The entrepreneur, beauty blogger and founder of Huda Beauty, known for leading the way when it comes to innovative and diverse products, has officially found her first investment launch out of the Huda Beauty Angels incubator. Founded by Emaan Abbass, KETISH is a luxury brand ready to transform the feminine wellness industry in the Middle East by empowering women through luxurious, better-for-you products and thoughtful, expert advice. The lifestyle e-commerce brand helps women understand their bodies, health, self-care, desire, and so much more.
After launching her brand back in 2013, Huda found herself struggling to raise funds to expand her business, which lead her to create an initiative to help future founders in her position. In 2017 HB investments had launched with a US $10 million fund to help exceptional entrepreneurs bring their dream business to life, allowing her to provide women all around the globe the chance to impact the world.
Founder of KETISH Emaan Abbass
Abbass was a former product developer at Huda Beauty, born and raised in a conservative Arab-American Muslim home in the U.S., where feminine health was very much taboo. After experiencing her first gynaecological exam at the age of 21, she realised she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. After receiving the news, Emaan was overwhelmed with guilt and shame and feared telling her family, which led her to go through the nine-year healing process alone and sparked the idea of KETISH – a brand focusing on freeing everyday women from feeling ashamed. The e-commerce platform has created products to thoroughly cater to women’s needs and desires, with the body’s most delicate parts in mind.
Huda Kattan, chairwoman of HB Investments and Founder of Huda Beauty, shares, “KETISH, is a movement. It’s about taking power back and being fully comfortable with yourself. When people start to become part of this community, they’re going to feel liberated. I realised very quickly that this was a topic that so many people had so many issues with. The more I started talking to Emaan, the more I was convinced that she could change the category and make this sexy and empowering. This brand is deep within her. It’s very purposeful. It’s very powerful. It’s very personal.”
Grazia shares an exclusive interview with the founder of KETISH Emaan Abbass ahead.
Being an Egyptian woman, tell us how it was growing up in the States?
Growing up as a young Egyptian woman in the States, I largely felt caught in between two worlds – the strict cultural norms imposed by my parents growing up in a Muslim/Egyptian home vs. trying to be a normal American girl.
I grew up in a small country town south of San Francisco, California, and unlike the greater Bay Area, this little town was not diverse at all. We were one of the few Muslim families and the only Egyptian family. My parents were always more strict, more protective, more restrictive than the other parents. I wanted to live like the other kids! I wanted to dress the way I wanted, hang out with who I wanted, go to parties, be social, date – all of which were not tolerated in the Abbass household. In retrospect, I now know that my parents were just trying their hardest to protect me and my sister, while still clinging on to the only culture they knew and loved. I did not make it easy. I was definitely the more rebellious daughter. I constantly questioned. I pushed all of the boundaries. I figured out ways to still do the things I wanted to do, which usually ended up in me getting into a lot of trouble and often feeling like a huge disappointment. My mum used to tell me “ You don’t always have to touch the fire to feel it burn”, and unfortunately all I wanted to do was touch every single fire I could. This caused a lot of tension in the house. I always felt loved by my parents, but often felt deeply misunderstood.
Tell us about the transition from being a Huda Beauty employee to an HB Investment Founder?
It has definitely been a journey. I went from working side by side with Huda and the rest of the product development team, to now navigating an entire business. I was used to receiving direction, and giving my input, but as a founder it’s a whole different ball game. I am super lucky to have Huda and Mona as my mentors and such pillars of support. They knew what I was capable of before I even knew it myself and I am forever grateful for their trust. Even with that being said I definitely have moments I have to remind myself of that trust and faith.
Like many female founders – I definitely suffer from imposter syndrome at times. I have moments where I feel like I have absolutely no clue what I am doing and everyone knows it. I then have to politely remind myself that I might not know it all, and that is ok, no founder is meant to know it all. Luckily, I am surrounded by the small but mighty team at Huda Beauty and HB Investments that support me every step of the way. As we continue to build out the Ketish team, I am finding that every person that joins allows the brand to take shape in ways I couldn’t have even imagined. Our team lives and breathes Ketish in such a magical way. Every single person brings such value and you can really see it in the way the brand has evolved over the past two years, and continues to do so.
Why did you create KETISH?
Throughout my 20s, dealing with all of my feminine health issues made me really curious about the entire feminine and intimate care space. I vividly remember scouring the pharmacies and drug stores, because that’s the only place you could find anything intimate care related. This is something that really bothered me about feminine care space at that time. We usually go to a pharmacy when something is wrong with us, or when we want to fix an issue. I didn’t want to feel like buying feminine care was like taking care of a problem. I wanted more than a treatment and temporary fix. I wanted a more elevated experience that felt like I was buying products to pamper myself and build into my self care routine. I wanted products that looked vanity or bedside table worthy. I wanted products that made me feel sexy! I wanted products I could trust. I wanted a brand I could turn to, to educate me. Ultimately I no longer wanted to feel embarrassed or feel like I was walking this journey alone and ashamed.
Ketish has been in the works for a little over two years now, but it feels like it has been a lifetime in the works for me- from my feminine health journey, to navigating my way through a traditionally strict and oppressive culture. Ultimately, I wanted to create the brand I wish I had throughout my journey. I wanted to create something that women like me always needed, but never truly existed.
Could you tell us a little bit about your experience building the brand with HB Investments and the Kattan family?
As a former employee for HB, I’ve had the honor of working alongside the Kattan family since 2016, this experience of first hand watching how Huda Beauty has grown into the beauty giant it now is has been invaluable. You will definitely see pieces of the HB DNA woven throughout Ketish’s foundation, whether it be the way we develop products, to our storytelling and content, to the way we strive to care for and develop our teams. These are all things I had the opportunity to learn first hand from Huda and the rest of the family.
Throughout this experience of building the brand our relationship has definitely transformed. To go from former employee to now business partner and mentee, the Kattan family have given me invaluable advice based on their experiences, to do with anything from business to marketing. They’ve taught me the value of hard work, perseverance and pure passion. So grateful for the support and time they’ve taken to instill all of this in me.
As one of the incubator brands for the firm, HBI has provided an incredible foundation for the brand. Ketish has been given the opportunity to lean on and leverage the amazing resources they have built into the HBI ecosystem. The HBI team is built of key integral roles that help support the pillars a brand may need to survive in their beginning phase, but may not have the resources to fund their own- from finance, to operations, to marketing, to HR. To know we can build something that is true and unique to our brand, while having the support of an organization filling in the gaps of where we need the most support, while we build out our legs underneath us.
What impact do you want to have on other women through KETISH?
Everything we aim to do as a brand is really driven forward by our brand’s mission. We want to replace shame and stigma with sensuality and self-love by creating a luxury experience around feminine wellness. It’s 2021, but so many women still carry around the same old shame and stigma. Although we are years deep into the body positivity movement, there are still women who aren’t quite there yet. But, they want to be.
While building this brand we’ve had an opportunity to talk to hundreds of women from all over the world, about how they felt when it came to their bodies and femininity. We found that we had a real opportunity to create change and break down the barriers that still exist around the topic of feminine wellness, just by allowing women to share their stories. To talk about it freely. We believe that it only takes one woman to spark that fire, to share her story, and show other women that they aren’t alone in their own journey.