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 Nicola Kilner, Co-Founder and CEO of Deciem, which has brands such as The Ordinary and Niod under its wing. Known for its science-backed formulations, the brand is one of the most popular beauty companies globally.

After continuously innovating and testing concepts, The Ordinary was born. Kilner played a crucial role in spearheading this and making it a cult favourite amongst many, with everyone stocking various products on their vanity shelf.

After recently, launching in the Middle East exclusively at Sephora, the brand is growing its presence in the region and becoming more popular in the GCC.

While the road to entrepreneurship wasn’t an easy path, she went against all means to come out successful. To understand more, Emirates Woman sat down with the brand’s founder to learn about her career path and how she’s converted her passion into a full-time business.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Maths and Art growing up, then Business Studies when I started the subject at 15.

What was your first job?

Babysitting for local families.

What brought you to Dubai?

The Middle East has always been a market of great interest to us. We have a loyal fan base there already, but the accessibility of our products was making it difficult for consumers to try the formulations. Being a market that has a large group of skincare and beauty enthusiasts, we made it a priority, and are thrilled to be aligning with Sephora across the region.

What inspired you to enter the beauty space and launch The Ordinary?

We were watching brands, big and small, continue to disguise commodity innovation for ingenuity through the creative use of packaging, communication, and pricing. In the world of health care, nobody can charge €150 for Aspirin but in the world of beauty, you can easily find virtually the same formulations and ingredients ranging from €5 to €500+. The Ordinary was not just created as a single ingredient, pared-back, simple offering, it was created to communicate with authenticity and integrity, and bring to market effective, familiar, and scientific-led technologies at an honest price point. We set out on a mission to bring transparency to the beauty industry and in doing so, have noticed an increase in audiences becoming more aware of ingredients and what they are putting on their skin, educating themselves on their skin type, concerns and how to use certain ingredients.

The Ordinary

Talk us through the inspiration for your products.

Our formulations are mostly led by existing, commodity ingredients, that are science-backed and trusted. Lately, we have analysed gaps in our assortment and coupled that with feedback from our consumers looking for products we currently do not have. This created The O. Lab – a space for what’s next.

What are the key elements of your role?

To guide global teams and steer the ship in the continued right direction. To offer advice, and support to employees, and ensure we stay true to our values and commitments.

Talk us through your daily routine.

I start by connecting with our wonderful employees across the globe via email, before getting my two young children up – who like to run into our bed! This is followed by a cup of English breakfast tea, whilst the children have breakfast. Once the school and nursery drop-offs are complete, I am straight into meetings with various teams and departments working from our new London office as part of the Estee Lauder Companies HQ, but I spend a lot of my time travelling to Toronto, to our HQ working with our scientific teams on new products, and our brand department on go to market strategies.

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

Take the risk. Don’t plan too far ahead. The best thing is to get started and be agile to how your business is perceived/performs. The Ordinary was the 11th brand we launched at DECIEM! We kept innovating and testing concepts.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Brandon Truaxe told me this, meaning, always be kind.

And what is the worst?

To have a strategy early on.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Losing close friends whose leadership, knowledge and inspiration led you to amazing things. Trusting yourself to continue their vision.

The Ordinary skincare

What are the future plans for your brand and tell us how it feels to have The Ordinary launch at Sephora Middle East?

The appetite for The Ordinary in the Middle East has been growing and growing over the past few years, and expanding in the region means making the brand more easily accessible, with availability at selected Sephora stores, and on Sephora’s website, this also means shorter delivery times. This expansion allows us to have our storytelling resonate at a local level; the interest in skincare technologies and ingredients alongside sensible pricing is increasing, and the skincare category is the fastest growing; the Middle East is the perfect new home for our brand and the response from our local audience has been amazing since we launched. As a company our goal is to continue to grow to power good, continue our journey to gaining B Corp certification and ensuring every piece of our products journey from ingredient sourcing to packaging and supply chain is doing good for the future world. Our commercial team is also working hard to make The Ordinary more accessible. We have huge audiences devoted to our products across the globe, but we are not yet physically there, in our own stores or via a retail partner. We are building out our expansion plans and have some exciting locations we will be popping up in. We will also continue to support science. Continually researching, developing, and conceptualising new formulations and ingredients, always prioritising what our audience has asked for (our social platforms are always open and welcome feedback!). Our Chief Scientific Officer, Prudvi Kaka and his team, have lots of plans across the DECIEM ecosystem, and our lab size has increased to make it possible. Keep an eye out for some exciting new market and product launches coming this year.

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Images: Supplied