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Sofia Latif: “If you believe in yourself, others will too”

If you believe in yourself, others will too. Keep persevering with your mission/purpose because that is the level at which your community will emotionally connect with you. Your purpose or mission needs to be able to connect on multiple levels — hearts and minds. Don’t wait for it to be perfect before launching your business, your early […]

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If you believe in yourself, others will too. Keep persevering with your mission/purpose because that is the level at which your community will emotionally connect with you. Your purpose or mission needs to be able to connect on multiple levels — hearts and minds. Don’t wait for it to be perfect before launching your business, your early years are part of the learning process, and you will continue to refine, refine, refine. Be prepared to listen to your customers, their feedback is not criticism, they are valuable insights telling you what to refine and what to reshape. The products I have developed since starting my business have all been at the request of my customers and community. By listening to them, I am making them central to my decision-making. I am creating for them.


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 Sofia Latif.

Sofia is the founder of SOFIA LATIF, award-winning vegan skincare and wellbeing. Her mission is to give women the confidence to show off their skin and hair as these change with age. Her holistic approach to beauty helps women to build a kinder relationship with themselves.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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?

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you! We need to go back a good few years to my late 20s when I struggled with stress eczema on my face and ended up losing a lot of confidence as a result. My doctor had prescribed hydrocortisone but I knew this wasn’t something I would be able to use long-term. Inspired by my Indian heritage, where it is normal to use plant oils in everyday routines, I created a blend for myself to bring skin back to health and strengthen its barrier. Alongside some lifestyle changes, I learnt to de-stress — my work in marketing and advertising was pretty stressful at the time — and I would use my skincare routine to wind down. The ritual of using oils — massaging, slowing down, letting the nourishment seep into skin — gave me my moment of mindfulness at the end of each day. This was my mini-meditation and helped me to de-stress before sleep. I ended up developing a better relationship with my skin as a result, and wanted to share this secret with others, and SOFIA LATIFTM was born.

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

I was made redundant from my marketing job in the recession of 2008, which kick-started my self employment — I would continue working in marketing and advertising for another decade, but now I had the freedom to choose when I would work and for whom. Cue me taking a year off to travel through Southern and Eastern Africa, with the aim of working for an NGO in Uganda, where my Father was born. I ended up working in Kampala for a CBO (community based organisation) called CLD. We worked with street children and orphans in Katanga Slums, one of the largest slums in Uganda, nestled between Mulago Hospital and Makerere University. Our objective was to to help these children to get an education by training their mums to make craft and jewellery to sell at the local craft markets, giving them an income to pay the school fees. The training centre, Thread of Life, was a safe space for these women to speak freely about any issues they may be experiencing, including requiring any health support, which I would secure with the doctors at the nearby hospital.

Watching how these women entrepreneurs ran their small businesses so they could support themselves and their families, and provide benefit to their community, was the spark behind the charity partnership that I set up when launching SOFIA LATIFTM . We donate 5% of each sale to Lendwithcare through whom we provide micro-loans to women small business owners in low-income countries so they can grow their businesses and support themselves with dignity. Had I not been made redundant, I would not have gone to Uganda, and I would not have understood how intrinsic women small business owners are to their local community.

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?

Coming out from behind the brand, and becoming more visible was my tipping point. I was telling my truth and my story, and my community was hearing from me directly. I was showing myself in videos completely bare-faced, demonstrating using my products, giving skincare tips, and telling my skin and hair story. As a result, the connections I made were much deeper and I was more able to provide the support my community needed. It gave me opportunities to hear what they wanted from me, and to amplify their voices. There is a group of people wanting to have a gentler, kinder, and more connected experience with beauty brands. They are craving more authenticity, which can only be provided by being truthful, open, transparent, and prepared to listen and truly hear what they are saying. Any insights into your own industry will be given to you by your community if they feel you are being your authentic self, and listening to them without judgement.

In your experience what were the most effective ways for your business to generate leads and sales? Can you share a story or give an example?

Providing a personalized experience has been the most effective way for me to grow my business. I provide free online consultations for anyone wanting to understand how to incorporate plant oils into their skincare and haircare routines. My objective is to give them confidence in what they are already using, demystifying skincare and scalp care, and demonstrating using my products, which they would not normally be able to experience when shopping in a traditional retailer. I can then tailor a solution which incorporates the products they are already using from other brands — it is important to be able to show how your product can work alongside others. In my experience, this has been the missing link when I have shopped for skincare and beauty products for myself.

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 hair changed through peri-menopause, becoming thin and brittle, and it was my Mum who suggested I start oiling my scalp again, something we did as children growing up. She had been using plant oils and blends on us as children, and still continues to use them on herself to this day. Had she not reminded me of this cultural tip, I would not be where I am now. She has kept me in touch with some traditions which would be lost to me — it is true that these get handed down from generation to generation, and we need to protect the knowledge otherwise it will be lost forever. So I have my Mum to thank for reminding me of how she cared for our skin and scalp as children, and how these natural plant oils can still play a part in caring for our skin as adults. She helped give me the confidence to use plant oils again. Thank you Mum!

