Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week we chat with Bina Khan and Madiha Chan, founders of Just B Cosmetics. Founded under the guise of “you don’t need to change anything, or hide anything”, and to simply be yourself, the entrepreneurial pair are aiming to change the periphery surrounding the conversation of beauty standards.

Emirates Woman sat down with the pair to find out more about the brand and what’s next for Just B Cosmetics.

What was your favourite subject at school?

MC: My favourite subject at school was Human Biology. For some reason, learning about things that work in a system (our ecosystem being the largest one of them all) was super compelling to me, and still is. I pursued advanced education in Human and Computational Biology until my Master’s degree. While I don’t use Biology in my day-to-day life anymore, I can still continue to learn about it as a side project.

BK: Literature. Hands down. I actually wanted to study further but remember being asked “and what will you do with a literature degree?” I love to write too, but disseminating a text is one of the most joyous things that I have done. I also really enjoyed economics at a younger age, and of course, I studied art privately from the age of about 12. The practise of sitting quietly while drawing something, that feeling of a spark of creativity, especially surrounded by other people’s talent, is still something that I draw on. I was also definitely one of those students who really responded to gifted teachers, which is probably why I am such an enthusiastic teacher too.

What was your first job?

MC: My first proper paid job was as a Computer Science teaching assistant at the University of California, San Diego. That job was serious hard work. Creating assignments, helping students in the lab, designing an automated system to grade assignments while keeping up with my college courses was definitely not easy but it was fulfilling.

BK: I was an extra in a commercial! My best friend’s cousin is one of Pakistan’s most well-known directors, and he would people his sets with her friends. He would take us out for dinner as a thank you or give us Rs. 1,000. But we took it very seriously, we were very careful to be perfectly put together even though we were basically invisible in the final cut.


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A post shared by Just B Cosmetics (@justbcosmetics)

Can you talk us through the inspiration behind your brand?

At Just B, we feel a deep sense of responsibility for the messages that we put out into the world. We don’t offer “fixes” for “flaws”. Brown-skinned folks have been ignored by the beauty industry for so long that we have gotten used to being on the periphery of the beauty conversation.

For decades, women of colour have been forced to mix and match, tweak and layer products to make them work. The message we have unconsciously received all these years is that people who look like us don’t need to be catered to. It seemed we were invisible.

At Just B, we want to show you that we see the beauty in you and we are here to offer you that perfect companion to show that off! We want to hand you that exact something that you’ve been searching for, that simply helps you express yourself. Whether you want to put your inside mood on the outside, or if you need a pick me up to feel ready for the day or a night out, our makeup is here to empower you.

Our mission is to create smart, multi-dimensional makeup that moulds itself to your needs. From textures to colours to packaging, we have been mindful, thoughtful and focused on creating a positive impact, in all aspects of what we do. We hope our products bring you joy and simply help to magnify your already glorious personality, face, skin and vibe!

What are the key elements of your role?

MC: As a Co-Founder of Just B, I manage the business side of the house. My work entails everything from finding manufacturers, sourcing raw materials eco-consciously, identifying new markets to enter, the channels to work with and how to ensure our message lands effectively with our people via social media, marketing and more. Together with Bina, I make sure we spread the message behind Just B far and wide and ensure everyone gets the best service.

BK: I feel that we have really been blessed with the perfect combination of people to bring this vision to life. My Co-Founder role is really varied and incredibly enjoyable. It’s part Willie Wonka, where I get to design (and often create by hand) makeup ranges that translate my colour palette and professional systems into physical products, and I also handle the creative direction of what we do; I direct and/or create our visuals, our language, our campaigns. I also get to communicate how to use our unique and innovative systems, whether it’s through Instagram lives, YouTube videos, interviews or indeed through creating makeup looks that are the stuff of my dreams. Literally. I am often the mouthpiece for the brand, and it’s a role I take very seriously since it allows me to draw attention to our ethos, which is deeply meaningful to us. We are here to make women feel celebrated and seen.

