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Meet the CEO who turned a makeup hobby into a multimillion dollar business
Huda Kattan| Dec 05, 2019
Dec 05, 2019
This story is part of "Dream Builders," a series that spotlights how women turn their business aspirations into reality—often defying tremendous odds—and innovate along the way. It is presented by Chase for Business.
Growing up, I always loved beauty and fashion. One of my favorite things to do was to take friends and family shopping, and choose the right product for them. Beauty was a hobby; I didn't realize I could make a career out of it. I studied finance at university, but I quickly realized that it wasn't the right fit for me. With my sister Mona's encouragement, I went back to school to study makeup, and started working as a makeup artist. I also started sending email newsletters to my family and friends with beauty tips and makeup recommendations. At the time, no one really understood why I was writing about makeup, but I wanted to share everything I had learned.
A business born out of a community
In 2006, our family moved from the US to Dubai. I worked as a makeup artist and blogged along the way. And in 2010, I started blogging full-time. I wrote product reviews, and shared do-it-yourself beauty tips. Within a few years, my site was getting a million hits a month. Blogging gave me a sense of what my community wanted when it came to beauty products. When I worked as a makeup artist, I used to create my own lashes by customizing, shaving and stacking them together. People would always ask where I got the lashes from. My sister Mona is super entrepreneurial, and she suggested I start a line of false eyelashes. With the help of my other sister, we put $6,000 into the business and launched Huda Beauty. After that, my Instagram followers jumped. In one year I went from 80,000 followers to more than three million!
CEO Huda Kattan with her sister Mona Kattan
"People have to know who we are, why we're here and why they should buy our products."
I'm not motivated by money. I really wanted to create something that would be cult-worthy and something that people needed. But that first year, I felt frustrated and exhausted and wondered if our company would survive. We went through a period of explosive growth where we couldn't fulfill orders, because we didn't have enough money to continue ordering from distributers.
Early on, a local company wanted to invest in Huda Beauty, and in return wanted over 50 percent ownership of the company. But they didn't treat us like a serious brand, and we weren't willing to compromise on our vision for the company. Luckily our dad was in a position to lend us money, which meant we didn't need help from an investor. We realized we needed to be independent, and that no one was going to come and save the day.
As the company grew, I needed more help. My husband left his job to help manage supply chain and logistics. When he came on, we were able to get rid of distributors, and we no longer had external factors controlling us. That also allowed us to expand the business to lipsticks, lip glosses, eye shadows and more.
Today, Huda Beauty has retail sales in the millions, and my two sisters and husband are executives in the business. We've grown our Instagram to over 25 million followers.
Innovation and inspiration
One thing that sets us apart from our competition is that we're serious about innovating. We're making products that we want to use ourselves, and we always listen to what our social family is asking for. We get messages from people who were inspired to start their own brands, or have been discovered or made it big because we gave them a shout-out on social. That's our biggest motivator.
People ask me what my secret is. As cliché as it may sound, it's to work hard and not let anything deter your focus. I know now that I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing.