1. What motivated you to start your own line?
I had been searching for effective organic skincare when I traveled to Morocco for a vacation in 2007. It was then I discovered Argan oil and realized I had found the single ingredient I had been searching for. After frequent trips to Morocco to source the highest quality argan oil, I developed a deep appreciation for the people of Morocco, particularly the Berber women who do the work of extracting the argan oil. Inspired by these women, I developed the idea to create a line of ethically sourced skincare that provides economic opportunity and gives back to the Berber women.
2. How long did it take? When was your product line ready for the general public?
I devoted 2008 to developing the line, identifying a chemist and creating the brand, while continuing to travel to Morocco to source the oil. We launched with five products, our pure Argan Oil, Facial Cleanser, Facial Lotion, Serum and Eye Serum, in the Spring of 2009.
3. What obstacles did you face along the way?
The cosmetics business isn’t easy, particularly when you are formulating natural products without traditional preservative methods, and importing ingredients from third world countries. Identifying good partners in Morocco, who can supply high quality raw materials on time, while ensuring a fair wage to the women who do the work has been a challenge. And of course there is a language barrier that can sometimes be difficult. That’s not to say there haven’t been obstacles on this continent as well. As a newcomer to the beauty business, I had to basically reinvent the wheel, solving problems ranging from shipping logistics to the organic certification process and complications of exporting goods.
4. Who did you draw your inspiration from?
My line was inspired by the Berber women of Morocco for their simplicity, warmth of spirit, and ability to see and create beauty from the most basic materials. I have tried to infuse their spirit into the product line by featuring their signatures on the packaging and naming the line after a Berber queen and prophetess.
5. What is unique, different or special about your brand?
Our outstanding results for all skin types and striking design make Kahina stand out. Beyond that, Kahina has a unique mission to help women in need by providing economic opportunity while also contributing a percentage of profits to programs that directly benefit the women who do the work of extracting the oil at the heart of our line.
6. What if anything would you do differently if you could do it over?
Honestly, I wouldn’t do anything over. It’s been a struggle at times, but I wouldn’t change a thing. The mistakes I’ve made and challenges I’ve had have all been part of the process.
7. How do you feel about changes in the organic beauty movement?
I think it’s fabulous that more people now care about organic ingredients in their beauty products. The increased demand puts pressure on cosmetics companies to clean up their acts. Major companies entering the organics market can afford to do research that small companies cannot do. This means that there will be a greater variety of certified organic ingredients to choose from. The problem has been the "greenwashing" that has been going on with a lot of companies making false organic claims creating consumer confusion surrounding the term organic. The competing certifying bodies and lack of consensus on what it means for a cosmetic to be organic only adds to the confusion. I’m a strong believer in organic certification, but ultimately it really is up to the consumer to learn how to read and decipher labels for themselves.
8. What advice would you offer other novice women entrepreneurs?
I hate to generalize, but I find that women have so much to offer in business - energy, intuition, communications and problem solving skills, and the ability to multi-task. But often they can sabotage themselves with self-doubt and by second-guessing themselves. I know that’s the case with me. I need to coach myself daily to be fearless by reminding myself of all that I’ve accomplished in five years, and that the greatest rewards come with taking risk.
9. Do you think it is more difficult for women when it comes to business?
I’ve never thrived in a corporate structure so I really can’t speak from personal experience about success in that environment. As an entrepreneur, I have found tremendous support as a woman, particularly from other women. When women work together there is an incredible amount of energy to be harnessed.
10. How do you find work/life balance?
Because I love what I do, I tend to live and breathe Kahina, which can be a problem for my family sometimes. I travel a lot, but when I’m home I am very present for my three kids. I work out of my home so I’m always available to pick up my youngest son from school and help with homework. I’m lucky to have an extremely supportive husband.