Hello Marwa, thanks for answering our questions. Could you tell us about your background (professionally, and what country you came from?) leading up to when you arrived in France? What was your career before?
I’m Syrian, born in Damascus, but I went to school in France and studied French literature. I got married after graduating high school and had four children: three daughters aged 19, 15 and 6, and a little boy who’s 4.
In Syria, I gave private French lessons. But when the war broke out in Syria, I decided to learn a trade I could make use of if I had to leave my country. So I did a training program in hair and makeup, mostly because I’m passionate about all things beauty-related.
Today you’re working on a halal cosmetics project. Could you explain what that’s about? Have you come up with a name for your brand?
I’d like to be able to distribute my brand of nail polish called “Tuesday in Love”, a halal cosmetics brand. During prayer, Muslims have to perform ablutions, (a hand- and face-washing process), but nail polish was an issue since most types are waterproof, meaning women had to either forgo wearing it or remove it before each prayer. However, in Canada they found a way to invent a formula completely permeable to water and air. So the problem was solved, and is actually healthier for the nails. Plus, these nail polishes are long-lasting, come in gorgeous colors and can be removed with nail polish remover.
How did you get this idea? When would you like to launch your business?
My mother suggested it from Canada! I’m currently drawing up my business plan so I’ll be able to, I hope, get this nail polish on the shelves as quickly as possible.
You would also like to eventually open a beauty salon for future brides. Could you tell us about that?
This project came about because I truly love helping young brides be the star of the day. It’s a very special day for them, and my dream is to have a salon to help the bride fully prepare for the big event. And why not include gifts for the guests? I’m also thinking of collaborating with other companies to fulfill all the clients’ wishes.
You are currently part of an incubator program in Lyon by SINGA, who is one of FAIRE’s partners. How does this service help you? What does it do for you on a daily basis?
The SINGA incubator helped me see that my dream was possible, and to overcome the barriers you can imagine facing in a big country like France. SINGA supports me with coaches, but also with friends (because there is friendship there, it’s almost like a family!). They help us, support us, and show us the steps and the process to follow in order to launch a project starting with just an idea. Finally, they help me imagine what my new life will be and to get rid of the worries that come with working in this new country and culture.
If you could give one piece of advice to a refugee who wanted to become an entrepreneur, what would it be?
If you have a dream, a project, or experience in a certain field, go ahead and ask SINGA or another organization for help. It is difficult to do it by yourself, and so you’ll feel less alone and more encouraged with help from others.
Never listen to negative people who say your project is impossible. Believe in yourself, that’s the most important part!
What can we hope for you in the future?
Luck, strength and especially that my project sees the light of day as quickly as possible.