Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
My name is Tarfa Alfarhan from Kuwait and my partner is Minnie Ang from Singapore. We are the co-founders of a skincare range called Souffle Beauty.
Tell us about your education.
We both graduated with a BBA in Hotel Management and Marketing from Les Roches Switzerland in 2011, and Tarfa has continued with an MBA in Service Industries and Marketing in Glion Switzerland in 2013.
Talk to us about your career paths thus far.
We started with internships in the hospitality industry working in hotels. As we graduated I have continued working in hotels, then moved onto the government sector working in International Trade department of the Ministry of Commerce in Kuwait. While Minnie kick started her career in different fields in Marketing with reputable companies in Singapore helping them scale up business B2C and B2B.
How did the two of you meet and how did you decide to start up a skincare brand?
We actually met a really long time ago back in university in 2008 where we we studied together in Swit-zerland. We really could not escape from each other as we had the same classes. Both of us were always keen to do ur school projects together. This has led us to recognize each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and from there we were able to establish a “telepathic” understanding. We knew how to balance out each other but also there always has been a positive working dynamic when we are together.
Our skincare brand was launched in 2018 when I visited Minnie in Singapore. We always had an interest in simple beauty routines as we are always on the go and have active lifestyles. Though we did have something in common in common is the fact that we live in hot humid climates and wondered can science solve skincare issues within these weather conditions.
When was the brand officially launched and where?
The brand was officially launched in Singapore and was retailed in Singapore Changi Airport in 2018 in the beginning. Later on after a few months we decided to launch in Kuwait to create a second base. We can see there is a lot of potential to grow the brand in Kuwait. The Kuwaiti market is small which can give us the opportunity to penetrate faster.
What were some of the initial challenges you had to face to launch your brand and how did you overcome them?
The initial challenge was to come up with the perfect formula to cater for all skincare types. We wanted to obtain a universal ingredient mixed with the latest discoveries. There was a lot of research and development which took time to develop along with many trials. To overcome this challenge we worked with professionals scientists in the field to give us the ideal solutions and understand what we are looking for. This is how we decided to incorporate a “grandma” ingredient Rose (which is popularized worldwide and even has a historical impact in the Arab world) and Microbiomes (prebiotic & probiotics).
Another challenge would be finding the correct suppliers to barter with in order to deliver our vision. The beauty in Asia as being an industrial location has helped us ease our search for suppliers.
We also had issues with understanding regulations in each region since its different. But with determination and the intensive research we were able to conduct regulatory paperwork on our own.
What makes your beauty and skincare products different and unique?
Our skincare is unique due to the fact that firstly it is made in Singapore, usually Asian skincare is popu-larized with K-beauty however we wanted to showcase that a small country like Singapore can create wonderful products. Furthermore we took into consideration the environmental factors and focused on really strengthening the skin. We created a formula that gives the whole package which includes hydration, anti wrinkle, anti inflammatory, anti oxidants, and rejuvenation. Its really an everyday product to be used. In addition our range is all PETA certified therefore cruelty, paraben and alcohol free. We also aim to create a minimalistic skincare routine that does not require much time or effort.
What is your current product range?
Souffle Beauty started off in 2018 with 3 products. This includes The Balm that is an oil based facial cleanser that removes all traces of dirt. The Potion is a gentle toner that balances out skin ph levels and removes dead skin cells. The Serum is a water base serum that is smooth in application and fast absor-bent, as well this is our award serum that won a beauty reward in Singapore (Awarded Best Urban Se-rum 2020 by Beauty Insider Choice). Despite the pandemic slowing down some of our business enter-prises we have launched 2 new products. We launched the Anti-Pollution Gel Cleanser for daily use and prevents the adhesion of PM 2.5. Next it was our Sheet Mask with double hooks to offer a lifting affect.
What are your favourite products from the range and why?
Personally for us its really hard to choose between all of them. If we really had to it would be the Serum due to the lightness and effectiveness. Next would be the Toner as we are always amazed on how much access dirt it can remove. Lastly its the Sheet Mask due to the fact the way it stays on the face and we can do some errands without worrying about it falling off.
