If you’re looking for an example of turning a passion into a career, look no further than Ayat Toufeeq and Amina Grimen, the founders of online beauty retailer Powder.ae.
They saw a gap in the UAE beauty market, themselves being customers interested in skincare, make-up and haircare online, and decided they can do it better. Toufeeq and Grimen talk to Gulf News tabloid! about quitting their day jobs to nurture their dream and what beauty means to them.
Tell me a little bit about the beginnings of Powder and how it was formed.
Grimen: We started Powder.ae because we found it difficult to shop for our favourite beauty brands online and realised there was a gap in the market when it comes to the accessibility of high quality skincare and beauty products.
Today we are a home-grown Dubai based brand that offers Middle East-based customers a rich selection of curated products from highly sought-after global brands. We have created a place where you as the customer will not feel overwhelmed as we have done the homework for you. We provide insights on ‘all things beauty’ through an informative blog and editor’s notes on each product so you can make the right choice for your skincare and haircare needs. We believe there should be options for everyone.
You both had very different careers before you started Powder. What was it like quitting your jobs to work on a beauty website full time?
Toufeeq: For me, in some ways it was challenging step, as leaving a comfortable, stable job is always going to be a little daunting, however as soon as I started working on Powder full-time it felt immediately easy. Working on something you really believe in, despite how much hard work you put in, somehow just feels easy.
Grimen: Liberating! I have always known that I wanted to work for myself one day from the very start of my career in PR. It was just a matter of time and finding what that passion was. We started Powder while both Ayat and I had full time jobs as we wanted to make the move to running the business when it made sense commercially and financially for us. But as you can imagine it’s been exhausting to say the least and now that we are putting all of energy into Powder, we are already seeing the fruits of our labour.
What were some of the challenges you faced getting Powder started?
Toufeeq: We knew we had a great idea but did not know anything about starting a business so in the beginning we spent quite a bit of time studying the business landscape and the tools we would need to build our platform. We had to learn digital marketing, familiarise ourselves with the regulation of the country when it comes to the import and export of beauty products. One of the challenges for us was centred around how to reach and target the diverse audience through marketing and have learnt a lot along the way. We wanted to make sure not to compromise on customer experience and did so by choosing the right partners from logistics to suppliers to ensure the ease of usability of our dual-language website, guarantee authenticity and quality of our products, and give our customers the tools to make informed decisions when it comes to skincare regimes.
Have your cultural and career backgrounds influenced the company?
Grimen: I would say that our cultural backgrounds do not influence the company. The need to feel beautiful and comfortable in one’s own skin is universal. We wanted to bring products that can work for everyone. The UAE’s population is extremely diverse and we wanted to positively impact the women and men in our lives by empowering them to look after their skin.
How much funding did you need? I’m assuming you had to do a lot of saving before this.
Toufeeq: We started in late 2017 and since then we have grown our product offering considerably. To date we have over 20 global brands and grown our capabilities. True of all eCommerce business we require capital. To date we have personally funded the business and seen it grow albeit at a slower pace. However, we are now very interested in outside investment. The demands are real from our customers and model is proven so the time to expand and grow is really now for us.
How is Powder different from other online beauty retailers?
Grimen: Powder.ae started with our shared love for affordable effective and luxury skincare and beauty products. We are basically our customers so it’s easy for us to think like them — how they would like to shop and think of ways to continuously improve the user experience. We noticed a real scarcity in the number of online retailers that offered beauty edits and curated content. There are loads of sites that sell beauty products but it can be overwhelming for individuals that are not already familiar with the brands. We want to educate and inform customers — for example should you go for an AHA or BHA — and offer them expert advice.
What kind of products can people find on your website? And what can they look forward to in the future?
Toufeeq: We offer Middle East-based customers a rich selection of curated products from highly sought-after global brands and encourage individuals to adapt their self-care routines to ensure that their skin doesn’t suffer. These include both niche and known brands all of which we have personality tried and tested and include feedback from real people.
What are your own personal philosophies about beauty?
Toufeeq: I am not sure about beauty but when it comes to skincare, you literally wear it your whole life so invest in it! Always choose a serum over shoes!
Grimen: Find what works for you. There isn’t a magic formula for beauty and just because something is trending or working for some, does not mean it’s necessarily a good fit for you. Experiment and try products, within reason, to find what makes you feel beautiful.
Ayat Toufeeq and Amina Grimen’s top 3 products:
Oribe Bright Blonde Shampoo: Because we both have highlighted hair and this purple shampoo is totally non-drying and keeps our locks healthy and shiny.
The Korean Beauty Box: Technically, this is not a product but it includes all of our favourite Korean skincare brands for incredible value!
Earth Tu Face Nourish + Balance Face Serum: This organic facial oil has been formulated to nourish and balance your complexion. It is also suitable for all skin types.