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Meet Shahada Karim of HABIBI

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shahada Karim.

Shahada, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a testament to the saying that ‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention.’ I fell into my company’s idea while trying to get ahead of my chronic cystic acne and blemish-prone skin. Ever a lover of what I considered quality skincare, I was using Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair by the age of 18. I’d save my minimum wage paychecks (I was working multiple jobs as a DJ, a print and radio journalist, and a telemarketer) and pay whatever it took to get my hands on that precious amber bottle. Needless to say, it did nothing for my skin. I was in the wrong age bracket, had the wrong skin type, and was too young to understand the art of ‘retouching’ in advertising.

During this time, I developed the unfortunate and all too common practice of seeking out the ‘negative’ about myself. I constantly compared myself to my clear-skinned counterparts. I often felt like I was too much of this or not enough of that. It became almost impossible to see myself as I was objectively on the outside… instead of how I felt on the inside. I look back at my old pictures and now realize how beautiful and full of promise I was! Despite the fact that I was so hard on myself, I am thankful that it was enough to motivate me to find a better way.

So I began making my own skincare. I started with ingredients that I knew worked: aloe, lavender, tea tree, and chamomile. I dusted off my Mom’s old copy of Back to Eden, found a bunch of books on Ayurveda and herbs and essential oils, and got to work. After lots of trial and error, I created a formula stable enough to remain consistent from batch to batch. I tested it on myself and found that it worked in the most rudimentary sense. That is, it attacked my current acne and stopped the formation of new pimples. But I still needed to make sure it was something I could talk about out loud (sell). So I tested it on my sisters first, then my friends, and eventually my coworkers at the time. Some of them loved it, some of them hated it, but everyone offered feedback. And although I was resistant at first… I eventually started to listen and apply that feedback.

In 2003, HABIBI was born.

Habibi means ‘my love.’ It’s a traditional term of endearment in my culture, and I wanted to use the name to signify the love of self through proper care. In my experience, I’ve found that we (women) tend to look after ourselves last. We put the needs of our employers, our lovers, our children and our friends above our own. If we have anything left after we’ve given so much, then perhaps we consider using those leftovers to look after ourselves. My goal was to make skincare so lovely and effective, that it would give women the same feeling that I had every time I put Advanced Night Repair on my face. I finally realized that I was chasing the ‘feeling’ of using the product as much as I was chasing the physical efficacy of it. I found out that making truly effective skincare is a lot easier said than done, and as a result, HABIBI has been through many incarnations. But the core mission always remained: that each person learns to love themselves through the simple act of self-care.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It hasn’t been a smooth road. Anyone who’s ever started a business will tell you that it can be a constant dance of two steps forward… ten steps back. The strongest lesson I’ve learned through all of it is the power of the pivot. Sometimes you can be so married to a plan that you end up stunting your own growth. I’ve learned to take objective stock of my current trajectory, adjust (or sometimes scrap the plan altogether) and move past it. It has saved me many sleepless nights and allowed me to apply the number one rule in business: don’t take it personal.

HABIBI – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
HABIBI is the umbrella. Under it live two (current) incarnations: Habibi Bath & Body and Habibi Body Sport.

Habibi Bath & Body (my first baby) takes care of the outsides of the body. We specialize in simple organic formulas for hair care, face care and body care. All of our ingredients are traceable and all of our batches are small so that we keep a tight lock on quality control.

Habibi Body Sport (my newest baby) takes care of the insides. After years of training in Yoga, Pilates, Intuitive Movement & Conditioning, Ayurveda and Nutrition, I launched the new branch of my company in 2018. We specialize in bespoke nutrition plans that take into account your lifestyle, your habits and even your favorite foods! Our job is to give you the nutritional blueprint for the rest of your life. You invest 3 weeks with us, and you come away with a lifetime of online and offline support, a wealth of resources, and a member of a community dedicated to uplifting and encouraging you for the rest of your days.

Sport also connects to Habibi Bath & Body with products that look after your outsides, while you are learning to take care of your insides. We recently expanded into physical fitness with the addition of group classes, personal trainers, and fitness counseling.

What sets us apart – what has always set us apart – is the focus on the individual as part of the larger community. It’s reflected in everything we do: from our customer service to the strides we take to make sure that no one who ever deals with us feels alone or abandoned in any way. I often repeat the phrase YOU ARE THE MANTRA (purpose). YOU ARE THE MAGIC. It’s YOU. We can plan the best party in the world, spare no expense and include all the trimmings… but in the end, it’s the PEOPLE who make the party a success. It’s the COMMUNITY. Without it, we (the collective) are less likely to find the consistent support and reinforcement that it takes to be truly successful in any endeavor.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I think we’ve come to think of success as a finite/final thing when it really isn’t. It’s ever changing, ever evolving. If I’ve made a difference in one life, then the effort is worth it. If someone learns to love themselves in the smallest way… learns to trade their criticisms for compliments… learns to truly feel better from the inside out (and/or the outside in), it’s a success. The biggest markers for me lie in feedback. I’m growing just like everyone else. And every single time I receive feedback – whether constructive or positive – I can assess whether I’m on the right track. I have found my purpose in service. I have much to share, much to learn, and ways to grow. If any life is changed for the better during these moments of my existence, then I am more successful in my endeavor as a result.

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