Estetica’s Exclusive Interview: Farouk & Basim Shami

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19 Feb Estetica’s Exclusive Interview: Farouk & Basim Shami

In 1965 Farouk Shami founded Farouk Systems, giving hairstylists like himself the best possible tools and products to work with. 50 years later, his son Basim is the second generation to head up the company. Don’t miss our exclusive interview with Farouk & Shami…

The year 2015 was a big one for Farouk Systems, but above all for the Shami family. It was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the brand that grew through innovation, entrepreneurship and experimentation to give hairstylists the best possible tools to create their work and expand their careers. The Farouk Cancun 2015 Global Conference was when everyone who knows and loves the company and their products gathered to learn and share experiences. During this celebration, Farouk Shami sat with us at ESTETICA to share some insights to his success, while his son Basim, at the helm as CEO for the past three years, expounded on the company’s transition into the digital and social realm through his new projects.

What’s it like celebrating this 50th anniversary with friends and family, partners and hairstylists?
Farouk: “It’s definitely a happy moment: most of the 5,000 pros here are like family, so it’s very exciting and emotional get-together that truly touches my heart. When I see all these people from 142 countries, I know that we have succeeded in our mission of ethical environmental education.”
Basim:Seeing that our business family is getting bigger –our friends arrive from Poland, from Russia, all different parts of the world– confirming that the company is growing, but that our culture is still firmly rooted.”

When Farouk Systems was started in the 1980s, what was the main challenge?
Farouk:The big challenge was creating ammonia-free color when no other company believed it could be done. But it was my personal mission and I knew the product could work, because I am a hairdresser. I even used it a year or two in my salon before it was marketed. My clients kept coming back and the color is great.”
Basim:The amazing thing is that during this 50th anniversary celebration, we have taken stock of how we have changed the industry. We focused on how things were done in a totally different way 50 years ago compared to today, and you realize just how much you can achieve.”

Farouk says: “To be a hairdresser, you have to love people”. Is this still the spirit of the company?
Farouk:Yes, of course. If you don’t love people and communicate with them, then you are not a hairdresser. Hairdressing is not just cutting and coloring hair, it is communication. Beauty comes from within. Beauty inside, beauty outside. If you work with people and motivate them, make them look better and feel better, then you’ve succeeded. Communication and knowledge are the keys.”
Basim:Hairdressers must be very personal and friendly by nature. The hairdresser’s mentality is our company culture. We are a family business and the company is directly connected to our family of hairdressers. When we develop a new product, even our educators are directly and indirectly involved: do they like the scent, does the product performance live up to expectations, etc.”

Is education still the core of Farouk Systems?
Farouk:Absolutely. We have about 450,000 hairdressers going to schools in the U.S. and soon we hope to have a million hairdressers worldwide. All these new graduates would be Farouk Systems hairdressers. This adds to our legacy.”

Farouk Systems took a public stand with the Latin Americans in the Miss USA pageant. Could you comment?
Basim:Personally, my kids are half Latino and over 80% of the employees from Farouk Systems are Latino; they’re the ones who work hard to make our products on time. Also, most of the pageant winners have been Latin American. So when a discriminatory statement is made, we feel the need to respond. The Mexican Chamber of Commerce honored us, so I spoke a few words about discrimination. This country is a melting pot. We all came from somewhere some time ago; if not us, then our parents or our grandparents did.”

Tell me a little about your partnerships with the Kardashians, Zendaya, and Esquire.
Basim:This concerns our new approach to marketing with social and digital media. The Kardashians were a good fit because everyone wants hair like theirs. The sisters have millions of followers in social media, so the brand was in high demand and who could do their hair better than us? I looked at their hair, their colors, their trends and saw a lot of gold and black. So I created beautiful packaging in Rose Gold. Now when you see it, you know it is the Kardashian’s color. We’ve never had a brand ambassador for CHI, but we are convinced that Zendaya will attract young generations to use the products to change up hair styles. She’s known for playing with her hair and trying diferent styles. She’s going to do appearances with the distributor and attend grand openings of the store. Plus she has about 30 million followers on social media – so it’s a big thing for us. This all should bring fallout back to our hair salons, because clients will ask for the Kardashian’s hair color or for Zendaya’s style. Esquire has been around for more than 50 years, so they have their own market. Men follow them for health and style tips, but the market needed a high-end grooming line for guys who take better care of themselves. It will probably be ready for next summer, because I want a strong brand and to market it correctly. I also want enough social media followers to promote all the other brands. And all this is in addition to the education, the sales team, and our relationship with our customers. So we strive everyday to promote our products.

What news can we expect about your next innovation?
Farouk:Oh, I have to hold back on this one. We need an element of surprise! We do one thing wrong as hairdressers. We are using heat to blow dry hair. It depletes moisture and dries the hair. I’m going to change that!
Basim:We are constantly working on improving the technologies we utilize to develop our styling tools. This also goes hand in hand with us searching the globe for unique ingredients that will further our mission in providing hairstylists everywhere the finest and safest advancements.”

What are the main challenges Farouk Systems for the future?
Basim:Our main challenge is to keep up with the growth we are experiencing. Everything is in our favor: we are on top of things, we have a young generation working with us, a strong marketing team, graphic designers, and we get things done fast, from developing products and designing packaging, to shipping and distribution. So the future looks positive!

The Shami Legacy
Farouk Shami is a Palestinian immigrant who is living the American Dream as an innovative entrepreneur, who now continues to give back to the community. His son Basim Shami is now President of the family business, contributing invaluable marketing expertise and management skills to build on the already solid foundation of Farouk Systems.

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