“I mean, this is probably at least 1.5 million – loss,” Huda’s husband Chris can be heard saying down the phone as Huda despairingly holds her head in her hands. It’s episode one of Huda’s show Huda Boss on Facebook Watch and already we’re seeing just part of the fires that Huda has to fight every day as a CEO and business owner.
In this particular episode, we see Huda trying on a concealer sample. She approved the formula, however, when it arrives it seems to be more orange than she remembers and she decides that she can’t, in good conscience, put her logo and her brand on it. “We’ll get dragged through social media!” She exclaims, rubbing the concealer in and watching as it oxidizes into a more orange hue. “I look like an Oompa Loompa!”.
This is a far cry from where Huda started in 2012. She never wanted to be the CEO of her own company, in fact, she just wanted to pursue her passion, beauty. But Huda’s story needs to be examined because she started, remember, with a blog and an Instagram account.
The hit show attracts up to 9 million viewers on Facebook Watch, but it’s just one of many milestones for the 34-year-old since she introduced her first product five years ago. Ranked No. 37 on Forbes’s America’s Richest Self-Made Women list, Kattan has a net worth of more than $500 million, a fan base of 26 million Instagram followers, and 2.4 million YouTube subscribers. If there’s anything to learn from Huda’s success, it’s that you can use Instagram to become successful. Here’s how:
1. Focus on the service, not the money
As Henry Ford once said, “Money comes naturally as the result of service.” Everyone seems to be trying to make money on Instagram these days, so much so that the word ‘influencer’ is losing its meaning. And if you really examine why, it’s clear to see. Not many influencers offer a service. Nobody is focused on the service they’re offering and how they’re delivering it to people, instead they’re focused on the money and perceived fame they could get with the right amount of followers.
If you want to become successful, start with the service first. Huda was comfortable making a mistake that cost $1.5 million because the money is nice, but the service is nicer.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m so happy I have people around me who are motivated by money because they’ll make sure that we make money,” she says. “But if it was up to me, I just love giving away product. Anybody I meet, I’ll just give them product. You spread beauty. We’re always focused on that. That’s ultimately our goal.”
2. Follow your passion
Huda graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and had no direction in her life. She had a degree in finance, but she didn’t want to do the normal thing for her family and pursue it. It was her sister who convinced her to pursue Huda Beauty. She worked on building this up with social media and then went straight on to creating products of her own. If she’d never followed her passion, with her sister’s encouragement, she’d never be where she is today. Even though she had a degree in finance, and her parents may have wanted her to follow a traditional path, she flipped expectations on their head and followed her passion.
“I told my sister when I borrowed the $6,000 that if I don’t sell the lashes, I will use all of them and pay you for them eventually,” Kattan said. “And luckily, they sold really fast and it was successful. After that, we knew we had a lot of work to do.”
Huda Beauty has become a massive powerhouse just by following her passion and doing something that she loved.
3. Take yourself seriously
“I’ve been put in multiple boxes as blogging and as an influencer and not really perceived as a businesswoman, and that’s something that I’ve really had to grow into,” she says. “I didn’t necessarily plan initially to be the CEO of the company. This transition of being a woman and a breadwinner–it took some time for my dad to get used that. It took some time for my husband. I was like, gosh, I’ve worked so hard to be here, and then all of a sudden I don’t know if I feel comfortable being here.”
Kattan has been running her company for the past five years, works together with her two sisters and her husband as COO. This year, she’s documenting her journey as a leader on her Facebook TV show
Kattan has been running her company for the past five years, supported by her two sisters Mona and Alya Kattan as global president and chief Instagram officer, respectively, and her husband, Chris Goncalo, as COO. Kattan says she’s still developing as a leader–a journey that’s at the center of her new Facebook Watch show, Huda Boss.
“It’s so scary because this means I need to grow again to become the CEO who can manage offices across the world. I’ve been trying to prepare for all of this, but it’s really challenging,” Kattan says. “You don’t think about those things when you’re first starting. You’re just like, I’m going to figure out where to get this supplier, this manufacturer, and just put everything together. And if I have to package it myself, I will. We’re now selling millions of units on a monthly basis. As [the company] continues to grow, I find I’m a different person completely year on year.”
4. Make sure you’re prepared to work damn hard
“After working out of my living room for almost 2 years and many times (in fact MOST of the time), packaging each lash myself with my family, it almost feels like another lifetime ago! The early days of the brand were super scrappy! When we finally managed to move into our first office, it was that moment where I realized ‘ok this is REALLY happening now Huda’. It was unreal. I had to step up and be the CEO, even if we didn’t want to be. My mindset shifted from blogger to entrepreneur because we had an office, a team and a lot of responsibilities! SO I had no choice but to make it work!! Our office was super small – I would do makeup tutorials at my desk, shoot photos for the blog, do product development and also breastfeed Nour (she was a baby). It was chaos and messy, but I loved every moment.”
Yes, Huda is successful now, but it was not an easy ride. There was a slog that got her to where she is today, a lot of hard work went into the company she has built up, it definitely isn’t always glamorous and it definitely isn’t always fun, but it will be worth it in the end.
5. Support others and you’ll step into your success
Her fans have already started to follow in her footsteps and start their own brands. “They’re going to give a piece of themselves to the world,” she said in Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. “That’s what I would love to show people how to do.”
In 2017, Huda created HB Angels, an early stage investment fund to help new entrepreneurs get started on their own businesses. “I realized that my purpose really is to inspire people,” she explained in July. “It has nothing to do with money, it has nothing to do with anything material. It’s really to prove to people that the little guy can make it.” That’s an important message that Huda continues to share, much like the product she knows is more important than the money, the people who buy it are more important than anything else, and supporting them shows her values, and strengthens her company’s vision.
6. There’s never a right time
“Before I even understood what blogging was, I was sending out emails kind of in the form of a blog post. Like, ‘Hey guys, these are the top trends to follow now.’ I would send it around to my girlfriends and it was this club that I created. That was in university, in 2003 or 2004. My interest started when I was really young. By the time I was 14 I was actually quite good at doing makeup. In 2010 my sister was like, ‘You should start a blog.’ It was something I did as an outlet when I was starting my job as a makeup artist. I switched from finance because I hated it. I worked in the financial markets for three months. There would be evenings when I would leave work and just go do makeup on my friends. But it’s just very unacceptable in Middle Eastern culture to have service jobs. My parents were like, ‘Just do it for fun. You have this respectable job in a company.’ I kind of became a really big bitch [before I quit].”
Huda has had several offers from bigger companies but has refused to sell. She sees herself as competition for the big conglomerates and has big dreams to grow Huda into something incredible.
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