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 Emirates Woman chats with Soraya Sawan, co-founder of homegrown homecare brand Rooted Regimen. A full collection of non-toxic, plant and mineral-based household cleaning products that blend beauty with ease, effectiveness, and respect for the environment – ultimately transforming the home into a clean, fragrant sanctuary.
Home cleaning products aren’t usually known for their pleasure but Rooted Regimen adds a joyful twist to practical day-to-day domestic chores. Built on the idea to create the healthiest and safest home environment for the family, Soraya alongside her husband Bassem developed a superior collection of cleaning solutions that are non-toxic and powerful in equal measure. Each Rooted Regimen product is formulated using green-rated natural ingredients certified by the Vegan Trademark, while the bottles can be refilled.
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What was your favourite subject at school?
Without a doubt, my favourite subject was history. I loved learning about how civilizations developed, and understanding how the world came to be as it is today. It was fascinating to me.
What was your first job?
My first job was at a regional business publication covering banking, finance, real estate, and social economic issues where I was the Banking & Finance Editor before being promoted to GCC Bureau Chief to further expand the publication.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
Before moving to Dubai, I had visited every year since 2005 for vacations. My trips became work-related as of 2008, and in 2009 I moved to head up the GCC operations of the regional business publication.
What inspired you to enter the consumer goods space?
Our journey to starting Rooted Regimen really began 10 years ago. When we got married in 2013, we brought Leo (our Golden Retriever) home. As a puppy, Leo suffered from extreme skin allergies, severe breakouts and never-ending skin infections. My husband Bassem also struggled with allergies his entire life and was taking antihistamines daily. We were also trying to start a family, and I struggled with endometriosis and then had to undergo surgery and years of IVF. It felt like there were so many different things going on with our health, and we just wanted to feel better.
We were really looking for ways to make our lives healthier and lower our toxic load. Once I got pregnant with our first daughter, I really wanted to understand the ingredients in everyday products. Finding truly non-toxic cleaning products was the biggest challenge. For a long time, we had no choice but to use products that claimed to be ‘plant-based’, but in reality most still contained artificial fragrances, SLS, colorants, and other chemicals we didn’t want in there. We found some cleaner products abroad, but over time we spent a fortune on shipping to Dubai, which we knew wasn’t sustainable. Since we couldn’t find anything that really met our needs, and saw a huge gap in the UAE market, we felt we could create something ourselves.
Talk us through the concept of Rooted Regimen.
Rooted Regimen’s mission is to make homes healthier by offering products that are safe for everyone, yet powerful, affordable, and better for the planet. We currently offer a completely non-toxic, 100% plant and mineral-based, hypoallergenic refill-based home care solution that tackles all your home care needs from laundry to dishwashing, floor cleaning, and everything in between.
Our Complete Starter Kit contains refillable cleaning bottles, our proprietary All-In-One Concentrate, and Bio Boost (a powerful powder that can be used for laundry and surface de-staining and to replace your dishwasher tablet). To create the different cleaners, customers simply fill their bottles with water and All-In-One Concentrate by following the simple fill lines on each bottle. Each 1L bottle of concentrate can make 12 bottles of cleaners (All-Purpose Cleaner, Glass Gleaner, Bathroom Cleaner, Laundry Liquid, and Dish Liquid) and reduces single-use plastics by over 90%.
What are the key elements of your role?
As a startup, Bassem and I do everything together. Before we launched, we spent months creating the business plan, products and formulas, working on our brand logo/identity, we designed our labels, packaging, and website – literally, every single thing! Bassem has years of experience in product development and management, technology and operations, so he’s an absolute ace with this side of the business. With my editorial and PR experience, I handle marketing, social media, content creation, and press. It’s just the two of us right now, with the support of a network of amazing partners and agencies, so we run everything by each other and make all decisions for the business as a team.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I have two daughters, Lily and Chloe, who keep me so busy. So in the mornings I take Lily to school, work out, spend time with Chloe, work on Rooted Regimen, cook (if there’s time), and then pick up Lily from school. Once we’re back home I try to get some more work in, but spending time with my girls is my number one priority during the day. Bassem and I put the kids to sleep and then have dinner, and either work or watch a series together.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
When you’re convinced of an idea and see a need in the market, don’t be discouraged and go for it. Just be ready to make sacrifices, and deal with lots of criticism and strong opinions along the way.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” After having kids, I found this concept really challenging as for a long time I felt like taking care of myself was selfish and was taking time away from my family. In reality, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t feel good, and ultimately neither will those around you. So, fill your cup before filling everyone else’s. Don’t get me wrong, there are still days where my cup is perhaps only half full, but I try my best to do a few things throughout the week that make me feel good, be it getting in a morning Pilates class, catching up with friends, getting my hair/nails done, etc.
And what is the worst?
When I decided to leave my full-time job, so many people warned me not to stay out of the industry or full-time work for too long. They cautioned that if I left for more than a year or two, I’d regret it as opportunities would be slim. I’m glad I didn’t listen.
I left my last job for a lot of reasons, but the main one was to focus on my health and start a family. I spent years going through IVF to eventually be blessed with two incredible daughters. My husband has been my biggest supporter, and I’m forever grateful that I was able to step away from work and spend time with our kids during their formative years. I will never regret spending this time with my girls, and I hope they remember when they’re older that mommy was always there for them.
What are your future goals and plans for your brand and career?
Since our launch in February, we’ve been focusing on the UAE market. We are working on plans to ship to the rest of the GCC and Levant soon. We’re also working on some other exciting products to hopefully expand the Rooted Regimen brand into personal care. Watch this space!
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