Huda Kattan is a makeup artist, influencer, and founder of the award-winning cosmetics line Huda Beauty. She talked about why disparities still exist for women in business, and how these professionals can overcome these challenges to launch and sustain their own businesses.
Founder, Huda Beauty
What are the challenges facing women in business today and how can these professionals overcome these challenges?
Well, I think there’s quite a few challenges. If I’m being honest, for women, there’s still so many issues within the landscape, and I know that we think we’ve overcome a lot of them, but we really haven’t.
As a woman in business, I still get treated differently, and not just from people who are in the Middle East. I get treated differently from people in the United States, people in the United Kingdom. I see it all the time, and there’s still definitely some challenges within the landscape. People still don’t completely see women as equal. I think that they’re getting better, but there’s definitely still a lot of challenges.
I’ve even heard from other women sometimes that they have been surprised by certain aspects of my knowledge within the business or the fact that I’m so involved. So it’s definitely an issue within the landscape, and I don’t think it’s only a guy thing. I think it’s completely on the environment. There’s still some perceptions within women and their place within business.
That is an issue, and I do think we are overcoming it by giving more spotlight to women who are making change, but I definitely think it’s going to take some time.
Although inclusivity and diversity have come a long way for women in business, what is an area that is still lacking?
I think it is about perception. There’s definitely a place for women at the table now, but it’s still not 100 percent their seats. Sometimes there’s a space, but I don’t know if it’s a permanent space. A lot of times women are kind of expected to not necessarily perform in the same way other people would.
And it’s really interesting because one thing my husband always shares with me when we’re looking for people, he’s like, “Oh, that’s a woman in that job.” Do you know how hard she had to work to prove herself in that job? He’s like, “You should consider her for that role.” And I think it’s really interesting when you think about things like that.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by feminists not only who are women, but also men. But if I look into the market, I still see an absence of that. So I always try to surround myself with people who believe in women and believe in equality. But that’s not always the case.
What is the one thing that you wish you had known when starting your own career?
I wish I knew how hard it was going to be. It really is hard. I didn’t know how much I was going to have to be involved in many aspects, and then I also, to some extent, wasn’t completely finished within my leadership journey, and I’m still going through that right now. So there were some areas where I was too involved, and there were some areas where I could have empowered my team more, and I’m definitely learning that now.
You don’t realize when you’re starting your own business how much people management and leadership is so important, but it’s crucial for business. And if I had known that, I would have definitely paid more attention to behavioral psychology and behavioral organization classes. Those are really important, and I definitely did not underestimate them.
What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned from building your own brand?
I think that we sometimes look at our business and we think if I just fix this, then everything’s going to be better. And the reality is, well, when you fix that, there’s going to be something else out of whack. And sometimes the thing you fixed in the first place, you didn’t really fix.
And so what I’ve learned is that every organization really is like an eating, breathing, sleeping organization. It’s alive. It’s not something that on any given day is perfect, but none of us are. And I think that’s really important to remember.
It’s never probably going to be perfect, and it’s not supposed to be. If it’s perfect, it’s boring and something’s wrong. There’s something actually fundamentally wrong. The ability to make sure you have a team that works together in unison is probably the most important thing, but there’s always going to be things that are wrong. That’s just what’s happening.
The other thing I learned, too, is that I always feel like, as a person who is the leader of the business and within my position, I have so much influence within my company. I always need to have a certain level of stability because, if I don’t have that, it kind of can brush on the team. So I’ve also tried to make sure that I prioritize certain aspects of my mental health and my own stability, and I definitely find that maybe I’m able to be somebody people can lean on because of that.
But I also want them to be able to do that themselves, too. I don’t want them to always need me. I want them to be able to grow themselves, too. So I always want to be an example to them. And they’re examples to me too, by the way.
What’s the best piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring women entrepreneurs?
I know this sounds really cliche, but don’t give up. I often believe just as you’re about to give up, just as you give up, you’re about to make it. So I think that you just need to keep pushing. I love those success stories of like Paul Mitchell, and how he went around from door to door and finally, I don’t know what it was, but it was like the thousandth door that he got somebody to say “yes” to him.
I love those stories. There’s a certain degree where you kind of have to do things without thinking. You can’t get into your emotions and you can’t think, “Oh, I didn’t make it. I’m not good enough.” You can’t do that to yourself.
You have to keep going and going and going until you get what you wanted to get done, and I think that’s really important. I don’t want to say insane relentlessness, but almost like the blind relentlessness, that’s what you need to have. You need to have blind relentlessness until you achieve what you need to achieve, and you can’t really let anything deter you.