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Navigating Necessity: How Lebanon's 2019 Economic Collapse Led Rudy Younes To Build Two Startups That Are Now Hitting Six-Figure Revenues "I believe in leveraging technology to empower individuals and businesses throughout MENA, helping them achieve more and improve their livelihoods."

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Rudy Younes

The vast canvas of entrepreneurship is often painted with either individuals who become "accidental" founders, or those who have always been drawn to the world of startups. Now, while it isn't uncommon to find entrepreneurs that fit into both of the aforementioned categories, there is also another type: those who are practically forced into this realm. And that's the story of Rudy Younes, the Lebanese entrepreneur behind two UAE-based e-commerce startups, Nasmati Care and Trop Cosmetics. "My entrepreneurial journey began under challenging circumstances back in late 2019," Younes shares. "At that time, I was residing in Lebanon when the economy collapsed, severely affecting the financial stability of many, including my family. We lost a significant amount of our savings, with nearly a million dollars in the bank devalued to about US$10,000, as all our money was deposited in the Lebanese currency. This financial crisis served as a wake-up call for me. I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was forced into it by my circumstances. I had a choice: either work a regular job and maybe change my life and the lives of those around me after 10-20 years, or take the risk and hopefully change it within a few years. The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all."

Following the steep decline in the family's savings, Younes (who was still a university student studying software engineering at the time) found himself having to deal with the potential halt in the education of both his brothers- the elder was in medical school then, while the younger was in grade school. "Our family faced immense financial strain, which prompted me to take responsibility and act," Younes says. "That was when I started managing social media accounts for various clients, by reaching out to potential customers with the simple message, 'Hey, do you need help growing your account?' From sending hundreds of direct messages daily, I managed to secure a few deals, initially earning around $500 per month, which gradually increased to between $1,500 and $2,000. After saving enough around $1,500, I aimed to establish my first venture- a company that specializes in creating, managing, and scaling e-commerce brands within the health and beauty niche."

But as is the case with a lot of first attempts in entrepreneurship, Younes' debut venture was met with plenty of roadblocks. "At the time, I chose [to register the enterprise in the US city of ] Delaware for its tax benefits and the ability to open a business bank account that could accept international payments, a necessity given the restrictions in Lebanon for payments processors," Younes elaborates. "However, this venture faced significant hurdles, including an unexpected $25,000 penalty from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), due to a misunderstanding with the law firm that set up my company. I had barely saved $500 back then. This setback hit me hard, but it didn't deter me. Instead, it motivated me to work even harder. Through perseverance and taking on multiple projects, I managed to generate $18,000 in three months, which helped me resolve my tax issues, partially thanks to a waiver granted by the IRS during the COVID-19 pandemic. I ended up paying around $9,000 for accountants, legal papers, and for dissolving the company. This was one of the most challenging and stressful moments ever, but made me a way stronger person than before. And I didn't mention it to my family until it got solved, as I didn't want to add more stress to my parents."

Having successfully overcome this trying phase, Younes shifted his focus towards saving up to 70% of his company earnings, all for a singular purpose: to accumulate $10,000 to start a new venture called Nasmati Care, a platform that offers innovative hairstyling tools."I used to just pay the monthly expenses without going out, and I stayed at home for two years," Younes recalls. "This led to the launch of Nasmati Care in June 2022 in Lebanon. Within the first year, Nasmati Care achieved $137,000 in revenue, completely self-funded. Buoyed by this success, I expanded into the UAE market in June 2023, and then launched another brand, Trop Cosmetics, a makeup brand that offers magnetic lashes and lip kits. Both brands have flourished, achieving six-figure revenues, and they are now poised for global expansion. Currently, we are generating $240,000 in 2024, and we're aiming to double it by 2025. All of this has been achieved through self-funding and rigorous financial discipline."

