My UAE: Hend Al Hashemi is a soap star
As a child, Hend Al Hashemi would watch her grandfather brew and mix herbs to make medicine for his patients.
Her grandfather, Sheikh Abdullah, was a famous traditional herbalist in Deira.
“I have inherited this passion for exploring the healing magic of plants from my grandfather,” says the 34-year-old Emirati.
After working in marketing for many years, Al Hashemi quit her job to dedicate her time to making natural soaps.
“I make healing soaps designed for people with skin problems such as eczema, acne, flakiness and dry skin,” she explains. “I have eczema, and couldn’t find the right products to help me. So that is how I began making my own oils and mixes.”
The brand is named 202, Gardenia Rd, after her home address, which has a large garden full of plants that are used as ingredients in her products.
She has created a goat’s milk and neem soap to treat skin problems, including eczema, psoriasis, acne, fungus and athlete’s foot. A more aromatic variety is her camel milk and lavender soap – the milk moisturises extra dry skin. There are also scrubs, oils and bath soaks.
With pharmacists in her family, Al Hashemi taught herself how to make the products by reading text books, watching online tutorials and through trial and error.
Despite protests from family to stick to a “steady job” in marketing, Al Hashemi took a leap of faith and started her career as a soap artisan more than four years ago.
“I learnt a lot from my previous marketing job – how to brand, how to promote and market a new product,” she explains. “It takes time, dedication and lots of patience to make it. Nature has all the answers, plants have strong healing powers – we just need to be patient and look for it.”
Who are your favourite musicians?
Alanis Morissette, Jewel and [the soundtrack artist] Alexandre Desplat.
What styles of music do you listen to?
I love music and listen to all its genres, but my favourite would be instrumentals and soundtracks.
Do you have a favourite cartoon?
Disney’s Snow White [and the Seven Dwarfs].
What are your favourite movies?
The Theory of Everything, Babel and my all-time favourite is the Rush Hour series. I can’t get enough of Jackie Chan.
What’s your favourite book?
I read a lot, yet the book that affected me the most and remains a favourite is Who Will Cry When You Die?
What’s your favourite drink?
Coconut water and rosewater milkshakes.
What advice do you have for young Emiratis?
Once you graduate from university, don’t rush into things – take your time; get some experience from big companies. Work in different roles, even as a receptionist or in sales. Starting a business is not just about making money.
What’s your favourite pastime?
Listening to music, reading, enjoying nature, cycling and hanging out with my pets. I have four dogs.
Who’s your role model?
Olivier Baussan, the founder of L’Occitane. He used to buy his supplies and packaging with a “pay later” credit system, and now he is the founder of one of the biggest cosmetic companies in the world. He succeeded in having the world cherish and admire the tradition of his beautiful native Provence.