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Lydia Schoonderbeek is an alumni from London College of Fashion's Executive MBA course. Here she talks about founding her own business, Source Beauty.
To begin, can you please introduce yourself and your current role?
Hi, I’m Lydia Schoonderbeek and I am currently the Founder and CEO of Source Beauty, the first beauty e-commerce site in Egypt and North Africa.
Can you tell us how your business developed after you took the Executive MBA (Fashion)?
I have always worked in the fashion industry namely at Harvey Nichols, Vivienne Westwood, Dunhill, and Harrods. Yet, I have always been interested in the development of the beauty industry, recently even more so in the Middle East and North Africa due to the rise of social media. Source Beauty, premiered on the social media platform - Instagram in 2016. These were the last 8 months of my Executive MBA and part of my consultancy project - where I wanted to gauge the Middle Eastern market. The EMBA has helped expose me to all areas of the business of fashion from finance, marketing, product development, strategy and human resources. With these skills I was able to understand and develop all the areas within my business.
What made you want to start your own business?
The Executive MBA has not only given me the tools to start my own business, but the increased confidence. The feeling of accomplishment, education and the skill sets gained will improve anyone’s confidence.
What is the main critical success factor you would say every new business needs to know?
You become more skilled and versatile regardless of where you have worked. You gain relevant qualities like leadership, analytical thinking, creativity, and become a better communicator. You gain a lot of transferrable skills which can help you throughout your life and various careers.
What would an average day at your job look like?
It’s a very busy day every day! We start the day with looking at all the online orders that have been placed after 3pm, and then start processing them. Which means allocating and ordering in the stock from the relevant suppliers. We then log in the order through our logistics partner. Once all that is done we discuss our social media platform and which products we will be pushing throughout the week. This is usually done on Sunday which is the first working day in Egypt. I don’t like to plan in advance what will be posted on social media, I feel that our followers will not connect with the brand if the content is too planned. Your followers need to connect with the brand, and having overly planned social media accounts will make you lose followers. The more spontaneous we are the better, I think it is something that is linked to the Egyptian culture as well, which I have learnt to accept. What we do plan in advance are all the articles that we will have online throughout the week which are usually 2 to 3 articles which we build around the products we have online. We currently launch a new brand on our website every single week, the beauty industry is growing exponentially in Egypt. Therefore, Source Beauty has to be on top of the game. We also plan collaborations with some of our existing suppliers, which is where we meet with them and discuss everything in terms of design, packaging, forecast potential sales and launch date. We currently have 2 collaborations running, one which I have created 8 lip and cheek tints, and the other collaborator is with a candle supplier where we have created 4 fun quotes.
What are the highs and the lows of you current role?
The definite high is loving what you do, and the fact that I have created and developed an online convenience by making beauty fun. The beauty industry in Egypt was very scattered, I have managed to bring all these amazing brands under one platform. The lows - is that you are always working even on the weekends, and that you’re doing a million little things. Becoming an entrepreneur also means your attention to detail is everything and once that drops you know there’s a problem. You constantly have to be on top of things. Also hiring the right people is paramount in making your business a success. One of the definite lows are the days when orders are slow, and when you start to think that your business isn’t successful, and you start doubting your instincts. I guess it’s part of the game.
What skills did you learn on your course that you are using in your work?
Strategy and supply chain have become key to me in every possible way. I had known very little about both in the past, but the Executive MBA has provided me with the skills to plan both and to realize that they are paramount in running a business. Source Beauty delivery is one of the things I focus on day in and day out, I want to give our customers a seamless experience.
Where are you from in the world?
I am half Egyptian and half Dutch. I was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, where I lived for 12 years, I then lived in Egypt, the UK for 14 years, then Germany and now I am back in Egypt.
Why did you choose to study at LCF?
I had done a short course in Buying and Merchandising prior to my Executive MBA, and I loved the teaching environment which is very inspirational and creative.
What’s next for you and your career in fashion?
I haven’t planned that far ahead, but I have some plans in mind of where I would like to see Source Beauty in the near future. I hope can realise it one day.