This NY-based entrepreneur has a new vision for luxury halal skincare

Money
Ruia Ahmadzada, founder of NARI Skincare. Photo courtesy: Emron Ah.

Growing up in a family of merchants and running her father’s trading firm when she was 16 years old, Ruia Ahmadzada is no stranger to the nuances of the business world. So when she was told that there was no place in the market for her luxury halal skincare proposal, she went with what her experience told her instead.

This March, two years later, Ruia held a worldwide launch in Dubai for her luxury brand, NARI Skincare. NARI has also been a success at accelerator programmes such as the Global Entrepreneurship Community Summit 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, and it came first at Ideapad, a platform for startups to pitch for potential investors at the 13th World Islamic Economic Forum in Kuching, Sarawak.

It has all been quite the learning experience for her: “I learned that not all skincare products are created equal, safe and halal. If a brand is scientifically sound, it lacked on the ethical front. If it was conscientiously produced, it [was less] effective. So I decided to create products which deliver optimal results and transform the skin into its most radiant.”

Ruia describes NARI as “targeted at those who want to recognise individual beauty and the importance of being comfortable in one’s skin.” The brand was developed in New York, where she is based. Born to a family that migrated from Afghanistan to the US, she graduated from New York University and dabbled in textile consulting, real estate and running an NGO before turning to luxury skincare.

NARI is halal-certified by Illinois-based Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), which is recognised by major Islamic economies such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the UAE. Before Ruia settled on IFANCA, she had to refuse many organisations who claimed they could help her halal-certify NARI.

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NARI Skincare range launched in Dubai. Photo courtesy of NARI Skincare.

“As for IFANCA, after much research, I realized they were the authority for halal certification in the US. They have upheld the highest standard of what it means for a product to be certified halal by an organization that not only ensured my products were halal, but also tayyib,” she said.

For IFANCA’s part, it would like to see more halal products in the US as well as more entrepreneurs seeking halal certification. “Startups can do well if products can fill what the market needs early and develop a loyal customer base,” Roger Othman, Director of Consumer Relations, IFANCA, said.

Ruia worked on NARI’s website herself and also drew up the business plan, which included the Dubai launch and scaling to bring in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia. But why did Ruia select Dubai to launch NARI? “We see Dubai as a hub for luxury brands and a regional trendsetter,” she said, and added, “Over and above, we are proud to have our starting point in a region that adheres to the tenets of the Islamic faith, which served as the inspiration behind our brand.”

Rolling out a luxury line from New York and launching it in Dubai was not an easy task, but since the launch, Ruia is more confident than ever about the future of her project. Her success in the accelerator programmes has helped, and during a six-month beta phase she acquired around 200 customers. She is actively preparing for the seed round and is involved in conversations from potential funds and VC firms.

Community support has always been on her radar too. At least for Ruia who had experience raising money for Zaytuna College, the first Muslim Accredited Liberal Art College in the US and seeing how difficult it was to have the community support brilliant organizations and institutions, she believed one can do a lot more good when you excel in business and become rich and successful. 

Ultimately, the skincare brand is a stepping stone to bigger things. “The main purpose for NARI is to ultimately establish the NARI Foundation to support women and children and all non-profits doing great work to serve humanity,” she said.

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