.
What are some of the opportunities that you see available in the Kuwaiti market today, and what would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Kuwait has a reputation for innovative local entrepreneurs and is a small country – therefore easier to start and expand into other GCC nations. There are many opportunities out there if you find your niche and target audience to cater to. The purchasing power is high in the GCC region which allows people to be more adventurous in testing new products. Our main advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to never give up. There will always be humps along the way– but with a strong will, anything can happen.