To say times are tough right now would be an understatement. And a big one at that. The global effect of Covid-19 has left millions without jobs, and many more with financial instability. The future may seem bleak, but it’s by connecting and being culturally conscious that we will start to see the light.

The fashion and beauty industry has of course taken a huge hit. Rightly so. It seems frivolous and insensitive to spend money on glamorous evening dresses right now. What ecommerce companies such as Net-A-Porter and Ounass are seeing is people spending on loungewear and skincare products. Of course, it’s sad to see any company, big or small, take a hit as you have to be mindful of the employees running the show, but where our money is better spent during this period of rest and reflection is with smaller businesses; start-ups that were just beginning to break through before Corona came into action.

To delve a little deeper into the mindset of a start up, I spoke to the founders of POWDER: beauty addicts Ayat Toufeeq and Amina Grimen, who were struggling to find effective products to made them feel good about themselves in the Middle East, decided to launch an online destination dedicated to selfcare and skincare…

Tell me a little bit about how you met + how POWDER came about… In typical Dubai style, we can’t remember exactly when we first met. We had known each other for a few years but became closer when we realised that we were both going through similar skincare journeys.

We struggled to find the guidance we needed to help us resolve our skincare problems, and did not have access to the exciting products we wanted locally. We were making these huge orders for products from places like Korea [which took forever to ship – weeks] and were sharing them with friends who were in the same boat, and that’s when POWDER came together.

How + why do you pick the brands you stock? Our aim is to focus on products that enhance your natural beauty and make you feel your most confident from the inside out, so we typically focus on skincare, haircare, and make-up with clean, sophisticated formulations.

From the packaging to the brand messaging and quality of ingredients, we consider a number of different factors when it comes to choosing brands to support. We do a ton of research, and try all the products ourselves so we are comfortable getting behind what we are selling and making honest recommendations. This means we are constantly using ourselves as human guinea pigs, but we love it.

What has it been like launching a start-up in Dubai? Especially as women? It’s been very demanding and a steep learning curve for us both, but for the most part, we wouldn’t attribute that to being based in Dubai or being female. Each sector and type of business has its own unique set of challenges which we’ve learned to take one day at a time. We would say that as women, it can feel a little harder at times because we are harder on ourselves. We tend to be more self-critical and sometimes we have to remind ourselves to take a step back and celebrate our achievements even if everything isn’t going exactly to plan.

How has the business had to adapt due to Covid-19? We are very fortunate that our business is already online and that we can continue to provide contactless delivery to our customers, so operationally there has been no change so far. Where we are having to, and must continue to adapt, is in our communication with our audience. We recognise that we are in the midst of a very serious health crisis and do not want to come across insensitive but we also recognise that for many of our customers, maintaining self-care and a sense of normality is a necessity for mental well-being. Navigating this has been challenging.

Amina you’re isolating in Dubai + Ayat the US, has this slowed you down? Yes and no. We are in completely different time zones so there are a limited number of hours during which we can communicate, which inevitably slows things down. On the other hand, being in an unpredictable situation or environment can sometimes be a fresh source of inspiration so we are choosing be motivated by these circumstances.

How can Dubai residents support you and other small businesses at this time? This is the time to shop local wherever possible. Supporting small businesses will have an immediately noticeable impact on our local community and during this unusual time, you are also likely to get faster, more relevant services than from multinational businesses which have large distribution centers and that sort of thing. Gestures like leaving reviews and spreading social media love will also have an impact on the survival of small businesses and don’t cost anything. This experience has also given many of us the opportunity to really reflect on the impact of our lifestyles, how we treat our bodies and our consumption habits. We hope that it will also inspire residents to continue to be mindful of which businesses they continue to support once the dust has settled.

Have you had to change your future growth plans? If so, how? If anything, challenges such as these make us even hungrier to grow and to provide an increasing number of customers with the POWDER glow-up they deserve.

When everything goes back to normal, what are the first things you’ll both do? Give each other a huge hug and a high-five.

Shop and support POWDER HERE.

For those looking to shop local in my hometown of South London, here is a list of brands for you: DECORUM for all your homewear needs | CHENER BOOKS for reading material | GENERAL STORE an independent grocery and provisions destination | SAGE FLOWERS who are still delivering and doing digital workshops.

For local Dubai-based businesses to support at this time, sisters Reem and Natalya Kanj of Talent Management Agency Ego + East are shouting out to favourites via Instagram. Take a look at #INDOORVOICES2020 on their feeds.