August 21 is World Entrepreneur Day, and there’s no better place to celebrate entrepreneurial spirit than right here. Ranked 16th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, the UAE has retained its number one position globally in macroeconomic stability on the World Economic Forum rankings, topping the overall ranking in the Arab world. And with a recent HSBC survey revealing UAE-based entrepreneurs achieve 45% of their targets (ahead of their counterparts in China, UK, and France), it confirms what we all already knew – each of the seven emirates is full of amazing women creating brilliant businesses day in, day out.
From established entrepreneurs to pandemic-borne pioneers, Dubai is home to thousands of exceptional business minds, so in celebration of World Entrepreneur Day, The Gaggler will be toasting the UAE’s ever-growing gang of sensational female self-starters with a monthly dose of their entrepreneurial insights. We’re kicking off our series with Leena Al Abbas of The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge, so prepare for some gold-plated nuggets of business wisdom.
Launched in 2010, The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge is the first organic, non-toxic, and vegan beauty salon to open in the UAE. Fed up with suffering adverse reactions to the chemical-heavy products used in conventional beauty salons at the time, Dubai-based Leena set out to find a salon that offered treatments based around planet-friendly products that wouldn’t aggravate her skin whilst complementing her vegan lifestyle. But after discovering this concept didn’t exist in Dubai – or anywhere in the country, for that matter – the then-marketing professional quit her job to create a green-principled beauty business of her own.
Leena Al Abbas
The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge, Dubai
What was your ‘lightbulb’ moment?
Back in 2009, I was desperately searching for a beauty salon that offered non-toxic treatments that were vegan and cruelty-free, and realised the concept did not actually exist in the UAE – that was all the inspiration I needed. I knew other women had experienced similar issues in other beauty salons, so I decided to fill that gaping hole in the market and create the very salon I was looking for.
What was your vision when you first launched the business?
Having switched to a completely vegan and green lifestyle in 2008, it was a priority that my business was vegan, too. My mission has always been to create awareness amongst women and educate them about the dangers of using products containing harsh chemicals on themselves. 11 years later, the ethical/clean/green/beauty without cruelty revolution is upon us, and slowly becoming the norm for beauty businesses everywhere.
What drives your ambition every day?
When you’re sure about your entrepreneurial focus, your passion becomes your driver. Having faith and trust in myself, my staff, and my clients – and knowing that I am doing something ethical that makes people happy – pushes me forward.
Which entrepreneurs do you admire?
I admire those whose focus is to help the planet or a good cause. In a world of fast fashion, fast food, and fast beauty, slowing down the process and focusing on quality rather than consumerism is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Businesses that are making an impact with leaders who are making a difference is what I admire. I prefer to support authentic and passion-driven small businesses because I know it’s not easy being seen or heard amongst the big players. Compassion and ethics is extremely important for me, so green, cruelty-free, plant-based, and vegan businesses get my thumbs up every time.
Who is your favourite business icon?
I love Stella McCartney! She was able to build a luxury brand based on ethical and vegan principles when no one else was thinking that way. I love everything her brand stands for – she made a game-changing statement by proving that a successful luxury fashion brand could also be cruelty-free and ethical without compromising on anything in any way. She’s my hero!
Do you have a business mentor?
Rather than a business mentor, I resonate and focus on more spiritual-based mentors – teachers who speak about energy, manifestation, law of attraction, intuition, and soul/heart-lead decision making. It’s not about the hardcore business gurus for me anymore. That was part of my old self. I focus on spiritual reads and podcasts with more soul-based content that’s more about feminine energy, less about ‘bro’ marketing where macho tactics like being aggressive and competitive is the mantra. I run my business based on my intuition and soul. You can be successful and feminine at the same time!
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Just do it. If it fails, at least you tried. But if you never try, you’ll always regret caving into your fears. Any decision based upon fear is not a good decision in life nor business.
What makes a great entrepreneur circa now?
Being your true, unique, and authentic self. Don’t copy another concept because it’s trendy. A great entrepreneur in 2021 is someone who is fuelled by passion and isn’t afraid to quit and try again – resilience and commitment are key to surviving any challenge. Knowing that entrepreneurship is not smooth sailing is also key. It gets bumpy at times, and you need to be ready to face your fears and focus on your final destination. But a truly great entrepreneur will adapt and evolve their business according to any situation they are faced with, and come out the other end…
NEXT UP: What makes the business brain of a professional pet-sitter tick?