It is always interesting to hear an entrepreneur extolling the virtues of more regulation in their industry.  In most cases it is a clear sign that they are doing the right thing and are looking to protect the consumer from harm.  Habiba’s story is a great one…

What’s your story?

I was born and raised in Morocco where I grew up experiencing the miraculous benefits of Argan oil on a daily basis. It has been my beauty secret for many years, way before the recent international cosmetic gold rush. I moved abroad and couldn’t find the same Argan purity I was used to. There are many Argan brands with misleading claims, and low Argan quality and I made it my mission to do something about it. I saw a market opportunity to do things better so I decided to bring the “real thing” to Asia.

I combined my expertise of Argan oil with my love for high quality cosmetic products and my passion for women empowerment to create Ayelli. Ayelli is a brand of eco-luxury personal care products based on organic Argan oil. I work with women only renowned cooperatives to produce the oil. My company’s sustainable practices ensure that these women receive a steady wage and are financially and socially independent.

What excites you most about your industry?

The current changes! Policy makers are requiring stricter procedures to strengthen the safety of cosmetic products.  There are now more parameters needed to justify the claims used on labels. Also, the ban on animals testing is applied in an increasing number of countries.

On the other hand, there are more behavioral changes due to the consumers growing awareness. The Asian market is demanding more natural products. People are becoming health conscious and want to know the ingredients being used. Consumers also want products with an authentic story they can relate to. A beautiful model on an advertising brochure is not enough anymore. Asia and Brazil are currently the fastest growing regions for the natural personal care market and that’s very exciting.

What’s your connection to Asia?

Nothing and everything at the same time! I moved to Singapore from the US because I felt that it was where I needed to be. Considering that I have never been to Singapore before then, and that I didn’t know a single soul when I arrived, it was a bit courageous and a lot crazy. However, I had to follow my gut and make a spontaneous but educated decision. After 2 years here, everything connects me to Asia. I am personally and professionally connected to Singapore. Unlike what people may think Morocco and Singapore share many socio-cultural aspects, which helped make me feel at home since day one.

habiba-raffa-3

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?

Singapore! This place has everything a business needs; efficient and quick procedures, top-notch technology and access to funding. In addition, there are support groups and a large network of business savvy people to mentor and coach you. Not to mention a key geographic location connecting you to the rest of Asia and the world. Singapore is definitely Asia’s business hub.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?

Running out of money before your product is ready is often one of the biggest worries of new companies. The money question was stressing and stopping me from taking action during a period where I needed to make quick crucial decisions and hire experts. One fellow start-up founder advised me to focus on my short-term plan and not to think about the money for 3 months. I was impressed by how much progress I made with a “free” mind. Lesson learned: don’t let the long-term challenges overwhelm you and just tackle them step-by-step.

Who inspires you?

People who go against all odds to make their dreams and whatever they believe in come true.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?

Did you know that Bukit Timah’s Nature Reserve in Singapore has more species of trees than the entire North American continent? Talk about a green dot!

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?

I would say nothing! I am exactly where I need to be. I believe my time was well spent developing my skills and personality. Even the sets backs and challenges are all part of the journey that made me who I am today. However, if I had my time again I would sleep more 🙂

How do you unwind?

I enjoy working out. I have a daily boot-camp routine that helps me release stress, get energized and keep a healthy mind in a healthy body. No matter how tired or busy I am I make sure I fit in my workout.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?

Hard to pick but I would say Thailand. It has a great combination of breathtaking nature, rich culture, traditions and modernity.

Everyone in business should read this book:

“Think and Grow Rich” of Napoleon Hill. Unlike what the tittle suggests it is not just a book about achieving wealth. It is a great read about the power of personal believes and their roles in your success. Like the author says ” What the mind can conceive and believe, it can succeed”. This is a classic must read.

Shameless plug for your business:

Ayelli offers the finest organic Argan oil on the market!  Ayelli Pure Argan oil is a rare and precious oil extracted from the native Moroccan Argan tree.  It has miraculous benefits due to its unique properties rich in vitamin E and anti-oxidants. Ayelli pure Argan oil is a natural moisturizer and repairing oil designed to rejuvenate and recharge hair and skin.

All our personal care products have been formulated using natural ingredients and the latest science. and are inspired by authentic beauty rituals in Morocco

Keep a look out for our products on www.ayelli.com launching on March 2015.


How can people connect with you?

Email: [email protected] I always answer all my emails!

This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:

CallumConnects

Callum Laing has started, built, bought and sold half a dozen businesses in a range of industries across two continents. He is the owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 11 countries and he is also the CEO of Entrevo Asia, a company that runs 40 week Growth Accelerator programs.

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