Mouna Azirar Ellis, Managing Partner, Hoiisa

Exploring 'conscious consumerism.'

“Conscious consumerism is what we strive for. We are mindful of the Earth, charitable impacts, ethical practices in business, sustainable positive differences, and your health,” lists the region’s newest clean beauty online marketplace, Hoiisa, on its website.

Committed to its conscious consumers, Hoiisa is a beauty and wellness platform that promises to provide high quality, tested products.

Managing Partner, Mouna explains to Curated Today why she started the eco-friendly, sustainable platform for the region.

About Hoiisa

We believe in honest, kind, sustainable and clean beauty. That’s why all our products are carefully researched, screened and curated to fit our belief that whatever we put on our skin must be beneficial to our health, wellbeing and the planet.

We like to consider the Hoiisa platform as educational, friendly and nurturing. You can read more about particular clean beauty products, topical wellness or environmental related issues and newsworthy information in our blog called “Insider scoop.”

1. Describe yourself as Managing Partner of Hoiisa one sentence.

Curious, analytical, and methodical, I’m a values-led founder who’s driven by a conscious mission routed in self-care, sustainability, and ethical business practices.

2. Tell us about Hoiisa, and why you chose this name for it, specifically?

Choosing a name for your brand is such a personal mission! It took me approximately six months to find one that was meaningful, representative of the brand’s ethos; was accepted by UAE authorities and cleared trademark limitations.

Though I initially began working with a branding agency on brand development and naming, they were unsuccessful in finding one that wasn’t already trademarked and fit the brand’s ethos well. Plus, many of their proposed names conflicted with similar terms across different languages or industries.

So I then decided to take matters into my own hands and enlisted a trademark firm to expedite the process. It took me weeks of mixing and matching different words, unusual spellings, and reaching out to friends for suggestions. In the end, I found the name after exploring words in different languages such as Arabic, Berber (my native Moroccan dialect), Greek, French, Latin, Irish, and English.

The name Hoiisa stems from when I accidentally misspelled the word ‘holisa,’ which means to grow or nurture in the South African dialect Sotho. I then realized it was finally the name of the concept I wanted to bring to life. And of course, I checked with my trademark lawyer before going ahead!

3. How did you uncover a need in the region for a platform that only offers clean beauty brands?

Some of the most-loved brands often emerge from people’s daily struggles and Hoiisa, is no different. This was top of mind for me as I began thinking of building a brand. I was having difficulty finding high-performing products in Dubai that approached beauty and self-care in a more holistic way, and so, Hoiisa was born! It’s a unique platform and a one-stop destination for clean and sustainable beauty and self-care products.

4. Do you plan to open a physical store at some point? Why or why not?

Our plans to open a brick-and-mortar location has shifted drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While we view physical stores as an exciting opportunity to connect with our UAE customers and bring something incredibly unique to its already vibrant and competitive beauty market, we’re extremely focused on exploring how our consumers prefer to shop in today’s unique climate and how this will affect consumer behavior in the near future.

At the moment, we’re dedicated to growing our online footprint by strengthened ties with our community and providing them with indispensable resources to nurture their at-home self-care routines during this unprecedented time. We know that many might find in-person shopping to be quite a risk right now, and this has meant placing an even greater priority on building a strong connection with our customers via social media and online content.

Most importantly, we’re excited by the prospect that the e-commerce beauty industry, not including make up & fragrance, has shown positive growth during the pandemic, and so we’re excited to be a part of that.

5. How do you allow for the more hesitant customers to try testers before they invest in new skincare products found on the platform?

While customers have not requested to test our products thus far, as I believe they trust that our selection is curated to the highest of standards, this is a feature we are hoping to develop with our brand partners in the future.

Also, hesitant customers who want additional reassurance about product efficacy are encouraged to read the honest reviews found on our website and also on the brand websites to see what others are saying about a specific product. They can also reach out to the Hoiisa team for additional advice on products and their skincare concerns. We’re always here to help.

In the coming months, we will continue to explore how to create testers and samples safely during the age of Covid-19 as I believe testers in the retail space will be redefined.

6. In your opinion, how has the interest or rate of clean beauty consumption in the GCC shifted, since people started quarantining? Is there any correlation?

