Emaan Abbass, founder of KETISH, is making waves with her feminine and sexual wellness brand. Backed by Huda Kattan (of Huda Beauty), Emaan has created a much-needed support community for the ‘supposedly’ unconventional societal aspects of female body form. Focusing on female empowerment within hygiene, KETISH is making feminine care sexy – a concept that is beyond taboo for her conservative Middle East background and not too unfamiliar to western society. So, when KETISH was released in the US and the Middle East, the tables had turned for all women in society.
“I wanted to create a brand that was luxe, empowering, bold, unapologetic… a community that women could come… to learn from experts and [confidants]”, Emaan Abbass.
Having been featured in Forbes, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue, Emaan is conquering this worldly taboo with the recent launch of KETISH. Having created a platform with luxury goods that celebrate and promote feminine care openly and unapologetically, along with a blog, COOCHIOLOGY, Emaan is demystifying feminine concerns and prompting discussion between women with shared experiences.
After the most recent release of KETISH’s fem product, The Quickie, Voir catches up with Emaan about her entrepreneurial journey in establishing KETISH, her work within the beauty industry and her new products coming up.
Before we dive into the exciting world of KETISH, could you tell us more about your background?
I’m from California, I grew up in a little country town called Hollister. My parents are Egyptian immigrants who moved to the states to give me and my sister a better life. I started my beauty career working at the Sephora headquarters as a supply chain manager. I always had a deep, sincere passion for beauty, skincare, makeup – basically everything beauty! When I joined Sephora, I thought ‘finally I’m working for one of the biggest beauty brands in the world, I should be satisfied’. But I wanted to work closely in product development and fulfil my dream of having my own brand instead.
I didn’t have a ton of experience, but I did have a lot of passion. I ended up meeting Huda when I was going on vacation to Dubai. I was completely obsessed with her and it really was a miracle that I got to meet her – to this day I still am not entirely sure why she said agreed, but thank god she did! I remember leaving the meeting with her thinking ‘wow, this woman is incredible’. I believed she was creating something magical and I definitely wanted to become a part of that magic.
How did you get into doing product development with the Huda Beauty Team?
I asked Huda for a job a few months after meeting her. I expected again to be a supply chain manager, but she brought me on as a product development manager, I was shocked because I didn’t have experience in that field. Huda reassured me saying she would teach me what I needed to know – I knew the beauty industry and I had a passion for my job which was more important for her.
We saw your pitch to Huda & Mona on an episode of Huda Boss – Tell us more about how this opportunity came up?
I have always wanted to start my own brand but it wasn’t until I heard about the Huda Beauty Angels Fund that I actually put pen to paper, mapping out the picture of my brand. Huda wanted to invest in young, female entrepreneurs as she had experienced difficulty beginning her brand as people didn’t exactly support her or what she had wanted to pursue. Initially, I made a pitch that was between Huda and me, it was quite an intense experience. It was originally just a business plan and an idea. She was excited to see where my mind was going and was proud that I had the courage to approach her with this idea. Feminine and intimate wellness was something not as well known, so she was originally a little hesitant but after a few meetings and conversions on the subject, she chose to jump in feet first with me. Huda essentially told me it was time to cut the umbilical cord, so I moved from her product development team to being involved in KETISH.
How have you found transitioning from an employee to a Brand Founder?
It definitely has been a transition, it also has not been linear. Breaking through my shell as an employee under one of the most powerful women in the industry was a lot of pressure. It’s odd because I’m still under her wing as a mentee, but at the same time, I’m a business partner. There is still moments of hesitation or overthinking, based on my self-doubt, but every day I have to remember she invested in me for a reason and to keep pushing myself forward.
What message lies for you at the heart of KETISH?
I feel like KETISH is something that has always been inside of me – it took a lifetime of experiences to bring it to where it is today. Having gone through cervical cancer, caused by HPV, without the ability to turn to my family for support definitely shaped me. I wished at that time, I had a community or educational source I could turn to when I most needed it. Going through the medical journey made me increasingly aware of the products I was using, I became more intrigued by the feminine and intimate wellness space.
Back in 2009, it was still a very limited space, I questioned why I could only buy products in the drugstore, rather than stores where I buy items to make me feel good and confident. I wanted to be proud to show products on my vanity without having to hide them when my boyfriend came over. This brought me to a place where I wanted to make a brand that was powerful, luxurious, and unapologetic – a brand giving women effective products she could trust. I wanted to build a community so women could lean on one another, but also a space where they could learn from experts and other women with shared experiences.
Tell us about the name KETISH, how did you come up with it?
I wanted to make sure the name represented my culture and tied back to my Egyptian heritage, so I asked my parents and researched along those lines. We found that the ancient Egyptian goddess of love, passion, sexuality and pleasure was named Qetesh, it definitely spoke to the core of the brand as a powerful, goddess unapologetic and unashamed, who champions sexuality and pleasure.
You’ve been working on KETISH for the past two-three years what was that like in a pandemic?
To say the least, it was rough. For KETISH, it forced us to slow down, we took more time to consider what we stood for. We had the opportunity to have conversations with the women we wanted to launch this brand for, rather than have to rush into things. It was tough and a challenge, but also a blessing in disguise for the brand as it gave us more time to think about who we are.
What challenges did you come up against when building KETISH?
I definitely anticipated challenges. To launch a feminine and sexual wellness brand out of the Middle East is a big thing – since the launch, we have started to hear what people think about it. Launching here, we knew there was the possibility for backlash but it allowed us to speak to women from the Middle East, to understand what they wanted to see from the brand and how to not alienate people, to create the brand the right way and stay true to our ideas. We have learnt that as long as we stay true to what our focus is – amazing products, education, and creating a community – that you can’t go wrong with that.
What has been your most rewarding moment since launching KETISH?
Reading the messages, we have received from women all around the world and the response from women has been incredible, a lot of them bring me to tears. I am so grateful that women feel safe and trust us enough to share their personal journeys. What we wanted to do was to break down these barriers to help women engage together in a safe environment.
What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs’ looking to start a brand?
The number one thing is to really understand and know your purpose, a lot happens behind the scenes which can potentially through you off course. If you don’t have the guiding star and belief in your brand, it can cause things to crumble. It is a tough road to start but with personal belief it is doable.
You have more exciting products coming up – can you tell us more?
I can’t give away too much, but I will say we are focusing on products for targeted body care and will range from intimate, pleasure focused products. We started with a less intimate product, unintimidating and accessible for every woman, as something to begin the conversation. But we are slowly moving over to the sexier side, you can anticipate us to be a well-rounded brand that focuses on the woman and her body first.
And lastly, some words of wisdom for our Voir readers?
Never giving up – if a door shuts in your face, you build another door and do not give up!
My mom always says ‘everything in its right time is beautiful’. I really believe that – when the world is falling apart it is falling apart for a reason, with something more beautiful to come in its place.
Shop and discover more about feminine care through KETISH
KETISH ships internationally to the UK from Ketish.com and Hudabeauty.com!
Words by Caitlin Sahin
Header Photo Credit: KETISH