Discovering new secrets, searching for new regimens, and acquiring innovative solutions for every beauty need: this is the foundation of Apotheca’s philosophy. Redefining and bridging the gap between looking and feeling great, Apotheca Beauty has managed to tap into the needs of our regional market with solution-based product lines. The three sisters have opened the doors of Apotheca for us and this is what we found out.
Words by Rawan Qabazard
Tell us a bit about your education and work background right up to the birth of Apotheca.
Sarah: After high school in Kuwait, I went to Michigan State University, then came back and worked in the Mergers and Acquisitions sector. After 7 years of being in the workforce, I then continued on to gain my MBA from London Business School. While I was getting my MBA, Apotheca was born!
Dana: I went to Boulder University in Colorado where I specialized in Management Information Systems. Once I completed, I moved back and worked at HSBC for a few years before we all got together and decided to launch Apotheca.
Nora: I got a Finance Degree at the University of Southern California, then moved to New York and worked with the Kuwait Investment Authority for a few years. During the end of my stay there, Apotheca was launched, and I moved back to Kuwait soon after.
How did you decide to venture into the beauty industry?
We first stumbled across the beauty industry and distribution through a close connection in Los Angeles. A famous dermatologist wanted to distribute his products in Kuwait and asked us to help him do so. We then spent a couple of months studying the market, and although the opportunity never materialized, we realized a serious gap in the market for premium, niche beauty brands. That was enough to let us know we had a serious business opportunity on our hands, and we then moved forward. The goal has been to bring niche, specialty brands to consumers in the region and offer more variety than the mainstream brands that have been available for years.
What about this industry do each of you relate to, or are most passionate about?
Sarah: Working up to partnering with a brand is absolutely exciting – but watching the roll-out and successful implementation in the region is my real motivator. Watching the hard-work pay off, and the launch of a brand successfully translate to the customers is our ultimate goal.
Dana: I love experimenting and selecting new brands. There’s something about the early phases of just finding something exciting that is quite thrilling.
Nora: I find the training of brands with their original staff in their respective countries to be inspirational – you begin to really understand the passion invested into the brand, which pumps me up about translating it into our market. We really do believe in our brands, and making sure that our operations implements that vision is really an exciting part of the job.
What is the foundation of Apotheca’s philosophy?
The foundation of our philosophy is sourcing effective and specialized beauty solutions. All the brands we work with go through an arduous process of selection, where we analyze their components, how they perform in their home markets, how that might translate in our markets, etc. It is of utmost importance to us that we work with quality brands we believe in and know our customers will find true results with, as well.
What are the criteria of the brands carried by Apotheca? Do you look for specific elements?
As we continuously reinforce, we are foremost consumers ourselves. All the brands we’ve worked with, all three of us have used, are fans of, and truly believe will translate into the regional market. Specific elements we look for would include ingredients – for example: makeup that is composed mostly of water or other ‘fillers’ we tend to avoid, and prefer those of higher quality. Another important element is that the brand has managed to carve out a niche positioning in its home market. We prefer working with brands who “know themselves,” if you will. They understand the value they bring, what they do best, and regardless of how many product offerings they have, their “base identity” is a classic that few competitors can touch.
We’ve seen the growth of Apotheca over the past few years. What are your future plans, what should we be expecting?
We are excited to launch some brands within the next year, including Dr. Lancer, Eyeko and more. We are as well planning expansion into Morocco and Turkey, which is exciting. We are also finalizing our new retail outlet in Kuwait and launching our E-store!
It is noticeable that women in our region care about skincare more now than ever. What have you noticed throughout your journey in the beauty industry in the Middle East, and how has that affected Apotheca?
The consumer is far more sophisticated and educated on the benefits of health all around – including diet and skincare. Often, customers are already aware of their skin challenges, and pro-active. They also understand that beauty is an extension of your health, therefore they are ready to invest in quality and effective products. The way this has affected us has been in our selection process. We are always looking to meet their demands and fill the gap in the market for niche and effective beauty products.