Talk us through your daily routine.

MC: I am an early riser. My day starts at 5am. If I can muster the courage, I’ll do a 30-minute ride on my Peloton, then tackle some work things. Then, along with my husband, I get my daughter ready for school, get myself ready for work. We drop her to school together and grab a cup of coffee at my favourite coffee shop, Blue Bottle. At that point, I spend 20 minutes walking and drinking my coffee. That’s my time to shift from personal/home things to work and it helps me set up my goals for the day. After that, the routine is variable, but it typically entails work meetings and discussions until the evening when we pick up my daughter from school. That’s my cue to stop work commitments. We do dinner and activities together until 8pm. I’ll do another pass on Just B and other things until 9pm. By 9:30pm at most, I am asleep.

BK: I inhabit several different lives, so my routine is really variable. My schedule in London is quite different from my schedule in Karachi, which is single-mindedly focused on my work. In Karachi I have my regular work life through the day as a busy makeup artist and teacher in person, then I teach online after hours. plus I tend to do night shoots for youtube and often Instagram lives. Just B is in a different time zone to me (our company is based in America) so I am regularly in meetings at my 1am. I use every spare moment to keep up with my own marketing and to explore my artistry. In London I am a little kinder to myself, I spend time with family and friends and being outdoors. It’s like I take a big breath before plunging back into the intensity of work that is my Karachi life.


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A post shared by Just B Cosmetics (@justbcosmetics)

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

MC: Evaluate your options carefully once and then make the leap of faith. Evaluating if you should take a step or not repeatedly without any additional knowledge only leads to analysis paralysis. Sometimes we just don’t have enough information, we can’t predict the future. Sometimes the best thing is to bet on yourself.

BK. Do something that you believe in deeply. Life can’t just be about $$$, it’s got to be about something more. In my career, Just B included, I wanted to address a specific need, cater to an ignored market, address discrimination, deliver finesse and polish, and communicate a joy of artistry. Every day, every small interaction makes me feel we are changing people’s lives for the better. There is so much joy in that.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

MC: Fran Berman, a visionary computer scientist, said at a talk: “There is no recognition fairy”. Those words have stuck with me over the last 15 years. If you won’t talk about what you can bring to the table then no one is going to do that for you.

BK. “Never let perfect be the enemy of the good”. My greatest art teacher taught me that. You have to know when to leave something alone. It’s hard to stop but you need to know when something is finished.

And what is the worst?

MC: “Why do you want to change what’s going so well?” – I received that advice when I was thinking about starting Just B. I had already established my career as an Engineering lead and adding Just B to my life would add more things for me to juggle. Thank God I didn’t take the advice. Can you imagine all the experiences, learnings and achievements I would have missed out on?

BK: “You can’t bet everything on yourself”. No one will work as hard as you to achieve your goals and dreams. If you find others who share similar dreams, then “yourself” becomes a whole posse of people!

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

MC: Bring a woman in Tech, I knew I had chosen a profession that was and is primarily male-dominated. The biggest challenge was not being able to find women like me who can help mentor me, tell me how to be at the right place at the right time to get a chance at various opportunities. Being a woman (and especially a woman of colour) with the passion to study a discipline that was not offered in my country at that time to where I am today has been a challenging but very fulfilling journey.

BK: I feel my biggest challenges have been artistic, between my brain and my hands. Learning, growing, staying inspired and not being predictable. I want to do the best work I have ever done each time, so I am always trying to top myself.

What are the future plans for your brand?

It’s been such an awesome and awe-inspiring experience to watch our products make it into the hands of our lovely customers and some of the greatest artists on the planet, and they all respond to the unique idea and the beautiful quality of what we have made. It’s clever, it delivers, it’s gorgeous and it’s inclusive. It sparks joy. It invites you in. It makes you a collaborator. I know we will keep these values to the fore no matter what we create next. We have really great ideas and we can’t wait to make them into a reality.

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