JEAN ARP, Découpages, 1961
Talking beauty, business and giving back with Katharine L'Heureux, the founder and CEO of Kahina Giving Beauty. I've been using Kahina Giving Beauty for 7+ years and it's still one of my favorite brands.
What does ‘Kahina’ mean?
Kahina is the name of a Berber queen who reigned in North Africa in the 8th Century. The Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa including the area of modern Morocco. We chose the name as a way to honor and highlight the Berber women who do the hard working of extracting our argan oil using traditional methods. We also use their signatures on our packaging to further bring attention to these women artisans.
What was your experience like starting Kahina Giving Beauty?
I stumbled upon argan oil in 2007 when I was on a trip to Morocco. In desperate need of a moisturizer, I purchased some argan oil in the souk of Marrakech and was enthralled with this beautiful organic oil and its story — that it comes from an endangered forest in Morocco and only the Berber women of Morocco may, by law do the work of cracking the nuts prior to its extraction. Without any prior experience in the beauty industry, I decided to create the skincare line that I was seeking — clean, beautifully designed and effective. I had a lot to learn, and made many mistakes along the way, but in some ways being an outsider helped me to envision something new to the category.
How do you go about setting goals for yourself and for your business?
My goals for Kahina are to continually create beautiful and effective products that won’t harm consumers or the environment and will elevate the people who work to provide the raw materials that constitute the heart of our line. Anything we do must conform to these guidelines.
Personally, I strive to set an example that will contribute to changing the way people do business and the way in which consumers think about their skincare purchases. Most importantly, I strive to work at doing something that is meaningful to me and that will make my children proud.
What are the challenges you face running a business?
In the beginning, few people were using argan oil — or oils on their face in general — and organic beauty products were relegated to the shelves of health food stores and Whole Foods. It was a challenge to persuade people to consider a natural product, especially an oil, in the luxury category. Now, things have changed and the space has become very competitive. Our challenges now are to stay focused in this increasingly crowded category, and to make sure our message is heard amidst the chatter.
What would you do differently if you could go back and start Kahina again?
I’m a believer in destiny and so I think everything happened exactly the way it should have to get me to this point. All of the people I have met and experiences I have had along the way may add up to something unexpected — and amazing — down the road.
We know Kahina Giving Beauty is committed to giving back to the human and cultural resources behind the brand. Why is this so important for Kahina?
We want to create a new paradigm for the way cosmetics companies work, by delivering clean products that are not tested on animals, are environmentally sound, and won’t put the health of consumers at risk. The ethical sourcing of our ingredients is a pillar of Kahina Giving Beauty. While many other argan oil brands are purchasing cheap, low quality oil that does not provide a fair wage to the women workers and devalues their labor and traditional skills and knowledge, I aim to provide economic opportunity to the individuals who are the backbone of the Kahina brand. In this way, everyone wins. We obtain the highest quality oil produced with care for our customers and the Berber women gain economic independence.
Morocco is witnessing a migration of the rural population to the cities. As a result traditional knowledge is disappearing from the Berber culture in the remote rural communities. Once this heritage is lost it can never be regained. We work to encourage the preservation of a way of life by paying a fair living wage and funding initiatives that ease the hardship of their conditions, such as clean water and education programs, especially for girls who otherwise leave school around the age of twelve.
Do you have any beauty secrets/tips you can share with us?
Good skin is a practice that one undertakes as a long-term commitment, much like healthy eating and exercise. I think the most important, and often most challenging, beauty secret is to relax about it and don’t try too hard.
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