The industry has undergone a noticeable change even prior to Covid-19. In mid-2019, awareness surrounding clean beauty or sustainability was very low, and now, only one year later most people in the UAE have a better understanding of its impact on their health and Mother Nature.

This is due in part to several factors:

  1. Social Media
  2. Environment movement taking off globally
  3. Greta Thunberg leading an emerging generation of passionate and informed consumers.
  4. Increasingly multicultural society in the UAE, including ex-pats searching for their favourite clean, sustainable, or conscious beauty products.
  5. Holistic lifestyles becoming more mainstream than ever.

The demand for clean beauty hasn’t suddenly increased due to quarantine as it’s a movement that started years ago in the U.S. and made its way to the Middle East several years on. We saw this same trend occur with yoga, the green juice craze, pilates reformer studios, nail bar spas, Peloton, and now clean beauty.

As Covid-19 has taken over the lives of UAE residents, stress has become an even bigger concern and people are feeling overwhelmed and realizing the link between mind and body. Consumers are now searching for better solutions and are realizing that a holistic approach will increase wellbeing in the body, mind, and spirit. This has launched a need for more information and a deeper connection with brands.

While consumers were already on this journey, Covid-19 has accelerated the demand and has pushed them to change their behaviour and purchasing choices. People have had more time to consider their every action and are more conscious about their health, what they eat, and what they put on their skin more than ever due to quarantine. Habits have changed and now the quality of products is top of mind.

The COVID-19 crisis is likely to accelerate trends that were already shaping the market, such as the rise of clean beauty, holistic self-care, and mental wellness. Consumers are demanding more than just products from brands. They want brands to be accountable and ethical, and give back to communities, like many in the clean beauty space.

There is often a misconception that clean beauty means non-harmful chemicals, however, at Hoiisa, it encompasses much more than just safe, transparent, and effective ingredients. Our brands must adhere to at least three of our “conscious criteria” to be selected as one of our brand partners. Some factors include thoughtful production, animal-friendly, philanthropic, organic, all-natural, among many others.

"We’re excited by the prospect that the e-commerce beauty industry, not including make up & fragrance, has shown positive growth during the pandemic."

7. What is Hoiisa’s point of difference when compared to other beauty e-commerce sites?

At Hoiisa, we lead with inclusivity across many categories. We aim to gather the best of all worlds in order to cater to the natural beauty needs of each and everyone in the UAE.

Just because we’re all about clean and natural products, doesn’t mean consumers must sacrifice luxury in order to stand with the ideals that make them feel whole. We carry a wide range of conscious brands and aim to be price-inclusive as well. From Mad Hippie that ranges below 195Aed to Rahua or Solaris that ranges up to 500Aed.

We also cater to all ages and consumers, including kids, men, pregnant women and babies. Everyone deserves the best kind of nurturing, and especially during these crazy times.

Most importantly, we believe that YOU ARE YOUR ETHOS.

Living in sync with kinder and healthier standards is what truly sets our customer free. So, at Hoiisa we make it easier than ever for them to connect with the brands and products that align with their personal values.

Our Consciously Kind Shopping Filter helps consumers discover and shop the products that align with the principles that make them feel most well. Whether they’re looking for cruelty-free, certified organic, gluten-free, vegan, philanthropic or eco-friendly brands and products, they’re now easier than ever to find, and all in one place!

Finally, unlike other green beauty destinations, Hoiisa is devoted to the GCC shopper like no other clean beauty or personal care platform out there.

We cater to the specific needs of the GCC region. We love highlighting local product lines, and carry products that address GCC-specific skincare problems. We also tailor our content for GCC consumers only.

8. What’s the most important tip you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start something up and coming in the middle east?

My advice for entrepreneurs launching their own brand is to know your strengths, your weaknesses, and your values. Having clarity around these three areas will help you make decisions at the pace required for entrepreneurship.

I also recommend attending any workshops, conferences, or networking events. While time is precious, creating a supportive network will help you work through the difficult periods that are bound to happen when launching your own business.

Launching a business in the UAE involved several obstacles at nearly every step of the way. Whether it involved choosing a business license, opening a business bank account, or getting a clear understanding of brand/product registration in the UAE, there is sadly a lack of clear and easily-accessible resources available to small business founders in the region. Most support that is made available is largely for medium & large businesses.

Lastly, be prepared to put in the work. If you want your company to grow, this will only come with long hours. It’s as simple as that!