Create & Cultivate 100: Beauty: Huda Kattan

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Huda Kattan is living proof that when one door closes, another opens. Within days of getting laid off from her finance job, the lifelong makeup lover was on a plane to Los Angeles to study at the Joe Blasco Makeup Artistry School. This passion for self-expression, paired with her charismatic energy, translated to her beauty blog and YouTube tutorials, and by 2013, she launched Huda Beauty along with her sisters Mona and Alya. Cut to 2018, and Huda Beauty is an empire with millions of brand-loyal followers. Seriously. The brand has over 30 million followers. Casual.

The sister-owned and operated company is poised to dominate the beauty game in 2019 by expanding their makeup empire to include fragrance and skincare. Listening to Huda talk about her success, you can feel how genuine her love of this business is. Without a doubt, you’ll see more of Huda in the headlines for a long time to come.

What characteristics make you successful in the beauty industry?

Our success comes down to listening to our social family and reminding them that they have the power to define beauty for themselves. I am constantly inspired by the comments and requests we see on Instagram. When it comes to creating new products, we always consider what they are looking for and we never create anything unless we recognize that there is a need for it.

What does it take to build a beauty brand from the ground up in today’s world?

As cliché as it might sound it has to start with passion and that goes for any brand, not just beauty brands. For beauty brands specifically, I think you need to be open, authentic and inclusive to continue to garner the right type of community that will follow you and support you through and through.

What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?

My team and I spend so many months developing the most amazing products so when I see people using these products every day it’s the most incredible feeling. Seeing the effect my product has on the community is so fulfilling. Seriously, every video tutorial that I see of people inspired by our products or every person that stops to tell me how much they love our brand reminds me why I love what I do.

What have you learned the most about today’s beauty consumer? What do people want from beauty brands?

They want honesty and authenticity which really isn’t much to ask for when you think about it. They just want product that delivers, and they want to trust the source it’s coming from. They also want to be heard, which is something we always keep in mind when we are developing new products. We want to give them what they want, so why not ask them? Our social family has influenced every single product launch in more ways than they’ll ever know.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

One of my mentors from University always told me, "It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” That statement has replayed in my head over and over again and every time I’m about to make decisions, I remind myself of this. I really think this is what has made me as bold as I am today. I really live by this.

What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?

Sephora stocking our lashes for the first time was a really surreal moment for me – I literally had to pinch myself! If anyone knew how many times I emailed them to schedule a meeting to give my business pitch, they’d think I was crazy. But I was so determined, and I wasn’t giving up until that meeting was secured. When it was, I told myself, “Go in there and give the best business pitch you know how to give.” And I did.

Where does your passion/drive come from?

Ever since I knew what makeup was, I loved it. When I understood how powerful makeup was and how it could alter your feelings and confidence, I wanted to share that power with the world. My passion really comes from the feeling that makeup can give you, no matter how much or little you choose to use and apply. It’s really a vehicle for confidence and creativity and with confidence, you can conquer anything.

What are the common challenges you've seen among female business owners and entrepreneurs?

In my experience, it’s getting the right people to take you seriously. In the beginning, getting anyone to take me and my business ideas was so difficult—it was really upsetting and challenging. It’s kind of sad and backwards, but it takes succeeding first in order for people to then take you seriously as an entrepreneur. I really wish that weren’t the case!

When I understood how powerful makeup was and how it could alter your feelings and confidence, I wanted to share that power with the world.

When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road and switch gears to find success?

It’s really all about where you apply your focus. If you focus on the bump or hurdle, it will start to consume you and won’t benefit you. You just have to learn from your mistakes and apply those learnings to future situations and remain positive. No one is perfect, and problems will always arise. It just takes being solution oriented and positive to get through it all.

Whose career really inspires you?

I’d probably have to say Oprah. I mean, she is major goals. She’s honest and authentic, and she’s challenged so many norms and broken so many rules in all of the right ways. She’s gotten to where she is by never taking no for an answer, believing in her vision and relentlessly chasing her dreams. I think if you use her journey as guidance, you can’t go wrong.

What’s next for Huda Beauty in 2019? What are you most excited for?

We ended 2018 really strongly with the introduction of KAYALI and the announcement that we’d not only be diving into fragrance but also into skincare come 2019. We’re super excited to be challenged by something new and to work as a team to continue to make the magic happen. We’re working on so many fun and innovative things right now and we can’t wait to share with everyone soon!