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

My biggest mistake, which I laugh about with my friends and old work colleagues now, is that I took on an agency to manage my social media without having them pitch for the work against other agencies. Having worked in marketing and advertising agencies for 20 years, and knowing the process that you go through in order to win a client, you would expect me to have made a better job of this with my own business and brand! I needed help though because I was very busy which is why I took on an agency; sadly for five weeks my social media did not represent my brand, my vision, or my customer. For a split second, it would seem I had forgotten 20 years of working in marketing and advertising agencies, and all the knowledge and experience I had gained. The lesson was swift and we agreed to part ways amicably. Now I am more discerning about who I work with me, asking for a demonstration of their understanding of my vision, my brand, and my customer.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?

If you believe in yourself, others will too. Keep persevering with your mission/purpose because that is the level at which your community will emotionally connect with you. Your purpose or mission needs to be able to connect on multiple levels — hearts and minds. Don’t wait for it to be perfect before launching your business, your early years are part of the learning process, and you will continue to refine, refine, refine. Be prepared to listen to your customers, their feedback is not criticism, they are valuable insights telling you what to refine and what to reshape. The products I have developed since starting my business have all been at the request of my customers and community. By listening to them, I am making them central to my decision-making. I am creating for them.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you please share “Five Things Anyone Can Do To Have Fabulous Hair”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

When I experienced thinning and brittle hair in my late 30s, I learned a more holistic approach would be best to achieve healthy hair again. Five things anyone can do to have fabulous hair are:

  1. Focus on your nutrition — I enlisted the help of a functional nutritionist and through tests it was revealed I had an iron deficiency, I was allergic to gluten and dairy, and was not absorbing nutrients properly. The health of hair and skin is a reflection of the health inside our bodies. So the first step is to look at your diet and make the necessary changes and follow a healthy eating plan which is nutritionally rich. Using a nutritionist will give you a more tailored solution for your body’s needs.
  2. Prioritize stress management — When cortisol (our stress hormone) rises, the adrenal glands produce fewer hormones that promote hair growth. Stress also causes the body to burn through nutrients faster than normal leaving the body short — the demand for minerals increases but the nutrient absorption decreases. Some tips to manage stress are:
  • Practising mindfulness activities and exercise daily benefits both the mind and body.
  • Listening to or singing along to some happy, uplifting music or dancing around to your favourite tunes helps to decrease stress levels.
  • Spend time with people who bring you joy or watch a comedy programme/film on the TV — laughter truly is the best medicine!

3. Incorporate scalp care into your hair care routine — Massaging the scalp helps to stimulate blood circulation bringing oxygen and nutrients which feeds hair follicles and removes toxins. Using a Scalp Oil like ours supports the health of the scalp, nourishes it, and softens hair near the roots, helping prevent breakage. The exfoliating action of a scalp massage also cleanses, removing dirt, oil, excess sebum, dead skin cells and product build-up from hair follicles and keeps the scalp supple.

4. Learn to look at yourself with kinder eyes — Know that what you dislike when looking in the mirror is not what others see. Speak to a friend and ask them what they see when looking at you. They will show you how beautiful you already are, and remind you that focussing on one part of yourself with criticism prevents you from seeing yourself as a whole and beautiful being. Be kind to yourself and silence the inner critic.

5. Don’t compare yourself with others — Looking at others can trigger envy in us and awaken the inner critic, which can be damaging to our self-esteem. If you know what triggers you, such as an account on social media, then unfollow them to protect yourself, your energy, and your positive feelings. Focus on yourself again by doing something you enjoy and that makes you feel great again. Distraction is the quickest way to overcome comparison triggers.

Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)

How do we define feeling beautiful? For me, it is having inner confidence and a better relationship with myself so that I can be more present for others. My tips are:

  1. Carve out some time to focus on yourself — self care is time well spent on body and mind. The definition of self care has expanded for many during the pandemic. It includes activities such as daily walks listening to your favourite podcast, or a cup of coffee in the garden listening to the birds tweet before anyone else is awake in the household, or a long, luxurious bath with scented candles and a face mask. When you feel you have done something for yourself you become more present for others, and connect with them on a more emotional and deeper level.
  2. Find your fun — what is it that makes you feel light as a feather and playful? Dancing, running, painting, expressing your creativity are all ways to connect with the playful side of yourself. Remembering what it is that you did as a child that brought you joy is a good place to start, because that will still bring a smile to your face, and end up lifting your spirits.
  3. Be gentle and kind to yourself in exactly the same way as you would to others. The words we use on ourselves can be harsh and unkind, and creating a habit of treating ourselves to the same kinds words we would use with our best friends and loved ones is a powerful tool in building inner confidence, which in turn keeps us feeling beautiful.

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. 🙂

Let’s create a kinder corner of the beauty industry that is not anti-ageing. Let’s embrace the grey hair and the changes to our skin and bodies, and normalise seeing these on social media. Let’s celebrate the beauty of ageing, because it is a privilege.

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

“The beginning is always today”, Mary Shelley.

I have this quote on my pinboard in my office as a daily reminder. It is too easy for me to postpone doing something because I do not feel ready or confident. Yet when I have taken the plunge I have thoroughly enjoyed it and it hasn’t felt scary, such as going travelling on my own for a year or starting my business without any external investors or saying yes to speaking at an event. It also reminds me that it is possible to do anything I want at any age, and there aren’t any rules to say you can’t.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

Arianna Huffington would be my dream breakfast or lunch companion. I devoured her book, Thrive. I have bookmarked her chapter on Wisdom and return to it often, and am grateful that she advocated the use of intuition in business, which is something I have come to rely on more and more as I have gotten older.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can connect with me on Instagram @sofialatifoils and my website is www.sofialatif.com

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!


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