Chaymae Samir was an outsider to the beauty industry but looking in she could see something was missing.
Going against the grain and aiming to change the narrative around clean and affordable beauty, Made by Sunday was launched in 2019 and since then, the only way has been up.
To see how it all started, Emirates Woman spoke to Samir about how she has managed to change the skincare game globally.
Talk us through your career.
My career started earlier than what I had planned and was always embedded in that entrepreneurial spirit. I convinced a professor to take me as an intern for her consultancy business. The internship turned into an associate position and I ended up embarking on my first journey as a location-independent professional while studying, way before remote work was as common as now. I then moved to Asia, where I worked as the liaison between the Ministry of Finance and an organisation helping startups in the region. This allowed me to get involved with organising some really cool events such as Obama’s 4th Global Entrepreneurship Summit and be in the forefront of entrepreneurship and startups in South East Asia. I then moved to New York where I worked at a hedge fund in emerging markets. By far the experience where I learned the most. I also had a brief stint at the United Nation in Geneva but decided it wasn’t the right path for me. By the time I graduated with my second master’s, I had more experience than most of my peers and it just didn’t make sense to look for a job. So I started freelancing on the side to get the startup capital to launch my first business and then my second, which I both exited. Between selling my first business and starting my Made By Sunday. I noticed that much of the marketing attention was towards Western millennials and millennials as consumers and employees in the MENA region were kind of forgotten. This led me to do lots of research, publish articles and be involved in policy-making around this topic. This also led me to work with some of the biggest brands on marketing to the MENA region. I learned a lot about building and scaling businesses which then led me to Made By Sunday.
What inspired you to enter the beauty space?
As an outsider to the industry, I was able to spot a white space. I saw an opportunity to bring clean, affordable health and beauty products to all, that didn’t stick to the rules of emphasised perfection or what I call ‘aspirational realness’ that you see from a lot of brands trying to bring that ‘authentic’ voice that still feels like the marketing department is behind it. After researching and studying the big retailers, I realised that the typical pharmacy product really hasn’t changed in decades. The skincare products that actually worked have a 700% markup.
Talk us through the process of launching your own brand Made by Sunday.
I was always completely focused on learning how to build companies, bring products to market, and iterate on consumer experiences. From a consumer perspective, I was always baffled by the overcomplicated and overpriced market. So we set out to have a problem-solving approach instead of here we go “Buy this product because this influencer is promoting it on Youtube or Instagram”, we’re very much like, “This is your problem and this is how we fix it”.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a great challenge for some brands.
For you it had the opposite effect – you grew by 1200 per cent I read. Incredible! What factors contributed to the growth? Often when entrepreneurs start a company, they realise there’s depth to their company they might not have known. It starts simple, but there’s more underneath the surface of what customers want and it’s abundantly clear. Made By Sunday was exactly like that. We knew the potential was there from the beginning. At the end of the day, what really helped us was that we weren’t so big at that time that reiterating and adapting was going to take so long that we’d miss out on the opportunity. We only launched just before the pandemic hit. We were a lean team focused on stocking the initial product line in as many retailers or doors as possible. When the pandemic hit, we switched the focus to Direct to Consumer. Despite whatever you or outside conditions might be doing to hinder your success, consumers are still trying to get the product, and that’s when you know you’ve got something highly scalable.
What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
What I always loved doing throughout my life and career was putting on shoes much bigger than me and seeing if I could fill them. For me, putting myself in really tough situations is kind of the key to making an impact and feeling the energy in my day-to-day. To this day, I always have that desire to be put in really hard situations and build things from scratch, which I get to do in different areas in my company.
What is a philosophy that you live by both in your personal and professional life?
Take care of your people! Translating it to work, I believe companies are an incredible vehicle to achieving so much more than just responding to a need a customer has. They can be an incredible driver for change for the people joining and the lives they touch. Yes, I’m proud of how customers react to our products and how it impacts their lives, especially when it comes to acne, but I’m probably more proud of how we impact the lives of our employees.
