How Minal Siyal, founder & CEO at Beauty Binge is using a conscious beauty brand to offer affordable, sustainable, and clean beauty products online.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Minal Siyal: Very good, thank you, trust the same at your end.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Beauty Binge.
Minal Siyal: I’ve lived in Dubai, UAE, most of my life, except for the few years in the US, getting my undergraduate degree. The initial plan was to stay back here; however, I’ve always been someone who listens to my gut feeling, and moving back to Dubai was exactly that. Here in Dubai, I started my career in a multi-national advertising agency, where I spent roughly eight years. Having started as an Account Executive, I left the agency as an Account Director.
Those initial years of my career taught me a lot, all of which I’m extremely grateful for today. It was a valuable experience to various ends of how a business operates. Late 2019 is when I ultimately quit my job to pursue a professional life that would reflect my personal beliefs. With this mission, I founded Beauty Binge, a platform that focuses on driving forward the clean beauty movement in the Middle East.
How does Beauty Binge innovate?
Minal Siyal: Our innovation lies in the way we operate and constantly evolve, keeping in mind our target audience. My years of advertising experience taught me the importance of truly understanding consumers, what their wants and needs are versus bombarding them with information that doesn’t resonate. Furthermore, our focus has been to create multiple channels wherein we can drive our ethos and awareness on the importance of clean ingredients, products, and lifestyle choices. By creating content that is relatable, we engage with our current clientele by offering them a seamless and easy transition to a more conscious lifestyle.
What sets us apart is also the fact that we have a curated selection of brands and products. From environmentally driven start-ups to female-led businesses, every product that we offer equally reflects our philosophy. Our ultimate goal is to build a community of conscious consumers who can help us create a positive impact on our environment and the world at large.
Our ethos and innovation are reflected in every aspect of the brand. We have four different packaging options; cardboard boxes, jute bags with fresh flowers, furoshiki gift boxes, and recently launched totes. Through this, we ensure customers can reuse the packaging material, which has zero wastage. With slow and gradual efforts of this kind, we intend to continue creating easy and eco-friendly solutions that are sustainable and organically integrate into people’s daily lifestyles.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Minal Siyal: Launching a business in the center of a pandemic itself was a very interesting experience, especially from a financial perspective. I had decided to launch Beauty Binge pre-COVID, and the one thing that I was certain of when lockdown started was that we will do all it takes to still launch as planned. We went live in June 2020, as planned. Facing logistical nightmares, increasing costs that ultimately significantly impacted our overheads, we were dealing with multiple challenges head-on. Considering this is an entirely self-funded business entity, I had to take a lot of tough decisions to ensure we strategically carry on with our plans.
With increasing expenses, naturally, the impact would fall on retail prices; however, I was adamant not to stir away from our core goal: ensuring affordability across the board. We wanted to push aside the notion of clean beauty being only for a select few, and if that meant compromising on our margins, then that was what we did. Today, nine months later, I can proudly say that this decision has only brought us more respect and trust among our target audience. It is a crucial element for any new business, especially in an industry where conventional brands are current market leaders. Clean beauty is a growing phenomenon in our region, but we want to be the pioneers for affordable clean beauty for women, men, and kids in the UAE and across the Middle East eventually.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Minal Siyal: Absolutely. Being the sole proprietor of my business, with big ambitions and focused goals, it was equally important for me to set up a team that could manage our core operations. My past professional experience was a great support, as I love strategic planning, content calendars that are laid out a few months ahead for 6 major social platforms, along with an impressive, if I say so myself, website portal.
Of course, our revenue streams were different, not as planned pre-covid. We couldn’t accommodate for human resources as we initially planned to, as I had to also ensure our P&L made sense overall. Luckily for me, I was blessed to have some incredible women with me on this journey. They strongly believed in Beauty Binge’s mission and cause, which immensely helped to take the company forward. The team behind a business, especially a start-up, is the root cause behind its success or failure. In our case, though we couldn’t operate as a full-fledged company from a resource perspective, I received utmost support from the team. Today, we have members who have been a part of our journey from the very start, and I can proudly say that Beauty Binge is lucky to have each one of them!
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Minal Siyal: Our core policy since the founding was split across two main goals: creating a new consumer base with each campaign but also retaining existing customers. In an industry that is thriving on the blend of conventional and clean beauty brands, it is imperative that we value the people who have trusted us when making mindful choices in their daily lives. We dedicate a lot of effort to ensure we hear consumer needs, feedback, and queries and deliver accordingly. No amount of planning or organizing can help your business succeed if you don’t care to understand what your audience is truly after. We prefer to keep all our modes of communication with our existing and potential clientele as transparent, real, and personal as possible.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Minal Siyal: So far, we haven’t explored that territory as much, but we do intend on exploring potential business councils to gain the support of this vibrant business community. The government here is increasingly creating various platforms for SMEs to operate and thrive under as we are quickly approaching a year since launch, a part of our next phase does include gaining the help of government grants and other sources of funding as our focus is expansion plans across KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, India, and the likes.
Your final thoughts?
Minal Siyal: Launching a business, working somewhere or any other professional work requires significant dedication, passion, and hard work, as we all know. However, I also believe that today, as the world is constantly evolving at such a rapid pace, it is equally important to understand ourselves and what truly adds meaning to our lives. Your workplace is where you spend most of your day, and if that doesn’t give you joy, inner satisfaction, or purpose, then it’s time to perhaps re-evaluate your choices. Not everyone can follow their passion at all times, but if you do have that liberty, I will encourage all the dreamers out there to take that leap of faith and work towards that goal. With the right experience, research, risk-taking appetite, and understanding of your market and audience, success isn’t far behind.
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