We love seeing siblings working together on something they are passionate about. How has working alongside your sisters affected how you run things and how do each of you influence your company?
We each have entirely different roles. Nora manages operations out of the UAE and is largely focused on organic growth into particular retail outlets, and making sure the fit matches each particular brand. Dana focuses more on the operations of Kuwait, as well as the retail side of the Apotheca business, and helping to grow that aspect. Sarah is entirely focused on the corporate side of the business, and the inorganic growth, as well as the financials.
Sarah: I could only have imagined working with my sisters. Not only because I value working closely with family, but furthermore, because my sisters are smart – I value their input and value-added as professionals as well. We definitely don’t know when to draw the line. We talk about work always and it’s hard to unplug, and go back to just relaxing and hanging out.
Dana: It has been an adventure! One of the most exciting ones of my life. I have loved every moment of it – the ups and the downs. It has been a great learning experience, and I wouldn’t have chosen to share it with anyone other than my sisters. Its difficult separating our working life from our home life, but we’ve gotten much better at it. We’ve been in the business for 4-5 years now so we’ve definitely learnt to separate our personal & professional lives as well as learnt boundaries and how to work better with each other.
Nora: We started developing Apotheca in 2008! Prior to 2008 I cannot say that I would have specifically imagined all three of us working together. However, when the idea of Apotheca came to mind, the process of working together was natural to us. We all had a passion for beauty, and throughout our lives would constantly share discoveries of various beauty trends. We also each had a background in finance, yet we had very different professional experiences that allowed us to bring unique perspectives to the Company.
Let’s talk about your passion…
Sarah: Beauty is self-interpreted. It is entirely in the eye of the beholder.
Dana: Beauty is confidence – regardless of what you apply or wear, being confident is always beautiful.
Nora: Beauty is indefinable – it’s ever-evolving, and dependent on one’s own interpretation of themselves.
Describe each of your beauty regimes.
Sarah: I’m very militant about my beauty routine – I’m a die-hard Sarah Chapman fan, and wake up to always start with her Ultimate Cleanse, followed by the Morning Facial, or Dynamic Defense with SPF. By the end of the day, I’m religious about removing every iota of makeup, then applying Overnight Facial. Recently, I use sheet masks anywhere from 3 to 5 times a week. With makeup, it depends – I like to apply a little bronzer (I use the Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit – Sundipped), some mascara and Brow Wiz is a must. If I need any concealer, I use Cover FX click-sticks.
Dana: I always start with washing my face with the Earth Tu Face facial cleanser. Next I use a cotton pad and tone my cleansed face with diluted apple cider vinegar. Then I use the Sarah Chapman Eye Recovery Cream, followed by the Sarah Chapman Stem Cell Collagen Activator serum. I leave that to soak in my skin for 15 minutes, then add the Sarah Chapman Overnight Facial on top. My makeup routine is very minimal during the week – maybe some concealer, but rarely. During the evening, I love to go with a bold lip and bright eyes.
Nora: With skincare, I’m a huge Sarah Chapman fan (as we all are). I use the staple products: Overnight Facial, Rapid Radiance Cleanse, and I love to use the Boosters a couple of times during the week as well. With makeup, I’m super minimal – I’m a huge fan of Ilia, and love their Tinted Moisturizers. I also use Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Definers daily. Their new Lip Kit as well is a must as I love to use a burgundy lip color during the evening.
Name three products you cannot live without.
Sarah: Brow Wiz from Anastasia Beverly Hills, YSL éclat, and Dior Mascara.
Dana: My favorite makeup product is a good tinted moisturizer. I love looking a little tanned with a nice glow. I also love a red lip. I think red suits everyone and it brings a nice pop of color to the face.
Nora: Brow Definer from Anastasia Beverly Hills, Sarah Chapman Overnight Facial, and Lime Crime liquid lipsticks.