What are some of the key lessons you would like people to take from your career?
I was surrounded by people who I knew were the best at what they were doing, people who I’d been researching and specifically handpicked. So I’d encourage people to step back a little bit and find environments where they’re able to take real bets on themselves and be in a room with brilliant minds and struggle with the amount of work it takes to be in those rooms. And if they can put themselves in those situations, in industries that their parents might not even understand or give value to, then it’s a really phenomenal career move.
After launching in London, you’re looking to make your mark in Dubai. What do you think differs in the beauty space in this region compared to the rest of the world?
We started with skincare but our goal is to ensure that both men and women have access to effective, evidence-based treatment options for conditions and issues that impact their day-to-day lives. In terms of differences, the big- gest difference, which I see as a huge opportunity, is in terms of e-commerce behaviour. Before the pandemic, MENA’s e-commerce sector was one of the fastest-growing in the world. The lockdowns and the coronavirus gave it another life. Covid helped us accelerate the shift from cash on delivery to online payments, but this demands building trust for smaller retailers like us.
Made by Sunday really is leading the way in the content game when it comes to telling a brand story. How important do you think this is in today’s business climate?
Stories are powerful and they’re still underrated in business. We rarely use a direct narrative around our company and we prefer to tell stories of our customers, employees or even me, the founder. We dub ourselves ‘the no BS brand that actually works. And so is our content. Everyone knows how hard it is not to fall into cliché- writing or being misunderstood when telling your story through video or words. We keep it real and sometimes it really is hard to do as a business. A good first step is to ask yourself: why does my company exist and what are its values? Your customers are not only buying your products and services, but they are also buying your story, your vision, and ultimately your dreams. If you’re not telling your story, then you’re leaving money on the table.
How have things evolved for the brand since it launched?
Since we were bootstrapped from the beginning, we really had to be strategic and patient with how we did things. The goal was and is always bigger than what we’re doing right now but we have to bring the building blocks to eventually get us there. We initially started the company with one product. After the pandemic hit, we expanded the full skincare range and really took that problem-solving approach. Now, we’re moving on to a new phase in the company’s life where we’re expanding our treatments to health and wellness. We’ve also been activating conversations, we’ve been putting ourselves front and centre, and talking to people authentically.
What do you think will contribute to Made By Sunday’s future success in the beauty space?
I think this is a lot simpler than people might think: just keep focusing on the customer. We’re continuing to understand the issues our customers are struggling with, and what is preventing them from getting the right treatment for it. Then, figure out how to make it as simple as possible. Ex. We already do free online video consultations with our skin specialists. People feel ashamed about certain conditions and don’t want to talk about them or admit that they’re struggling. They don’t even know who to talk to, but even if they did, they don’t want to go in person and discuss it. We’ll continue to focus on the customer and continue to make it easier, more affordable, and more fun to take care of their health and wellness.
Building a business from the ground up is not easy. What would you say the challenges are that you’ve had to overcome?
To be honest, when people come to me for advice on whether they should join a startup or launch their own business, I always remind them that they should really double check with themselves if it’s something they want to do because they’re really bought into building something or bought into the idea that entrepreneurship is the only way to success. It’s hard, and those hardships will always be there, no matter what they look like for each one of us. It’s actually what filters out the best from those who are just good enough. And it’s necessary to build something meaningful.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also milestones. What stands out to you?
I really don’t look back at my journey so far and think of milestones. I did a lot of things in a short amount of time which forced me to grow. Taking those kinds of bets based on my instincts and what I learned from people have been really valuable to me and they’ve been the cornerstones of my career.
This is The Entrepreneur Issue – what does being an entrepreneur mean to you?
Being an entrepreneur to me means building businesses that serve the needs of our customers and act as a vehicle for the personal and professional growth of myself and our team while being the creative outlet that all great businesses are. I’m building a business that is so fun, profitable, sustainable and fulfilling so that I don’t care about anything else.
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