Kuwaiti sisters’ approach to skincare shines in Middle East with brand Apotheca Beauty

Kuwaiti sisters Nora, Sarah and Dana Al Ramadhan launched Apotheca Beauty – a company that supplies Middle East retailers with premium, hard-to-find beauty brands.

From left, Dana, Nora and Sarah Al Ramadhan, the Kuwaiti sisters who launched Apotheca Beauty. Courtesy Apotheca Beauty
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Beauty is a booming industry globally, and the GCC region is no exception. In fact, the argument could be made that the demand for quality skincare and top-line cosmetics products is more relevant here, with stark eye make-up and flawless appearances ingrained in the culture of Middle Eastern women.

Kuwaiti sisters Nora, Sarah and Dana Al Ramadhan saw the business potential in 2012, and subsequently launched Apotheca Beauty – a company that supplies Middle East retailers with premium, hard-to-find beauty brands.

The aim was to create a contemporary apothecary of sorts to cater to serious beauty and skincare connoisseurs.

“In 2012 a contact [a local dermatologist] approached us in Los Angeles about distribution in the Middle East – we took the opportunity to then study the market and see if it was viable,” says Nora. “At that time we realised there was a gap in the market for niche brands, and little variety existed. The market was largely composed of high-end generic retail brands.

“Being massive beauty fans ourselves, we felt marrying our passion for beauty and experience in finance created the perfect opportunity to launch Apotheca.”

Before embarking on their business venture, the three sisters were working in finance and banking. Today, Nora handles Apotheca’s UAE operations, logistics management and retail strategy out of the company’s Dubai headquarters, while the other two sisters are based in Kuwait. They admit that Dubai makes a convenient company base since most of the large beauty retailers in the region are located there.

“Working out of the city makes it easier to hold meetings with our partners. It has multiple advantages operationally as well, in regards to shipping ports and hiring processes,” says Nora.

Sarah leads brand expansion and financial growth, and Dana manages Kuwait operations, and helps source beauty products and treatments from around the world.

Since launching Apotheca, the Al Ramadhan sisters have brought renowned skincare and cosmetics brands such as Anastasia Beverly Hills, Sarah Chapman, Lime Crew and Malin + Goetz to the region.

Easy to find, mainstream lines such as Revlon and Maybelline don’t pique their interest. They are looking for labels that may have a cult following but have no representation in this region. “When we first launched, the market was composed of large retail brands with little variety. We focus on quality products that excel in a particular category,” says Nora.

When it comes to sourcing brands, the trio first experiment with the products to ensure they are top-quality and relevant to the market. “We make sure we are consumers and fans of the products themselves – then we dig deeper into the ingredients of the products, as well as the brand philosophy,” says Nora.

“We try to target brands that are interesting and unique. Finally, we look at how the brand performs in its own market, and if it’s relatable to our customers in the Middle East.”

After pitching a proposal for a beauty brand, Apotheca moves forward with a launch plan if it is accepted.

“This includes extensive training and working with the brand to gain a deep understanding – not only of their products – but the brand philosophy. Once this is understood, we then put together an operational and marketing plan,” says Nora, adding this includes deciding which retailers to approach, as well as how and when to begin advertising.

Apotheca currently has its own retail boutique in Kuwait, and the Al Ramadhan sisters plan to launch Apotheca’s e-commerce website in the early part of this year, which will provide delivery options across the Middle East.