HB Investments' Seed Investment Fund And Incubator, HB Angels, Announces Launch Of Its First Startup, Ketish, A Luxury Feminine And Sexual Wellness Brand Founded by Emaan Abbass, who was formerly a product developer at Huda Beauty, Ketish aims to address a gap she found in the intimate care and feminine wellness industry, with the brand's products having been developed by keeping women's needs and desires on top of mind.
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HB Investments, the Dubai-based private investment office chaired by Huda Beauty founder Huda Kattan, has announced the launch of Ketish, a luxury feminine and sexual wellness brand, which is the first startup to come out of its seed fund and incubator, HB Angels.
Founded by Emaan Abbass, who was formerly a product developer at Huda Beauty, Ketish aims to address a gap she found in the intimate care and feminine wellness industry, with the brand's products having been developed by keeping women's needs and desires on top of mind. The Ketish portfolio is made up of targeted body care and wellness products that are "super effective, multi-beneficial, and have that undeniable dope factor," with Abbass revealing that the brand has been named after Qetesh, the ancient Egyptian goddess of love, passion, sexuality, and pleasure.
"Although some feminine care products have always existed, I found they lacked credibility, or were just low-key embarrassing to purchase," Abbass says. "We want to take feminine and sexual wellness outside of the pharmacy- a place that's typically associated with something being wrong or feeling sick. We want to elevate that experience and make it a part of your self-love practice. The products are going to be luxurious and effective, and developed with wellness in mind. We've transformed feminine care products visually. We've made them really beautiful, like a little secret weapon inside your bag, so you never have to feel embarrassed or ashamed, when whipping it out on a date, or on an outing with some friends."
In an interview with Entrepreneur Middle East, Abbass was emphatic about noting the key role HB Investments has played in getting Ketish off the ground as a business. In 2017, Kattan had announced on her social media channels that she was starting a US$10 million fund to invest in passionate founders with mission-driven business ideas, and that was the incentive Abbass needed to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams.
"I always had an idea to start a feminine wellness brand, but never thought it out until I saw that video," Abbass recalls. "I was nervous to approach Huda, not just because it was something that was so personal to me, but because I was an employee, and I wasn't sure how she would receive it. I finally worked up the courage to approach Huda with the idea for Ketish. And after several post-pitch conversations, the family saw the vision really clearly, and decided to invest in Ketish."
As an Egyptian American woman, Abbass was driven to launch Ketish after her own experiences in life in which feminine health and sex education were always considered as taboo topics at home. Having been diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus when she was 21, her fear of turning to her family for support or comfort led her to go through the nine-year healing process alone.
"This experience made me realize just how important my intimate health was, and I become hyper-aware of the products I was using on my body," Abbass explains. "I quickly realized that there was a gap when it came to taboo-free, trustworthy products in the intimate care space. I also went through this before the age of social media, and so, I felt that there weren't enough educational platforms or outlets for young girls like myself to lean on for support. I thus wanted to create a brand that not only provided effective, luxurious, and powerful products that were free from stigma, but I also wanted to create the community and platform I wished I'd had throughout my journey."
Emaan Abbass, founder, Ketish. Image courtesy HB Investments.
Abbass' personal vision for the brand is also what led Kattan to decide that Ketish would be the first brand to come out of HB Investments' HB Angels umbrella. "The purpose-driven brands that are here to change things in the industry and for consumers is where I want to be, and Emaan and Ketish represent this perfectly," Kattan says. "Whenever we're considering new investments, we always look for brands and entrepreneurs that have a similar vision to ours at HB Investments. We want founders that are passionate and have purpose for their brands- and Emaan definitely has that."
"Women don't realize how important feminine health is," Kattan says. "People still don't feel comfortable shopping for tampons or pads, and it's really bizarre, because something like this is human nature- so, why are all women so uncomfortable with it? Women are really holding themselves back, and it's not fair. So many women struggle with a lot of health problems, and some are so unaware simply because they lack the education. This conversation has had so much shame and stigma around it, and it's time to put a stop to it. Emaan has educated me a lot about how to take care of my feminine health, and now, it's time for her and Ketish to share it with the world. I really am thrilled to be supporting and working with someone who is so driven. I'm so proud of her; she has really grown as a founder, a woman and a boss!"
