Whether you’re taking a new approach to wellness, have sensitive skin or have simply been drawn into the clean beauty movement, there are still an endless number of products to scroll through to find your perfect match.
Hoissa is here to make your search easier and bring you a step closer to conscious ingredients. Dubai-based beauty platform focuses on “creating something pioneering that would build awareness of sustainable beauty and clean living in the region”. Launched this year by founder and managing partner, Mouna Azirar, it is the go-to online space for those who are as obsessed with what clean beauty can do for their health, wellbeing and the environment.
With a background in luxury fashion, Mouna understands that quality and usability are some of the crucial elements when selecting products for the platform. Below, she talks us throughs switching careers and finding work-life balance.
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What was your favourite subject at school?
French – I love speaking different languages! We were brought up in a mixed culture family in Morocco which required us to be able to speak several languages; and particularly thanks to my mum, my sisters and I learnt five.
What was your first job?
I started my first graduate job in 2002 in the Japan team of a well-known international travel company. It was a great experience as I dealt with people from many different countries and learnt the art of negotiation when dealing with hotels and operators. But I soon realised I wanted to work in something more exciting where I could meet people and travel rather than being in front of a computer all day long. This was made particularly clear after I joined the Sales Director at an international tourism trade show. Soon after I was fortunate to get a dream role in the Emerging Markets Franchise and Wholesale division of Burberry, where I stayed for 10 years.
What inspired you to launch Hoiisa?
After a career in fashion, I realised I wanted to create something good for us and for the planet. I wanted it to be about self-love, wellness, nature, and going back to basics – that is why sustainability is the key aspect of the business. At the same time, I wanted to do something that I love but also that I am good at. You could argue that the best businesses come from negative personal experiences. By staying alert to this you can draw on your reaction and channel it into creating something better, something that addresses people’s needs. I did this by creating a unique platform, a one-stop destination for clean and sustainable beauty, after experiencing several years of finding it difficult to find these products in Dubai.
What are the key elements of your role?
I oversee the entire business from strategy, sales, product selection, logistics, operations, marketing, PR, social media, and brand collaboration. But I have great support from Hershey Gargash, who joined Hoiisa as a director; she works in various areas, notably using her magic touch to develop content. Right now, we are spending a fair amount of time working on initiatives to raise the profile of Hoiisa, which is fun.
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Talk us through your daily routine.
I used to need 8 hours of sleep to function. But since becoming a mum of 2 lovely kids and an entrepreneur, I realised that I can perfectly operate with only 5 to 6 hours of rest. I’ve started waking up at 6am every morning, when my kids are still sleeping, and going for a 15 min walk followed by a 20 min jog, whilst listening to a podcast. This gets me home in time to be with my kids when they wake, and then to have breakfast with them and my very supportive husband in the garden. By 8.30am I am usually in front of my computer. I have been incredibly busy for the past 10 months which means I have not been able to spend as much time with my kids as I’d have liked; however, during the months of lockdown, I have gained a different perspective and I always make sure I dedicate quality time with the family. I spend most of the day on email covering all aspects of the business. I am quite good at multitasking and can be high in adrenaline which means that I can easily work for hours without a break and until very late at night. However, I have now set rules for myself so that I can perform as well as possible. My ‘masterpiece day’ , nowadays, is to spend some time on my own to reflect (even if it means 15min walk at 6am), to exercise, have a family breakfast, work intensely during the day, be with the kids at bed time for bath and stories, and to leave a little time for personal development. I try not to watch TV at night and instead listen to different types of podcasts, and make sure I learn 1 or 2 new things a day.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
I have a collection of comments which all tie in together.
Don’t follow your passion as a career, focus on your strengths first and then develop your passion as you can’t always turn your passion into a successful career.
Go to all types of workshops, conferences, and networking events, but be selective about which ones to attend as time is precious.
Surround yourself with quality people and people you can learn from.
Be ready to work long hours if you want your company to get where you envisaged.
The first step is often the hardest, but it’s made easier through good preparation.
Don’t give up – you will face challenges often; and don’t take anything personally – there won’t be constant compliments.
Don’t just follow the hype; make sure you make your decisions based on proper research. Good entrepreneurs are adaptive and quick, but the best are well informed.
Which fashion brands can we find in your work wardrobe?
I worked in the luxury fashion industry for over 15 years, therefore, I have plenty of iconic Burberry pieces which I reuse over and over. I have bought a few pieces from Victoria Beckham, Isabel Marant, Acne, Philip Lim, and Theory. However, my shopping habits have changed enormously over the past years. I only shop if I really need something and I reuse a lot of outfits. Nowadays, If I really feel the urge of something new, I try to shop from sustainable brands such as Veja for trainers, Tom’s for comfy shoes for me and the kids, Lemlem for beachwear, Sézane for ready to wear, Patagonia for sportswear, and Mara Hoffman for swimwear. The Giving Movement is a very good example of homegrown sustainable activewear in the UAE. Another lovely local sustainable brand is Léa the Label which makes swimwear from Ocean waste.
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What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
The answer to that depends on which stage of my life. My mum advised me that time is valuable and that I should make the most of it, as well as to be independent and be grateful. My mentor at Burberry, Carmela Acampora, advised me never to stop building meaningful relationships with customers and other people in your industry. Choosing instead to view competitors as potential partners and collaborators can positively impact your business. Finally, I got the push to launch Hoiisa after one of my sisters said, “Don’t wait until everything is perfect, start your business now and you will get it right while making mistakes along the way”. As an entrepreneur, the best way to progress is to do something and see how people react. You never know with certainty what will happen, so don’t be afraid to start, then adapt and improve by learning from your mistakes.
And what is the worst?
One person I know told me “forget about taking a holiday if you are building a business”. On one level that is right, as to succeed with a business you must be dedicated and hard-working. But it is also crucial to find ways to recharge. My recommendation is plan in taking some time off – remember business building is a long run pursuit.
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