When Amira Geneid launched her beauty brand, Zahara, last September, she had no idea it would quickly earn itself a cult following. In seven months, the brand amassed some 8,000 followers on Instagram and sold out its signature water-permeable nail polish — twice. In the first six months of business it also registered some 2,000 transactions on its online store — not too shabby for a brand that is newly making inroads.
“E-commerce is enjoying tremendous growth in Southeast Asia. Internet adoption is increasing by the day and more people are shopping online. I’ve observed that people want geographically customised products that are more relevant to them and their environment,” says Geneid, 24, whose husband Cameron Priest, is CEO of app developer TradeGecko.
Zahara’s flagship water-permeable nail polish for instance, addresses the specific beauty needs of women, particularly young Muslim ladies, who can keep their nail polish on while performing the wudhu, a cleansing ritual performed before prayer that requires areas including the nails to be cleansed with water. “Our nail polishes are also oxygen-permeable, making it a healthier choice for every woman out there,” she says.
“Shoppers no longer just take what a mainstream brand offers and apply it to themselves. They look for one that fulfils their needs and that is what Zahara is built on,” she adds.
Apart from nail polish, the brand also offers cosmetics that are free from animal-based ingredients and alcohol, again, making them popular with young Muslim women.
Geneid’s journey as an entrepreneur was inspired by her parents, Dato’ Robert Geneid and Datuk Raziah Mahmud-Geneid, property developers and respected figures in the Malaysian society scene. “I was five when they started bringing me along to view their projects and would explain things to me. By the time I was 10, I understood a lot more about their business than I otherwise would,” the Business Administration graduate from the National University of Singapore says.
Has she ever thought about joining the family business then? “I’ve always wanted to do something of my own and pursue entrepreneurship. My parents have always told me that I can achieve anything, as long as I put my mind to it. I’ve seen them do just that, so I believe I can too,” she says with a smile.
So fixated was she on going into business that she enrolled herself at Draper University, Silicon Valley’s top entrepreneurship programme founded by venture capitalist Tim Draper. According to Geneid, the three-month immersive course was “an intense time and an eye-opener”.
“Students were made to take all sorts of tests. Draper is known to push people to their limits. Once, we were sent to the countryside where we were required to perform several physically challenging tasks as part of a race. No one was told where the end point was. At one stage, we walked for some 20km with no idea where it would end. Many people broke down. It was insane,” she recalls.
“His point was: In real life, you don’t know when anything ends, so you have to keep pushing. The race finally ended after seven hours. If anything, it taught me that I can do much more than I thought.”
I am passionate…about empowering women. We created a nail colour shade called Artic Queen and all proceeds from it goes to Help Anna, a campaign launched by the Singapore Committee for UN Women that helps females who have suffered domestic abuse.
My parents always…tell me that you get what you put in. The harder you work, the more you can expect to receive.
A beauty item I swear by….is eyeliner! I keep spares all over the place: the car, my handbag, my pencil case...
My top beauty secret is…let your skin breathe! I only save foundation and face powders for events and special occasions
Success is…building a brand people love.