GIMED: Natural cosmetics to tackle chemicals in Palestine, a solution brought forward by Sawsan Khalif
For years, Sawsan Khlaif had suffered from extreme hair loss due to chemical products and hair straightening treatments. The 26-year-old Palestinian entrepreneur then decided to seek out natural alternatives, though she did not find what she was looking for exactly. “This is when I decided to take matters into my own hands. I started researching and testing out different natural ingredients to create my own cosmetics”, Sawsan says.
Today she has her own business where she uses home-grown aloe vera and essential oils to produce natural and organic products. The brand, which is called Shine, is based on a green business model developed with the support of the EU-funded project GIMED, under the ENI CBC MED Programme. It promotes environmentally-friendly practices, straying away from chemicals that are harmful to our bodies and the planet.
“I create everything by hand from natural ingredients that I usually buy from a local vendor in Ramallah. My mother also helps me with planting and harvesting Aloe Vera and Rosemary in our backyard”, she explains. Although she currently works from home, she hopes to one day operate a proper factory with a dedicated farm.
“When I was younger, I had fallen victim to distorted beauty standards that single out straight hair as the only acceptable, beautiful, and feminine hair type”
Sawsan’s journey also helped her appreciate and embrace the beauty in her natural, wavy hair. “When I was younger, I had fallen victim to distorted beauty standards that single out straight hair as the only acceptable, beautiful, and feminine hair type”, she states. Sadly, she wasn’t the only one. Most girls in her community also used flat irons or worse, getting chemical hair treatments that stressed, broke, and damaged their hair.
Nowadays, Sawsan is devoted to changing the narrative and encouraging Palestinian women to celebrate their natural hair. According to the brand, Shine products provide the needed nourishment to improve health, increase strength, reduce frizz and help damaged hair recover sing all-natural ingredients. The female entrepreneur is also a strong advocate for environmental sustainability and all things green.
In this sense, she tries to take small steps in reducing her carbon footprint and impact on the planet. For example, she encourages customers to return old containers so she could reuse the packaging by offering discounted prices for their next purchase.
The contribution of GIMED in developing their green business model
“I first heard about GIMED project through a friend of mine, who encouraged me to apply to what I now consider the ultimate turning point in my business journey”, Sawsan says. She joined the project through Leaders International, the Palestinian partner.
Before GIMED, Sawsan tried some online courses but struggled to find everything she needed in one place. The project, however, was much more focused and personalised, which was exactly what Sawsan was looking for. Through the training, she learnt to identify customer segments, develop her green business model and plan, run and manage a successful business, access to finance and new markets and design an eco-friendly product.
“GIMED helped me organise my thoughts and ideas, which were really jumbled before the project. It also helped me divide my tasks into manageable, measurable and achievable milestones”, Sawsan says. “More importantly, it helped me figure out some legal aspects related to starting the business. This represented my biggest barrier in the beginning, as I was completely clueless regarding what I need to do and where to even begin”, she adds.
Like Sawsan, hundreds of eco-entrepreneurs across the Mediterranean received training and development support through GIMED. The project spurs green innovation and drive sustainable economic development in a local, national and regional level.