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The Power Of Pause: Youmna Khoury, Founder, Youmi Beauty How a two-year-long hiatus allowed Youmna Khoury to reimagine her enterprise, Youmi Beauty- and make it a bigger success than it was before.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

Youmi Beauty
Youmna Khoury, Founder, Youmi Beauty

When Youmna Khoury founded her Lebanon-based cosmetic brand Youmi Beauty in 2017, she had a clear end goal in mind. "My vision for Youmi Beauty was for it to become a global cosmetic brand driven by empowering and celebrating the individuality of women, both today and tomorrow," she says. "Ultimately, my vision remained the same throughout my journey. However, I realized that if I wanted to turn my dream into reality, I needed to pause my business to re-strategize and provide products not available in the region."

The "pause" Khoury alludes to came about towards the end of 2019, just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. At the time, Khoury's brand was known as Youmi Online Shop, an e-commerce platform that sold colored eye contact lenses to consumers in the Middle East. But even then, Khoury was constantly fiddling with ideas on how she could expand her brand's offerings- a mindset that eventually led to her opting for an official break. "After pausing Youmi Online Shop, I took a two-year hiatus to travel the world, with the aim of sourcing the highest quality products for the brand," she recalls. "Upon successfully sourcing products, I decided to rebrand the whole company from website to packaging to meet the current industry standards and aesthetics. I want Youmi Beauty to be the one-stop-shop in the GCC to purchase professional salon products, which the market does not currently have."

Now, taking some time off to upgrade and upskill one's business isn't unheard of. But Khoury's decision to take the hiatus came amid a successful phase for her business endeavor- in just the first month of its launch, the platform saw its products being sold out. That consumer demand remained for the next two years, says Khoury. What is even more curious is, by then, the founder had already established herself as a beauty and fashion influencer on social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.

So just how did she muster the courage to force an indefinite halt at such a stage? "There were, of course, some doubts as to whether or not I was making the right choice at the time to pause the business," Khoury admits. "And then the pandemic hit, which gave me a window of opportunity. But at the time, I had a strong gut instinct that if I wanted Youmi Beauty to fill a gap in the market, I must hold it to the high standard that I seek for myself, in order to deliver the same to my customers. I knew that I needed to take a break to source and grow the product offering, despite already being established, and I knew I wanted to provide the highest quality products that you would get at a professional salon. So, I used this as motivation to drive the change. I relied heavily on staying focused on the business throughout the two years, including setting goals."

Youmi Beauty Lashes. Source: Youmi Beauty

Khoury's driven mindset can perhaps be credited to what she says has been her favorite piece of advice on leadership. "During my entrepreneurial journey, the best advice that I have received would be that it is always imperative to trust your own instincts and formulate your own opinions on matters," she shares. But, the founder also displays a level of stillness that is perhaps not always evident in the beauty industry, where the eagerness to churn out new ideas quickly is constant. "It is important to always believe in the right timing of things, to be patient, and to not rush things if the business does not feel ready; instead, take the time and effort to understand the products and market better," Khoury says. "Hard work will always pay off."

The surety in Khoury's reply is courtesy Youmi Beauty's performance post-hiatus. For starters, the startup shifted base to Dubai from Beirut in 2020. Then, in addition to its colored contact lenses that come in seven different shades, the company decided to add two other products to its offering: fake lashes and hair extensions. "I personally never feel my look is complete without colored lenses, hair extensions, and lashes, which led to creating a 'full look' for my customers," Khoury explains. "We launched with a pilot product, the brand's famed contact lenses, a collection that created mass buzz across the Middle East. With the hype the collection received, we took the company a step further by introducing two additional products to compliment the reputable lenses, and to allow consumers to create a complete look: lashes and hair extensions."

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Youmi Beauty Tape-In Extensions. Source: Youmi Beauty

When Youmi Beauty eventually relaunched on December 6, 2022, the results took Khoury herself by surprise. Two of its lens shades, Shade L'Africa (golden brown) and La Seychelles (light blue), sold out worldwide within the first few hours, with most purchases coming from Saudi Arabia. It was an occurrence that even led to the Youmi Beauty website crashing for a 15-minute period. "The Youmi Beauty team posted on Instagram in the lead-up to the relaunch, and the brand experienced thousands of messages from fans enquiring over the past few weeks," Khoury recalls. "There was a countdown and constant content posted that directed traffic to the site. With this in mind, the team anticipated a website glitch on the day, which happened due to the influx of users checking out at one time. Ultimately, we were all pleased to hear that we had completely sold out two contact lens colors in a matter of hours! The day was super exciting and exceeded my expectations, proving that my patience throughout the years had paid off."

In all the success Youmi Beauty has seen so far, the role of social media cannot be discounted. At the time of writing this piece, Khoury's personal Instagram account stands at two million followers. "I often show my followers how to style and pair different lenses with different hair extensions and outfits, which encourages them to do the same," she adds.

But even in the world of quick likes and even quicker fame, Khoury advises entrepreneurs to maintain sincerity when using social media as a business tool. "My main advice is to be authentic and transparent; your followers want to feel as though they are experiencing your journey with you, so they also want to hear about the different challenges that you face," Khoury says. "My second piece of advice would be to stay up-to-date and consistently post, as this will encourage users to view your brand positively. Finally, use the help and feedback from your followers as a tool to gain extra insight into the market, as this can be a great way to get first-hand research that allows you to listen to your end customer."

In a pleasant revelation, Khoury adds that the inspiration behind her firm's name too stems from the bond she aims to create with her consumers. "Youmi Beauty is inspired by my nickname, Youmi; however, when said out loud, the brand also sounds like "you, me," which really speaks to the connection I have with my followers and customers," Khoury says. "The brand was developed due to the continuous influx of enquiries around my beauty product recommendations, so the name is a nod to that relationship!"

Youmna Khoury, founder, Youmi Beauty. Source: Youmi Beauty

The relaunch of Khoury's brand also saw the return of Youmi Beauty Charity Foundation, an entity which ensures 25% of its sales go to children's orphanages, charities aiding the disabled, as well as countries in need of financial aid. "Creating my charity foundation had always been a goal of mine to fulfill whilst I had the means to do so," Khoury adds. "This is a huge part of our mission as we always strive to give back to the less fortunate and make a difference in the world."

Now, moving into 2023, Khoury and her team already have new plans in order. "Youmi Beauty is excited to continue expanding its product range, and it is set to launch new hair tools in the first quarter of 2023 that can be paired with Youmi Beauty hair extensions and ponytails. The skincare line will also launch in 2023, of which all the details will be revealed in due course!" Khoury concludes.

Related: Entrepreneur Middle East's Achieving Women 2022: H.E. Alia Al Mazrouei, CEO, Khalifa Fund For Enterprise Development

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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