Nader Sheasha, founder of Ixora tells us about natural organic skincare products.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nader Sheasha: Everyone is fine. Technology definitely makes it easier, but of course, nothing can be compared to a warm hug from your beloved ones. It has been over one year since the last time I was home.
Tell us about yourself and your career.
Nader Sheasha: My journey and the Ixora story started for me at the age of 10 when my father used to invite me to his business during the summertime to work. I learned my first lesson in commerce and stepped into the business world and its responsibilities. Sometimes that was too much for me as a kid who wants to spend all summer playing, but on the other side it made my mind think faster and in different ways, and that was helpful during school times. I found out that I didn’t need to study as hard as my colleagues to get high scores which were easy for me.
When I joined the Faculty of Pharmacy, a new passion was born through studying plants and natural extracts and their amazing ability to treat many diseases and health problems, their history, and their evolution to the currently known pharmaceutical forms. I even started parallel studies at that time to understand more and learn through the support and encouragement of my lecturers and professors and participated in several studies during the study as joiner assistance on the treatment of liver cirrhosis by extracts of medicinal plants.
After graduation and the training, the period ended. I got my Cambridge International Diploma in Business – Marketing then joined my colleagues to establish a small pharmaceutical company. One year later, I created a special branch in the company for vaccinations and awareness, and I managed to cooperate with the largest pharmaceutical company in Egypt, GlaxoSmithKline, to organize vaccination and awareness campaigns against hepatitis A, B, Seasonal Influenza, and Cervical Cancer inside institutions and major companies in Egypt, including banks (CIB bank and Al Ahly), Telecommunications companies (Vodafone, Mobinil “Orang”), and major factories, and that was a source of great pride for me as we helped to protect and educate thousands of people against severe diseases.
Later, I decided to continue my studies in different treatment methods. I was an active member of the American Botanical Council and the American Apitherapy Society as a student and researcher with other pharmacist colleagues to be able to start our new project, the first clinic for herbal remedies and complementary medicine, based on a scientific basis and managed by real specialists, physicians, and pharmacists for the first time in Egypt. We achieved remarkable success and had been through many battles to educate people against pseudo-science and frauds scattered everywhere, who always take advantage of the lack of awareness and the patient’s need for treatment.
Tell us how you founded Ixora, and why?
Nader Sheasha: Skin, as the largest organ of the body, was part of my study and worked all the time, and I was struggling to find pure natural, effective and safe skin and hair care products in most markets of many countries during my travels. This led me to, most of the time, create my own formulations for personal use and for my family to avoid a lot of harmful ingredients as much as possible. I then met Mr. Tayfun and his team of world-class personal care technologists in Turkey, who share with me the same passion for developing certified organic skincare products that are effective as treatments and safe for babies and whole family members.
I started only with a small idea of launching a well selected and carefully executed range of products, but down the line, I met our main investor, Mr. Abdullah Bin Atif, who valued my goal, understood the huge gap in the market, and gave IXORA all the support from day one, which allowed us to launch fifty-two certified organic hair and skin products.
How does Ixora innovate?
Nader Sheasha: We are a regional, award-winning, certified organic skincare brand that is constantly innovating by offering a new, effective and safe mix of natural elements to solve skin problems without using any harmful additives or controversial chemicals. We educate our customers on the importance of ‘certified’ organic and natural skincare products. We are proud to be truly accessible to all and are the only brand in the UAE with a complete range of fully certified organic products for the face, body, and hair. We registered our trademark in the USA, Canada, and all GCC countries to be ready and stick as much as possible with our expansion plan as a global brand. We believe we are the new Tesla of the beauty sector by offering a unique mix of sustainability, science, and nature together in luxury and modern design.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Nader Sheasha: This February, we celebrated our first anniversary and are very pleased to have seen record sales driven by the support of our loyal customers, as well as an increase in new customers looking to make the switch to an eco-friendlier and more ethical lifestyle as we reached the peak of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Although it was no doubt a year of survival, we embraced a lot of positives as a brand, and we’re thrilled to win two awards in November and December 2020 for our flagship Dubai Festival City store. We also saw a significant rise in sales as online searches for organic beauty increased dramatically due to consumers wanting more meaningful experiences and making more ethical choices when it comes to spending their money.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Nader Sheasha: The pandemic was a huge hit for us as a new brand just launched two weeks before the lockdown. However, we did our best to support our staff during the lockdown and after, but when the situation extended, we had to make some difficult decisions in terms of salaries.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Nader Sheasha: We use a CRM system alongside direct contact with our customers to create a personalized experience and listen to their feedback regularly. Also, Investing in our staff is really is key for Ixora with each new team member undergoing an in-depth educational program, as well as holding regular ongoing training for our existing staff, so they are able to offer our customers the best in-store experience possible. As well as in-store and online, customers are also able to order via WhatsApp, and our dedicated team invests a lot of time speaking to customers, ascertaining their skin types and being able to advise them confidently on the products best suited to them. It is a full 360 personalized experience that our clients greatly appreciate and thus, brings brand loyalty and trust
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Nader Sheasha: Yes, we did receive some governmental fees and appreciated the UAE government’s support during these hard times very much.
Your final thoughts?
Nader Sheasha: Despite the global pandemic, we are grateful to have celebrated one year in business successfully. We had to think and act fast and come up with new business strategies that included launching our WhatsApp service for shoppers who couldn’t visit the mall and weren’t comfortable ordering online. Being resilient and forward-thinking certainly helped us to ensure Ixora enjoyed a successful first year, and we are more than excited for the future. We have many new ideas in the pipeline and can’t wait to share them with you soon!
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