How do you plan or what is the process of adding a new product to your line?
The planning process takes extensive research but also taking into consideration what the community really needs or wants. We sometimes base it on our lifestyle seeing what type of skincare can be as effective for modern women today. Once we finished the planning process we move on to obtaining the ingredients and seeing which ingredients fits best. There is a long testing process as mentioned before and we also test with friends, family and focus groups to understand how does the product play a role with their skin. After that once we give the product the green light we start planning our production range and packaging. Here we start meeting many designers and suppliers to create an attractive but convenient packaging.
What roles do each of you play in the business?
Minnie handles all SEA operations, while I am handling EMEA. Our tasks are quite a lot as we are a bootstrapped business fully funded by ourselves. Range of tasks include bartering with suppliers, creating marketing campaigns, accounting, logistics, design, KOL reach, social media management, and many more.
Where are your products available as of now?
In the Middle East we are visible in Kuwait with various online platforms such as Aybiz, Amavi, Urabn Point and Zay. This includes our own website www.soufflebeauty.com where they can find us. On the offline platform we are available in boutique shops, salons, and Vavavoom with Alshaya. We have con-tracted with Skinfit Pakistan, Glamazale Dubai, and BeingLayla in Oman recently. In SEA firstly we have been visible offline in Changi International Airport, Naiise, and SASA (before the pandemic). During the pandemic time we had the honor to be part of Singapore’s biggest cosmeceutical chain called Watsons and retailing with them. Moreover were able to go under an online contract with BeautyMNL in the Philippines and currently we are seeking opportunities in China, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
How has the pandemic affected your business and what lessons have you learnt during these times?
The pandemic has put a strain on our roadshows for China and Beauty World Dubai. Therefore the les-sons we learned was to pivot our business strategy. When curfew occurred in Kuwait it was quite diffi-cult to contract with drivers for deliveries, so I was conducting deliveries myself to ensure the customers receive the products on time. They actually appreciated it to see an owner of the business and a female delivering products around Kuwait. As well on our website we created different type of promotions to encourage sales. Our promotions were very attractive as there were more than one bundles available. During the pandemic people were mostly staying at home so we have been more active on our social media through giving beauty tips, skincare topics, and even interviews with different people to connect with our communities. We also had an issue with cross border shipping as it was closed up but we managed through recovering orders from our customers via pre-orders and first come first serve strategy.
What are some of the achievements you are proud of?
Honestly we are proud of our journey from where we started and to the position we are at now. It was really a tough journey building a skincare brand from A-Z. With our strong friendship and despite the distance we were able to come together and bring Souffle Beauty to life. We are happy to see our hard work appreciated by our customer base. As well we really do feel happy when we can offer something great to the community and put smiles on their faces.
What is your own beauty regime?
We are quite similar when it comes to our beauty regime, honestly hydrate with water due to the fact we live in hot and humid climates. Next is to keep skin fresh and clean at all costs to avoid pores and breakouts. Lastly moisturize and wear minimal makeup during the day.
What are your plans post-pandemic and your long-term plans for the business?
It is to participate in the roadshows that have been postponed due to the pandemic. The long term plan is to develop more products that align with our vision in what we want to achieve in skincare. Also build the brand’s visibility in our regions through making Souffle Beauty an essential for women today.
What message do you want to convey to young female entrepreneurs and in particularly the Arab women?
There are a lot of ups and downs when it comes to building a business it is crucial to come up with an idea that is innovative or re-design an idea that has been already existent. One of the traits of an Arab women is “resiliency” and we believe with resilience anything can happen. The region has earned its place for being an incubator of young females making things happen, therefore the will to not to give up must be there. As well not to be afraid when the word “NO” is given, that is just a learning curve. Understandable its easier said than done but taking it with pinch of salt is really the road to success. Entrepreneurship is truly a journey and it will never be boring!
Your message for us at CP magazine.
Thank you CP magazine for giving us the opportunity to showcase our story and our brand. We really hope we were be able to inspire the ladies in the Arab region to go and follow their dreams and aspira-tions.