Source: Trop Cosmetics

While his entrepreneurial instincts were developed in the midst of a crisis, Younes made it a point to look up to successful entrepreneurs and industry experts as he went about building his business. "I've been inspired by many leading entrepreneurs who faced similar struggles and managed to grow bigger than ever," he says. "Coming from a non-business background, I invested in mentors, paying around $500 per month, to learn how to think, make decisions, develop a great mindset, and execute strategies to differentiate myself from others. I am very grateful for their teachings, and I hope to pass on the same values to the younger generation. There is nothing impossible if you put your mind to it; the sky's the limit. This is why I now aim to be a trustworthy source for others, enabling them to benefit from and learn from my experiences, as I once struggled to learn from the right people. And so, to anyone reading this, if you have zero dollars in your bank account but you are eager to change, trust me as I am doing it, it is possible to get to the top!"

And in case you're wondering what all of this has meant for Younes' family, well, there's good news on that end too. "This journey has not only transformed my life, but also enabled me to support my family significantly, including funding my brother's medical studies in the USA, where he now specializes in cardiology," Younes says. "So, yes, it has been an insane journey with a lot of challenges, but with great rewards."

But despite the success Younes has achieved in his entrepreneurial journey today, it is interesting to note that the founder's endeavors started out -quite understandably- with no real business goals in place. "To be honest, when I started, I didn't have a clear vision; I just wanted to make money, get out of my bad situation, and take care of my parents," he says. "Over time, the vision started to become clearer on its own. Now, my goal is to make my two brands, Nasmati Care and Trop Cosmetics, the best in innovative hairstyling tools and makeup cosmetics. Since money is no longer a problem and I am already a six-figure-entrepreneur, my motivation has shifted. I am no longer driven by money, but by the desire to change the world and add value to it. At this point, money is just a tool to keep executing my vision. Starting from literally zero and being self-funded, I have achieved a lot, but personally, I am not satisfied. I am aiming for even bigger achievements. I used to dream of reaching six figures, and now that I have, my dreams have grown much bigger. I am on my way to achieving these larger goals in the next 1-2 years."

Source: Nasmati Care

In achieving this new set of goals, however, Younes says he is determined to avoid external investments for the foreseeable future. "I am actually not a fan of outsourcing funds due to multiple reasons," he says. "First, they will take a stake from your company, and second, they will add more pressure on you, which might affect your business decisions due to the pressure that will come with it. Thus, I am not against it, but for now as long as I can take the full risk myself, and fund everything myself -and I am a very confident person- the same way I went from zero to six figures, I will go from six figures to seven figures, and more, with time, by myself."

Riding high on the milestones achieved by his startups, Younes now hopes to create a compound effect for the success he's been able to taste so far. "Through my businesses, I aim to create an impact by introducing innovative health and beauty products that enhance people's lives and foster economic growth in the MENA region," Younes declares. "By creating jobs and nurturing local talent, we contribute positively to the economies we operate in. The legacy I hope to leave centers around empowerment and sustainability. I believe in leveraging technology to empower individuals and businesses throughout MENA, helping them achieve more and improve their livelihoods. Additionally, I am committed to sustainable and ethical business practices, aiming to set a new standard for how businesses operate in the region. Ultimately, I want my businesses to be remembered not just for what they achieved, but how they achieved it- by making a positive, lasting difference in the community and the environment."

Related: Go Big Or Go Home: More Middle Eastern Boldness Is Needed To Break "The Scale-Up Ceiling"

'TREP TALK: Rudy Younes shares his tips for entrepreneurs

Embrace a growth mindset "Embracing healthy competition unlocks your full potential; so, focus on winning, rather than dwelling on losses. Limitless thinking is essential- do not put limitations on your mind, as these are just false barriers. Instead, be eager to grow quickly, execute fast, and take swift actions, as money loves speed and rewards those who act first."

Keep an open mind "While pursuing your passion is important, mastering something you initially dislike -but have the potential to excel in- can turn into a newfound passion. These traits collectively empower a startup founder to not only survive, but thrive through challenging phases."

Continuous learning is key "I remember I used to watch and learn from YouTube every single day to learn from better people in my field. At the end of the day, if I was able to do it, and a lot of others are able to do it, then why can't you? No one is better than anyone except for the hard work they put in."

Faith and kindness play significant roles "Praying to God for guidance, and being good to others, can bring manifold rewards. Consistency in your efforts is vital, as is maintaining a great reputation. These will help you stay resilient and respected in the long run."

Related: The State Of Play -And The Road Ahead- For Startups And Investment In The GCC

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

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