With Ketish now having become the first enterprise to be backed by HB Angels, Kattan says the entity will be continuing to keep an eye out for new investments in the future. "We are in the process of incubating other brands as HB Angels, and investing in other founders," Kattan says. "As part of HB Investments, we have made a few investments in the tech and consumer spaces with some amazing founders, where we're obviously less involved than we are with our HB Angels arm. As for HB Angels, our in-house seed investment fund and incubator, it's still a small portfolio that is growing slowly and organically."
"It's important for us to find the right partners with a mission that we fully support and want to grow," Kattan adds. "Right now, we're exploring partnerships around the world to invest in the right people. There are a lot of categories we've expressed interest in, we've spoken to a lot of different people, a lot of different founders, but we don't want to just throw our money and time around. HB Angels is a partnership, and we want to be able to offer our expertise whether it's branding, marketing, or social. I definitely see a lot of exciting partnerships coming our way."
When asked about the characteristics of businesses she's hoping to support through HB Investments and HB Angels, Kattan revealed a very particular feature she absolutely wants to see in the entrepreneurs and enterprises that she'd work with. "Hands down, the "human factor,'" she declares. "That's so important to us at HB investments, which is also why we have to be super selective about our investments. We care so much about finding founders with the right kind of passion and purpose."
"When we look at investing in someone, it's not always about how sexy the idea is," Kattan explains. "It's about the founder. Does he/she have what it takes? Are they in this only for the money? Is this idea actually important to them? Like I said before, it's a partnership, we are involved in almost every aspect, working side by side with them. They become part of the HB Investments family, so we don't want someone who just wants our money and has an exit strategy. We look for people who are passionate, have purpose, and are driven to make their brand as successful as possible."
Mona Kattan, President, HB Investments; Emaan Abbas, founder, Ketish; Huda Kattan, Chairwoman, HB Investments. Image courtesy HB Investments.
For Abbass, working with HB Investments and HB Angels has allowed her and her brand to leverage the different resources that have been built into this particular ecosystem. An added perk, she notes, has been the ability to work closely with Kattan on this enterprise. "We are very fortunate to have a female investor backing us as a brand," she says. "Huda has always understood and seen the Ketish vision so clearly. She has connected with it on a personal level, and she has supported us in action since day one. Huda and I have always had a very special relationship, but I do believe in the case of Ketish, our investor relationship is quite unique."
"I went from being a former employee to now a business partner and mentee, and throughout this experience of building the brand, our relationship has definitely transformed," Abbass continues. "Huda has given me invaluable advice based on her own first-hand experience, having to do with anything from business to marketing. She's taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, and pure passion, because she embodies all of those attributes. Huda believes in celebrating and uplifting everyone around her, but especially women."
But despite having her enterprise being backed by Kattan, Abbass admits that starting up Ketish wasn't a bed of roses either. "One of the biggest challenges we've faced is simply navigating the sensitivities that exist around feminine and sexual wellness category, especially in the Middle East," she says. "We've taken the time to talk to women from all over the world, but specifically in this region, in an effort to understand how women would receive a brand like Ketish. Each person we talked to had different reactions based on their own experiences, but one thing remained consistent across the board: that it's time for women to have a brand like this, to feel empowered, get educated, hear other women's stories, and to be a part of a bigger community. We know and understand that launching a brand like this will be met with some controversy, but the positive feedback we received really validated our "why.'"
"We are fully aware of how taboo these topics are, especially in the Middle East, and that they might not be received well by those who aren't accustomed to them," she adds. "But as a team, we felt it was important to take everyone's sensitivities into consideration, yet still remain true to our mission and voice. We understand that in order to reach women, we need to communicate in a way that feels safe for those who want to be a part of the dialogue, both in public and in private. The topic of women's health is too important to ignore anymore."