[7 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday all and thanks for taking a few moments to come and check out this week’s interview! With the global battle against Covid-19 far from over, we have felt our Friday Founder interviews to be essential. Small businesses need our support now more than ever and we are honoured to have had the opportunity to work with many inspiring brands over the past few months of lockdown, and with Senteurs D'Orient this week.
Stay tuned to the end of this article for an exclusive offer just for CarolinaGMX readers!
This week’s interview is a double-whammy as we chatted with mother, Hana, founder of Senteurs d’Orient and daughter, Sarah, the CEO. Senteurs d’Orient is a brand that spans: soaps, bath salts, hair and skincare, while keeping empowering women at the heart of their company values. Not only that, but their multi-generational vision keeps the brand both beautifully connected to past heritage stories and modern consumer desires.
So, keep reading for your weekly dose of inspiration, as mother and daughter reveal all about how the brand began, what products they recommend for your every mood, and what products are coming soon. Grab your coffee and just keep scrolling...
Welcome to CAROLINA GMX ladies! Hana, could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
Hana Akkari: Growing up in Japan, I learned about rigor, discipline, subtle refinement, minimal design and aesthetics. Spending my summers in Lebanon, the Middle Eastern culture shaped me as well in many ways. The culture transcended people’s warmth, sensuality in shapes, flavours and scents. Senteurs d’Orient is about the fusion of cultures; where East meets East meets West; from Japan to Lebanon to France, where I have lived a large part of my life from my mid-twenties to forties.
Wow! So the Senteurs d'Orient brand story is an extremely personal one then! How did you get started in the beauty industry?
Sarah Akkari: For me, it all started with my passion for Biology, which started in high school… Believe it or not! I was always fascinated about learning and understanding science at a cellular level and the impact of formulas and ingredients on human skin. I started my professional career at L’Oreal in Paris and then New York. I then moved on to work for Shu Umuera Art of Hair, Redken and Garnier before joining my mother in expanding Senteurs d’Orient globally.
You have worked for so many top brands; what an impressive cv! Hana, when did you decide to start up Senteurs d’Orient and why? Was the timing important?
Hana Akkari: When I moved to Beirut in 1999, I realised that there were not a lot of choices for local products you could easily gift between friends and family for social events. I wanted to create a product that was from the region, using the savoir-faire of the local artisans as well as combining my passion for fragrances. Soaps have been crafted in the Middle East for more than 6,000 years. Fusing traditional soap-making techniques with modern pieces of machinery and sophistication is how I created Senteurs d’Orient.
So Senteurs d'Orient was built out of your personal realisation that there was a space in the market for these products! And how does sustainability factor into your business?
Sarah Akkari: Sustainability is very important to us and, in my opinion, it should be a very important subject for all businesses, not only in the beauty industry. We have a duty to take care of our planet and be conscious of the impact that businesses have on the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of others.
"All of our products are 'clean'; meaning we do not use any harmful chemicals, sulfates, parabens, tallows, or EDTA."
Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty and skincare products nowadays? If so, why?
Sarah Akkari: Yes, and I think it is mainly due to education and the accessibility of information for the masses due to advancements in technology in the last decades. People are more aware of how things are made and therefore, are turning to greener lifestyles, which also means they are turning toward cleaner beauty and skincare products.
I completely agree! And does Senteurs d’Orient consider issues relating to sensitive skin/allergies?
Sarah Akkari: All of our products are “clean”; meaning we do not use any harmful chemicals, sulfates, parabens, tallows, or EDTA (which is usually very present in soap).
I love that! That is what attracted us to yourselves! What would you say were your biggest challenges in starting up a business?
Sarah Akkari: The number one challenge was brand visibility. There are so many amazing brands out there, and many of them are using different digital mediums to spread the word. Therefore, it is definitely challenging when you’re a small company with a limited budget because you are trying to become visible to the public and find your audience.
Absolutely! The more we work with small businesses, the more we realise this ourselves. So, what strategies do you think have been key to the success of Senteurs d’Orient?
Sarah Akkari: We put all of our energy into creating clean, artisanal, sensual and authentic products that we both believe in very strongly, and align with our core vision and mission.
That is great. I think authenticity, upholding your brand values and a strong work ethic are so key to success nowadays. Sarah, what is your favourite thing about your job?
Sarah Akkari: Honestly, everything! I love working with my mother in developing new products, collaborating with amazing creative talents to imagine and execute our creative assets. I also love to observe the production team work with regard to the formulation and see the product come to life. Every step is fascinating!
It sounds so varied, which is fantastic. Which is your favourite product that you’ve ever created?
Sarah Akkari: The Fleurs d’Oasis multi-purpose Oil.
Hana Akkari: All of them! I love each scent; it completely depends on my mood! I go with Jasmine of Arabia for a soothing scent, Orange Blossom for something refreshing (particularly in the morning), or Cedar of Lebanon for something very green and woody. That one feels very spiritual.
Ooh, thanks for the recommendations! What do you think makes Senteurs d’Orient stand out?
Sarah Akkari: I think it is the combination of our brand story and our products that make us stand out. Our story is rich and unique; the connection between Japan, Lebanon and the West, and the artisanship from the Middle East soap-making techniques. Then, there’s the fact that we are a multi-generational women-led business, which is rare to say the least! We have also made an active social commitment, a natural, indulgent product offering, and promote a clean, understated yet luxurious lifestyle, a focus on wellbeing, and an aspirational aesthetic.
"We are looking into producing hand sanitiser in response to our customers’ demands in these very challenging times!"
I love the fact you are a multi-generational women-led business. It’s so heartwarming and inspirational! Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment?
Sarah Akkari: It has to be when Net-A-Porter decided to carry us on their global platform- that was amazing! Also, when we won the UN Champion for Change Award by UN Women in 2018.
Wow! Those are both incredible moments! And what inspires you?
Sarah Akkari: Oh, so many things. It could be a beautiful design, architecture, a scent, a flower, a texture… Anything that moves my eyes and senses.
So, the beauties of everyday life! Do you think you have a work/life balance?
Sarah Akkari: Yes, thankfully I do! I think it is important for everyone to keep a good balance between work and life; it helps keep that mental and emotional stability and to help feel fulfilled.
I completely agree! And Hana, what words do you live by?
Hana Akkari: I aspire to live life in harmony with the people around me, professionally and personally.
I think that is the key to happiness! What’s next for Senteurs d’Orient?
Sarah Akkari: We are looking into producing hand sanitiser in response to our customers’ demands in these very challenging times.
For all our lovely CarolinaGMX readers, we would like to offer an exclusive 25% off your entire order! Just enter discount code: SDOCAROLINA25 on Senteursdorient.com at checkout. Plus, you get free shipping with any orders above $100.
So, if you want to try the Senteurs D'Orient Hammam soap or their infamous multi-purpose oil now is your chance! Happy Shopping!
Like what you read? Head to Senteurs d'Orient to shop. Alternatively, if you fancy checking out some of our previous interviews, you can find them here. Want more from CAROLINAGMX? Check this out: Black Skincare Brands & Influencers You Need To Follow