[8 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday everyone! If you are still feeling the Bank Holiday blues, fear not. Today, we are back with our traditional Friday Founder Interview series... Meet Biba!
Biba de Sousa is the Founder and President of Biba Los Angeles, a licensed Esthetician and a member of the Female Founder Collective.
"I innately know a lot about wellness because of the way I live my life and I feel good most of the time."
Morning Biba! Let’s begin with your childhood. How do you think it has influenced you professionally and where you are today?
Good morning! Well, I grew up in a holistic household and that influenced the way that I live now. I don’t own a microwave oven, I use loose teas and spices, and I only ever use olive and sunflower oils. I cook and eat raw food a lot. I don’t take medications; I innately know a lot about wellness because of the way I live my life and I feel good most of the time.
Sometimes I surprise myself because I know what some herb is good for. My grandmother was a chef and herbalist and so, from an early age, it was normal to work with those same ingredients. The kitchen and urban forest above our house were our turfs. My mother spent a lot of time on self-care, and I learned a lot of procedures from her. In general, the entire household relished in at-home beauty wellness, and skincare always remained a huge part of my daily routine.
Wow! It sounds like BIBA’s values have always been central to your life then. So, from a professional point of view, how did you get started in the beauty industry?
When I was 16, I wanted to go to beauty school, but my family disapproved, and instead I went to law school. After a lot of turmoil in my life as a young woman, and twenty years later, I realised it was time to make a change and practice my life calling.
That is so inspiring! It’s never too late to go after your dreams. So, when did you decide to start up BIBA and why? Was the timing important?
I started my first skincare brand under the name ‘Esthetic Underground’ in 2016, but by then, I already had a very successful Esthetic practice. I always worked alone. The daily practice naturally led me to start investigating specific product ingredients and their performance. That is when I realised that I wanted to make my own products that conformed to my standards and to my client’s skincare needs. The timing was just right because, through my Esthetic practice, I was fortunate enough to build a reputation that later allowed me to effortlessly enter the crowded skincare market.
It was the perfect setup for BIBA. Could you explain how BIBA considers issues relating to sensitive skin and allergies?
BIBA’s advantage over competitor brands is the fact that I am a skin expert. I live and breathe skincare daily in my studio. All of the BIBA products have been used in my practice for years and have been tested on my willing clients. Therefore, I know how they perform and what type of skin they are best suited for. There are some serious allergens in skincare products, and I never use those in my products!
That’s great to hear! So, how exactly do you consider sensitive skin and allergies throughout the manufacturing process and when selecting ingredients?
At BIBA, we consider all skin types very carefully. We believe that skin needs to be treated with respect and in relation to its function. I look back at the 90s with horror; microdermabrasion and chemical peels ruled the skincare world. As a result of over-exfoliation and sun tanning, we have seen a lot of pigmentation and sensitivity in people’s skin. I am a true connoisseur of beauty and skincare statistics and I take pride in staying informed on the latest technological developments regarding allergies and sensitivities.
It’s fascinating to learn about skincare! How does sustainability factor into your business?
Most of my products do not have outer packaging because I consider it to be a huge waste of resources. Products are concentrated and perform well; you don’t need much for them to last a long time. In the future, I aim to have 100% super sustainable packaging options, but to be honest, this is the biggest obstacle for self-founded brands like mine. The cost of packaging is exuberant, to say the least, and it affects the pricing and quantities of product batches. My entire operation is very lean and mindful about littering the planet.
That is really important to us too! Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty and skincare products nowadays? If so, why?
Indeed, they are! Just 10 years ago no one ever asked me what was in the bottle they were purchasing or about the bottle itself. With the advent of the Internet, product transparency became a major driver in the skincare industry. Nowadays, old-fashioned statements like “magic in a jar” are truly laughable. Skincare companies have become very savvy in terms of client education and marketing product technologies.
I have definitely noticed that change too. What were your biggest challenges in starting up a skincare company?
Running a skincare company is very different from running a service-based business. I would say in both, finding operational resources and learning materials that satisfied my needs were the biggest challenges. Information is available, but it is really challenging to find the time to locate sources for subject research and strategising.
Interesting! So, what strategies do you think have been key to the success of BIBA as a business?
Education and utilising statistics have been key! Nowadays, you constantly hear about algorithms. If you combine education with statistics, you will get a pretty good idea of how algorithms work for any application. I am a cuber (Rubick’s cuber, that is) and it is fascinating how you can solve a seemingly impossible cube with several simple algorithms.
What a great analogy! Personally, what is your favourite thing about your job?
It is endless fun and a continuous learning opportunity! I just love the skincare industry. Skincare is not only connected with health and wellness but also psychology, sociology, fashion, and business.
I couldn’t agree more. It is layered and connected to so many different parts of our lives. Which is your favourite product that you’ve ever created for BIBA?
My Cream Barrier is my favourite! Before all the talk about the importance of the skin barrier even started, I had created this product and trademarked the name. It took me several years to perfect the formula and my cosmetic chemist congratulated me on the expert guidance. I am so so proud of it because it is a fantastic product for most skin types.
"I am inspired by futurism and finding solutions for everything I encounter."
I must try it! What do you think makes BIBA stand out?
Would you rather buy your toothpaste from a dentist or an influencer-founded brand? The true advantage of my brand is that I am an actual skin technician with a lot of knowledge and experience. I am interested in helping people by doing good, and good only.
And what would you say has been your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting BIBA?
The moment I realised that I had carved a chunk in the world on my own. I knew that was the beginning of a wonderful and – at times – strenuous journey!
That must have been a special moment! What inspires you?
I am inspired by futurism and finding solutions for everything I encounter. I feel my time and energy is purposefully spent in my daily activities and that is – in return – inspiring me to continue furthering my intuitive actions. “Purposeful life is a life well lived”, as Seneca wrote.
Absolutely! And could you describe what an average day looks like for you?
I became an early riser a long time ago. First because Los Angeles becomes a sleepy town at 9pm, and secondly, because in the early morning hours there are no distractions, so I tend to be the most productive. I walk and feed my dog, jump on my rebounder, and go through my emails and paperwork.
Throughout the day I wear many hats as it is only me and one other woman who run the whole operation. We do what very large teams do. Although the workdays are very long, they are packed with action and filled with laughter! At night, I cook food both for my dog and myself, and I enjoy documentaries and chatting with my friends.
You sound extremely busy. Would you say that you have a work/life balance?
I would say no, but I am working on it. I think a work/life balance is particularly tricky to achieve when you run your own business. It is a personal responsibility to set boundaries. One needs to know what they want and when to switch off. When I feel that I am reaching a tipping point, I’ve learned to quickly pivot, reset, and counterbalance the inequality of the energy that got built up.
That’s good that you know what to look out for! What words do you live by?
These words are Tony Robbins’: “Be afraid of living a life less exciting!” Perhaps I have had too much excitement in my life – being a war refugee and all the trauma that comes with displacement – but I have made it somehow, and there is always more space for good excitement!
Oh, always! Finally, could you divulge any secrets about what’s coming next for BIBA?
There is continuous growth, new product development and rebranding in the pipeline. In May, we will be launching a fabulous new website, so stay tuned!