Huda Beauty founder talks about women's empowerment, how passion has led to her success

John Phillips/Getty Images for The Business of Fashion(NEW YORK) — “Our ambition is far bigger than the bottom line.”

That’s how makeup artist, CEO and entrepreneur Huda Kattan responded when she was asked about her company’s road to billionaire status.

“That’s really the reason we’ve been successful and will have longevity as a brand,” Kattan said.

With a platform of over 33.9 million followers on Instagram alone, Kattan is at the helm of an eponymous beauty empire that’s been valued at $1.2 billion and now goes far beyond her signature eyeshadow palette that put her on the map.

Although she’s in love with beauty, she said she didn’t initially seek to turn her passion for it into a massive cosmetics brand.

“It was never my plan to create something as big as Huda Beauty but it became so important so quickly because I had an entire audience of people who were telling me what they wanted,” said Kattan.

In 2013, Kattan launched a beauty line that included makeup products for the eyes, face and lips, after listening to the needs and wants of her many Instagram followers.

Today, an online search of “nude eyeshadow palette” will likely turn up results that include Huda Beauty.

“I mean, our New Nude Palette is next-level,” Kattan told “Good Morning America.” “It redefined the term ‘nude’ in the cosmetics world and brought innovation to an already loved beauty product: the eyeshadow palette. The shades are not what anyone was expecting from a nude palette. They ranged from deep berries to dusty coppers to fair pinks.”

Why Huda used to go by ‘Heidi’

Kattan admitted that she used to pretend she had a different name. “Growing up in the U.S., I started going by ‘Heidi’ so that my classmates could pronounce my name,” she said. “I went to college and studied finance because I figured it was the safest route. I was quickly losing everything that made me, me.”

“When Huda Beauty took off, I was adamant about putting my name everywhere — not because I was vain but because I was finally proud of who I am, so I wanted to own it. The moment I embraced myself and let me be me, everything took off.”

The road to billionaire status

Huda Beauty is operated mostly by women and female empowerment is at the core of Kattan’s brand. She recalled being frustrated during meetings with distributors and retailers who didn’t take her brand seriously. “They all made out like we were just some girls with a hobby,” she said.

Eventually, Sephora in Dubai Mall stocked Huda Beauty eyelashes, and they sold out the same day.

After turning down two other offers, Huda Beauty sold part of its business to TSG Consumer Partners in December 2017, at which time the brand was valued at $1.2 billion.

“To have created a brand that was valued at over a billion dollars was really humbling,” said Kattan. “The big difference between Huda Beauty and our competitors is that we are in it to make an impact, while they are in it to make profit.”

Her advice for women in business

“Generally speaking, women are very compassionate and tend to see scenarios differently, but it’s super important to focus on your goal and never lose sight of that goal,” said Kattan. “It is so easy to get distracted but it’s really important to stay focused and not cloud your judgment with emotions. How well you’re able to remain focused can ultimately define your success, so a big lesson has been to not allow anything to deter my focus.”

She continued, “Whenever you are pushing boundaries, there will be pushback from people so we’ve really needed to embrace what we stand for as a brand and accept that there will be criticism. On the flipside, one of the biggest rewards is succeeding in a space where it isn’t common for a woman to push boundaries. We’re that brand that shows women that they can have it all, and we love being that role model.”

Aside from being an all-around beauty boss, Kattan has lots of young women who look up to her, including her daughter Nour who also has a whopping 88.5 thousand followers on her own. The mommy-daughter duo often dresses alike and share many “girl power” moments together.

“It’s no secret that she watches YouTube tutorials and makeup hacks, it’s only natural, but I always remind her that beauty is more about what’s inside than what’s on the outside,” Kattan said.

Kattan is constantly growing and glowing while building an empire that beauty lovers are obsessed with. She continues to keep Huda Beauty’s mission in mind and suggests that much of her success can be contributed to that.

“We want to give women the tools to be their most confident self and really break down barriers,” said Kattan. “It’s even more important today than it was when we started.”

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