An Open Letter to Saudi Female Entrepreneurs

From Frizzy hair to now becoming one of Saudi's top beauty Mogul, this is Sara Ashemimrys Story - as told to Muzayna Naqeeb.

Sara Ashemimry

Living in Jeddah and constantly traveling to Miami, FL (both are humid thanks to the beaches), I struggled with having frizzy hair. That was when I began my search for something to treat the frizz and maintain the quality and health of my hair.

Eventually, in 2010 while in Miami, FL, I decided, for the first time, to treat my virgin hair. I was amazed by the results and the quality of the treatment. It not only helped my hair but also illuminated my confidence, gave me that extra panache. The results were so good that I wondered why I waited so long to try this.

Since I was not the only one suffering from frizz, I began to recognize the gap in the market in the Middle East. As such, I was determined to bring these results to our region and build the confidence of many men and women who are not content with the current state of their hair. With that, I began Beauty Box.

With further discussions about this business idea with my family and given their knowledge of my personality, they set up a dummy challenge. They challenged me to make three sales of this product and if I succeed, they will support me. I managed to surprise all of them by executing on three orders within five days of the challenge. Given my success, three of my siblings, Ibrahim, Rima and Mishaal, partnered with me to support this new business and to push it to the next level.

While we started the business with Amazon Hair treatment products, we realized early on, that we must keep searching the market for gaps that need to be filled. Given my access and network in the US, I constantly was on the search for new products that will solve the issues of my clients and friends. Keep in mind, that while Saudi Arabia is very conservative, the advantage is that in 2017, we consumed 2.9 Billion SAR in haircare alone. Consequently, I was tapping into the right market, big enough that even if you can attract 1%, one can have a flourishing business.

Naturally, no business comes without its challenges. For Beauty Box, the hardest challenge was financial, mainly because we wanted to enter the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market. I predicted that one of my biggest challenges would be to push through the woman stereotypes. They would not take me seriously for my young age and being a woman. I was certainly surprised that they were very welcoming and at times were rooting for me. Today, Beautybox is one of the leading brands in the natural/organic section in hypermarkets and departmental stores throughout the Middle East. Beautybox products are now available in Nahdi, Danube, White’s pharmacy, Lulu and many more.

I noticed that the big giants wanted fresh blood and wanted to see women succeed more often in this field, in which the majority of the consumers are actually, other women. Perhaps they felt that no one can understand the needs of women cosmetically more than other women who the consumers of these actual products are.  With that said, the new foreign business regulations, which allow foreign companies to setup their businesses directly in Saudi Arabia, have caused some to fear competition and extermination of their brands. However, I believe that competition is very healthy in pushing the envelope and elevating the standards of local brands. On the other hand, in order to succeed, some foreign companies will recognize that they need to team up or join venture with local businesses that have the market know-how and client base. Consequently, I believe these new foreign business regulations will enable us to compete not just locally, but globally.

Today, things have changed drastically, Saudi Arabia has made significant strides to empower women and youth to push themselves and achieve all they desire, not just locally, but globally as well. Saudi Arabia is trending now. Powered by the support of our Royal family - government and youth, there is no dream big enough to stop us. We will achieve, we will succeed, and we will become a global force. 

Finally, through my experience as an entrepreneur, who started before this liberation movement, I strongly encourage upcoming Saudi entrepreneurs to make use of the new government programs such as Meras and Maroof, which facilitate and simplify the process of starting a business. The government’s objective with these new programs is to eliminate old requirements of having a guardian, a physical office which you pay rent for, and to physically go to the Ministry of Commerce to register your business. Instead, they have transformed starting a business to registering it online and at a minimal cost to the entrepreneur.

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