Sarah Akkari is the U.S CEO of Senteurs d'Orient, a luxury bath care brand originally from Lebanon. She currently lives in NYC, but was born in Lebanon and raised in Paris. Like a good beauty brand owner, Sarah is obsessed with all things beauty - especially taking nice long baths. Get to know a little more about this young musa.
YOU ARE NOW HEADING YOUR OWN BUSINESS IN THE U.S. HOW DID YOUR CAREER START AND WHAT PREPARED YOU FOR IT?
My career started working for L’Oreal in Paris, then New York for Shu Uemura, Redken and Garnier. I learned a lot working there. From product development, to marketing strategy, to digital and packaging…My experience at L’Oreal taught me a lot from the beauty industry, specially in marketing, strategy and product innovation.
WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE YOUNG FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS TO EXPLORE A LITTLE BEFORE DECIDING TO LAUNCH THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
Yes, I think it is very important to learn as much as possible before launching your own business. When you know what industry you want to work in, I would highly advise to get as much experience working for companies in that chosen sector. Because before launching a business, you really need to first understand the industry, and the audiences’ needs. Starting a new business is hard and it requires passion and a lot of will - so having no experience beforehand will just make the journey more difficult and complicated.
WHAT'S THE MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR JOB?
That I get to work with passionate and talented people who really believe in the mission of the company. Because SdO is a startup, the people we work with are people who really believe in the potential of the brand and it's mission.
YOU HAVE BEEN RECENTLY APPOINTED AS A "CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE 2018" BY THE UNITED NATIONS! HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
It is such a honor for me and all of us at Senteurs d’Orient. We gave soap samples a couple of months ago at a UN Women event in New York. Soon after, the President, who loved our soaps, contacted me to learn more about our company's story and this is how it started…
WHO'S YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCE?
I don’t have one person in particular. I get inspired by different people for different projects. From my mother, my mentor Robin Burns McNeil, my friends who work in creative and beauty industries…One thing I know for sure is that my biggest influences come from strong, bold, generous women.
WHAT'S SOMETHING YOU DO EVERYDAY TO FIND JOY?
A bath! I just really, really enjoy a warm bath after a long day. It makes me happy, peaceful and re-energized. Gives me the feeling as if I washed away my day.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST PASSIONS?
Beauty products, horse back riding, design & architecture.
LAST PHONE CALL YOU MADE?
BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'VE GOTTEN.
You have to find what you love. Because the only way to do great work is when you love what you do. And that you create your own experiences.
SENTEURS D'ORIENT MAKES STRONG EFFORTS IN HELPING WOMEN IN THE MARKET PLACE. HOW DID THAT IDEA COME UP?
My mother Hana, when she founded the company she wanted to create a social business that would give back to women.
YOU ARE IN BUSINESS WITH YOUR MOM. YOU'VE PROBABLY LEARNED A TON WITH HER. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU THINK SHE MIGHT HAVE LEARNED WITH YOU?
mmm…Yes I think so! I would say that she learned about business strategy, marketing and digital marketing. My mother was, and is, very focused on the production part of the business and the product development (formulation and fragrances). She never really “believed” in marketing and strategy. Back then she really focused on the product and relied on "word of mouth" - which worked for the Lebanese market being a very small market. But when I got involved and joined her mission, my goal was to expand the company internationally. Marketing strategy and digital initiatives were a necessity to bring brand awareness to such a big market like the USA.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST LEARNING CURVE?
I have learned a lot from different experiences. Started with L’Oreal, I learned a lot about the beauty industry, product innovation and marketing strategy. Then at Columbia University I learned a lot on business administration and entrepreneurial strategy and planning. From my mentors Robin Burns McNeil and Mark Cohen, I constantly learn from them - they have been an incredible support since the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey. Finally, I am learning a lot of the day-to-day of developing Senteurs d’Orient here in the USA. Specially in digital…
IF YOU COULD SEND A NOTE TO YOUR 25 YEAR OLD SELF...
To enjoy the journey (and not focus only on the achievement/end point). To learn and grow from failures, it will help shape you personally and professionally evolve. And to be surrounded by bold people.