Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Meet our founder of the week: The Hair Addict’s Doaa Gawish

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Doaa Gawish, founder and CEO of the Hair Addict (LinkedIn). The above portrait comes to us courtesy of Womena.

My name is Doaa Gawish, and I’m the CEO and founder of The Hair Addict. I studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate and then went on to get my MBA, both at AUC. After graduation, I joined P&G’s supply chain department and served as senior supply chain director for five countries over my 13-year tenure. I was the first woman to hold this position in the history of P&G Egypt. The company recognized my accomplishment by fully sponsoring my studies at the University of Oxford, where I got a diploma in business / managerial economics.

I started The Hair Addict as a Facebook page in 2016. It was always a passion of mine to experiment with natural hair remedies; I used to read scientific articles delving into hair care and consult pharmacists and R&D experts about the formulas I was creating. I made the Facebook group to share my passion with others and to encourage women to embrace their natural hair on all occasions. Initially, I had no intention of turning the page into a business — it was just a hobby.

My subscribers suggested that I sell the natural hair remedies I was creating and sharing. The majority of the group’s members were enthusiastic about my remedies, but either couldn’t find high-quality ingredients or were too busy to prepare them themselves. One thing that compelled me to change the group from a passion project to a full-time business was the serious gap in natural hair products in the market. Then, when I started to be approached by Egyptian hair care companies to advertise on my page, it opened my eyes to the impact, reach, and power of the platform I had created. These indicators drove me to take a leap of faith and quit my job to launch The Hair Addict as a company.

What I love about my job is the perception of Hair Addict as more than just as a brand, but as a social good as well. A lot of women grow up thinking they have “bad” hair — a misconception that can damage self-esteem. The Hair Addict promotes self-love and inspires women to embrace their natural hair. I believe that we have really helped women restore their confidence. This impact is what energizes me to keep going when I face seemingly insurmountable challenges.

I think the founder’s journey is quite lonely. As the sole founder of a bootstrapped business, I often have to make decisions that may benefit the company in the long term but require substantial financial sacrifices. These types of decisions can take you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and inevitably leave you feeling lonely. I also usually don’t have people who I can bounce ideas off of, and I experience guilt whenever I feel like I’ve made a bad decision.

Don’t worry though, would-be founders — you can overcome the lonely side of the job by reaching out to your peers. Other founders face the same challenges on a daily basis and can relate to your struggles, offer solutions, and provide useful insights. Whenever I’m in need of advice, I turn to Ahmed Atallah (LinkedIn), CEO and co-founder of Raseedi App, Walid Abdel Rahman (LinkedIn), founder and chairman of Mumm, and Amal Enan (LinkedIn), founder and managing partner of Lotus Capital.

I also believe a mentor is essential to the success of any entrepreneur. The Hair Addict’s only investor is my former boss at P&G. He’s our coach and is helping us realize our expansion goals. He owns a small number of shares in the startup as compensation for his unique time investment.

The most important KPIs I focus on include how our sales portfolio is performing, our traffic and conversion rates, cashflow projections, consumer retention levels, and earnings.

Our short-term goal at The Hair Addict is to keep growing our company’s portfolio and expand our online and offline presence in Egypt. We established The Hair Addict in the UAE, and one short-term goal is to expand into Saudi Arabia, before expanding globally long-term.

If I had to do it all over again, I would still choose to go for the bootstrapped route. From day one, The Hair Addict was cashflow positive and profitable. We explored with several regional VCs and one local VC the possibility of raising funds, but it ultimately proved unproductive. The investors I engaged with have a mandate to exclusively invest in tech startups. They wanted me to transform the Hair Addict from a product company to an e-commerce platform, so I decided to put that idea on hold.

The only thing that would tempt me to go the investor route now would be the possibility of raising funds to help bring our expansion plans to fruition. I plan to engage with more regional VCs in Dubai.

The likely exit strategy for The Hair Addict would either be an IPO or an acquisition via a multinational company. The acquisition route is the most probable option. Multinationals usually don’t establish their own natural hair care lines; they acquire smaller businesses and build on their success. Many companies in the natural hair care industry have been acquired by the likes of Henkel, Unilever, and P&G.

If I had the power to improve one thing in the local startup scene, I would focus on changing the attitude of investors towards non-tech startups. VC firms usually allocate their funds to tech startups because they believe they are the only scalable businesses in Egypt.

A startup that I think is killing it is Rabbit. They deliver on their promise of swift deliveries and they’re expanding their portfolio quite nicely.

The last great thing I read was How to Grow Your Own Money by David Meckin. The book lucidly explains how people can save money by cutting out financial middlemen. It brilliantly teaches beginners how to invest their capital without resorting to financial advisers.

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