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 Anisha Oberoi, Founder & CEO of Secret Skin. Having battled breast cancer in 2010, Oberoi immersed herself in the world of clean beauty. However, it was 10 years later, in 2020, when she decided to launch her own e-commerce site promoting conscious beauty.
Oberoi discusses with us about making the leap to start her own brand, her approach to business and what 2022 has in store for Secret Skin.
View this post on Instagram
What was your favourite subject at school?
What was your first job?
At 18, I sold Dorling Kindersley book sets as a direct sales representative for commission whilst in college.
What eventually brought you to Dubai?
Love, fresh air and new opportunities: I moved for a personal priority in 2019 intending to continue on my corporate career path, right after five years at Amazon where I built the fashion and beauty e-commerce business in two primary markets, as part of their founding team.
Can you talk us through the drive to launch your own business and enter the beauty space?
Surprisingly there was a paucity of suitable corporate leadership opportunities in e-commerce and digital transformation (pre-covid) back then, but I was also experiencing a spiritual struggle between money and meaning. The roles available were restrictive in their opportunity to contribute to the larger community, and limited in their sphere of influence. I wanted to use my personal experience of having battled breast cancer in 2010 and my core professional learnings to build something in the beauty/ personal care space for women like myself. I saw a market gap and I knew I could capture a share if the building blocks were in place. There still wasn’t significant competition at the time (2020) in the clean beauty space in this region or a defensible customer proposition, so the timing was right. We worked backwards from what an ideal beauty tech company should look like and built it on the Amazon blueprint of selection, pricing and convenience with an added layer of a unique on-brand customer experience that Secret Skin is known for. We are currently in our second year with multiple awards and exclusive global brands, continuing to build the mission towards raising the awareness of Women’s Health and Wellness through the narrative of conscious beauty.
View this post on Instagram
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I have always been entrepreneurial as a person even though I’ve worked at corporate organisations in the past. My experience pushed me towards acquiring better skills in data-centricity, resourcefulness, networking, team management, building influence without authority and working towards a high bar for operational standards and customer obsession. I had the agility of thought, a healthy risk appetite, the perseverance and determination to birth an innovative idea in a new market. Given that this is my first venture, the learning curve has been quite steep!
What are the key elements of your role?
As Founder & CEO, I am in charge of fundraising, overseeing Secret Skin operations and marketing, press relations and brand onboarding.
Talk us through your daily routine.
- My day starts at 07:30 am with some chanting/meditation/podcast and black coffee.
- I get to our office in D3 by 09:00 and work out the day’s to-do list whilst having a light, quick breakfast.
- Mondays and Wednesday afternoons are reserved for Weekly Business and Project reviews where we deep dive into performance, customer issues, inventory processes or various business milestones that we are individually/collectively pursuing. Whilst Tuesdays and Thursdays are for 1x1s with my co-founder and direct reports on personal goals, performance and future deliverables.
- I eat lunch at 1400 hours (usually from a DF/GF meal plan).
- I leave work by 1900 hours so that I can go biking a few times a week or to the gym.
- Dinner is usually at 2030, and I try to wrap up my day by 2200 so that I can get to bed early and enjoy some Netflix to unwind!
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
This is specific to fundraising: choose your investors carefully. Apart from the cheque, what else do they bring to the table? Pick those whom you can learn from on how to get better at your trade, who can make introductions to key partners and other potential investors, and who can dedicate time to guide you when you’re facing challenges. It’s important to have that mutual trust from the get-go as you’re going to be in the relationship for a long time. Same with advisors: when you’re going through a rough patch is when you need them the most. Never shy from asking for help.
View this post on Instagram
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never run out of cash and have enough for a seven-month runway as default. Topline is vanity, the bottom line is sanity, but cash in the bank is reality.”
And what is the worst?
“Don’t start Secret Skin – it won’t work in the Middle East.”
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
You don’t completely overcome challenges, you just get better at navigating them. Setting up a new business is cost-prohibitive, time-consuming and labour-intensive. As entrepreneurs, we have to invest in digital marketing, technology, legal, hiring etc and optimize resources to reduce costs critical to early-stage startups, and that can be quite challenging in the beginning. New goals also need new skills and discipline; you’re braiding the rope as fast as you’re climbing it – so it’s important to look at the stair in front of your path first, not the whole overwhelming staircase.
What are the future plans for your brand?
We have just started our B2B distribution operations to complement our D2C offering. 2022/23 will also see us progress on our tech roadmap with new launches and an expansion to KSA.
– For more on luxury lifestyle, news, fashion and beauty follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram