“Say Yes.” With Jilea Hemmings & Mona Kattan

Say Yes — While I’m a huge proponent of saying no in order to stay focused, I also think it’s important to be very open, explore opportunities, and make lots of connections especially if you are newer in the industry. You never know where a connection or opportunity will take you! It could be your […]

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Say Yes — While I’m a huge proponent of saying no in order to stay focused, I also think it’s important to be very open, explore opportunities, and make lots of connections especially if you are newer in the industry. You never know where a connection or opportunity will take you! It could be your next job, next idea, or new mentor.

As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mona Kattan, Global President and co-founder of Huda Beauty and Kayali. A driving force behind the launch of Huda Beauty, Mona along with her two sisters have grown the Huda Beauty company to a valuation of $1B with a line of groundbreaking products include everything from body foundation to lip contouring pencils, melted eyeshadow to 3D highlighters, all of which are globally distributed at leading retailers including Sephora, Harrod’s, Net-a-Porter, among others. In 2018, Huda Beauty launched their fragrance line, Kayali, with a collection of four scents designed by Mona.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Mona! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I graduated college, I started as an investment banker and quickly realized it was not the right fit for me. I wanted to work on something of my own, something that was my vision and work that I could be passionate about. I dabbled in numerous ideas including launching a PR and marketing company, started a World Cup Kiosk where I sold exclusive merchandise in Dubai, worked on a candle making business, played around with a Fashion Label and then launched a network of beauty salons in Dubai. The beauty salons really struck a chord with me — the industry itself, managing people, marketing, having a mission and sticking with it. So, when Huda had her blog and then started making false eye lashes I saw so much potential and was ready to partner, bring in my area of expertise, and go all in. After joining her full-time, I’ve never looked back!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I think the most interesting story and a huge eye-opener for me, was how doubtful a lot of businessmen were of us when we were starting out because we were women and always had on a full face of makeup. We never changed who we were or what we stood for though and with persistence and a ton of passion we consistently changed a lot of people’s opinion of us. Just because a woman wears a lot of makeup or has an undying love for beauty doesn’t mean she’s any less equipped to run a business.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

It took a really long time for us to see a paycheck — it definitely wasn’t overnight. We constantly pitched our ideas, business and products to so many business people around the world and so many people refused to take us seriously because we were women. The biggest success and a definite tipping point was when we were able to get Sephora to take Huda’s false lashes. All we really needed was the chance with one big retailer, like Sephora, to prove we were enough to make it big. And, once we got that deal we really started to take off. It certainly wasn’t an easy sell though.

One of the best pieces of advice that I constantly tell people is you just have to launch. When Microsoft launched Windows, they knew there would be bugs. They knew there would be things that would have to be tweaked along the way. This is a great example to learn from and to live by. You have to go for what you believe in, launch it and learn along the way. If you wait for perfection, you may miss your calling and opportunity.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My dad! He has always been supportive and believed in me and my sisters — even when we surprised him and didn’t take a traditional career route he had envisioned for us. He also gave me my first business loan to start one of my entrepreneurial endeavors. His support and faith in all of us has meant so much.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion-dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?

We don’t follow trends we see; we create the products that fulfill what our social community is craving at the moment. This has helped us stand out from others and to forecast our own trends and bring them to market through beauty QUICKLY. Also, being in the Middle East but born and raised in the US gives us a different and genuinely global perspective.

We have also stayed truly authentic on social media and have connected very deeply with our followers. Huda Beauty has over 47 million followers, one of the most followed beauty accounts globally! We listen to our followers and get ideas from them all the time! We love supporting other artists, entrepreneurs, uplifting beauty-lovers and followers in the industry and being everyone in beauty’s big sister and cheerleader.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

  1. Inclusivity: I appreciate and am excited about how inclusive the beauty industry is of people, no matter who you are, who you love, how you dress; we’re leaders in that regard and I love that.
  2. Risk: The beauty industry is also accepting of taking risks. Contour, highlighting, blue eyeshadow, thick brows, a mohawk — all the best trends result from someone taking a risk!
  3. Kindness: We are a kind beauty brand. We represent anyone and everyone.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?

  1. Start with the inside. I know that sounds cheesy, but truly being content with who you are is so important and will make you feel better all around.
  2. Practice self-care and take care of yourself. Self-care is different for everyone — maybe it’s relaxing in a bath once a week, making time to spritz on a perfume, doing an exfoliating scrub, going for a run!
  3. Find your cheerleaders and surround yourself with them. People that love you for loving what makes you unique are rare, but they exist. Find them, and keep them close! They will do wonders for your journey.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

  1. Mentors — I think it’s so important to have someone you can bounce ideas off of, honestly talk to and discuss any challenges you face in your career.
  2. Learn and Know Your World — It’s important to understand what other brands are doing at all times. Ask yourself the questions: What are their challenges? What are they doing that is unique? Where does your brand fit? etc.
  3. Stay Focused on Your Mission — You or the brand you work for should have a solid mission and stay focused on that. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon and follow what others are doing without cause. Make sure what you’re doing, makes sense for you, your brand and your mission.
  4. Be a team player! Don’t be afraid to share your opinion and collaborate. And, it’s ok if you don’t agree on everything. What really matters is learning from differences and how you handle the discussion to unveil something incredible. The best ideas can be sparked from anything!
  5. Say Yes — While I’m a huge proponent of saying no in order to stay focused, I also think it’s important to be very open, explore opportunities, and make lots of connections especially if you are newer in the industry. You never know where a connection or opportunity will take you! It could be your next job, next idea, or new mentor.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Be kind and empathetic. Understanding where people come from and being kind to everyone can make all the difference in the world. This is true for everything in life — from people we encounter when out and about, family, friends, people on social media, and more.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

To understand all is to love all.’ This very closely relates to what we just spoke about, but imagine how much stress would fall off your plate if you knew others would try their best to understand where you were coming from and vice versa.

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