It was one of those pivotal moments when Sofia Latif, founder of Sofia Latif® the skincare brand decided to make a change for herself and for other women across the world.
The brand Sofia Latif® was born from the need to help Sofia’s own skin issues, which erupted through developing hypersensitive skin and stress eczema in her late 20s. By personally having these issues, Sofia was then able to determine through trial and error (over 15 years of personal skincare experiments on her own South Asian skin tone) what types of natural oils and products could help her skin to realign itself and become healthier once again. Once she found the answer, she embarked on helping others with the same skincare worries.
Let’s get under the skin of Sofia Latif to find out more for House of Coco Magazine’s #GBOGB, Girl Bosses of Great Britain series.
HOC. What career did you leave behind to move forward with the skincare brand Sofia Latif™?
SL. I worked in advertising, and still do on a consultancy / freelance basis to support the skincare business whilst it grows and establishes itself. This allows me the freedom and space to drive the business forward and also keep abreast of the creative industry. It is this creativity which has fuelled me my whole career and which I bring to the brand and business now. Plus I get real-time market research by speaking to the many women I end up working with about their own skincare challenges and issues, whilst educating them on the benefits of using clean skincare and plant oils.
HOC. When you set up Sofia Latif® did you have one specific skincare product in mind that you wanted to get off the ground first, before embarking on your collection of three skincare products?
SL. I launched with my signature face oil (Face Oil by Sofia Latif), the blend which I had been using myself for 15 years, and which I had been giving away to friends and family for years. It made sense to me to launch with a product I had been personally using because I am living proof it works to create healthy and strong skin, and because I can speak passionately about it. Since then I have added to the collection with an under eye oil (Eye Oil by Sofia Latif), again used and tested by me, and will continue to grow the collection with products I know will work on my skin.
HOC. Tell us which your personal ‘hero’ product is from the collection of Sofia Latif® and why it’s so special to you.
SL. I would have to say the face oil. It has been my hero for 15 years, and will forever be in my night-time routine. It represents me-time to me, my moment at the end of each day to reconnect mind to senses. The combination of rosehip oil, marula oil, moringa, and pomegranate seed oil is a powerful one. They are packed full of antioxidants and are nourishing, regenerating, and moisturising, leaving behind a smooth and supple complexion. The jasmine and rose essential oils are both relaxing and calming on the mind, whilst helping to balance skin.
HOC. Which is your biggest selling product to date, and do you know why it’s the ‘go to’ Sofia Latif® product?
SL. Again, our face oil is a bestseller in the smaller size. It is such a handy size, and I know many of our customers keep them in all sorts of places… at work, at home, on the move in their handbags. They are great for holidays too, when we like to use minimal amounts of makeup, and let the skin glow naturally. I think the fact that there is nothing but pure plant oils in the blends also gives confidence to our customers that it can be combined with anything they are using at the time too. Pop a drop in with moisturiser in the morning for a hydrating boost, or a drop in foundation for an added glow, or of course on its own at night. A little definitely goes a long way, which I think is why the small bottle sells so well! And because we make them in small batches, our customers know they are fresh too.
HOC. Being a skincare producer isn’t something that everyone can do – did you have to develop your skill set or take any further qualifications to be able to get into this specific field?
SL. I have been a skincare addict for years, and I mean years! I started experimenting with skincare when I was 15 years old with facemasks from St Ives (remember them) and blending my own with clay and oatmeal. We always had sweet almond oil and coconut oil at home, so they were in my routine from a very early age. It was difficult to find products developed with my skin in mind. I don’t believe all skin is the same, and those of us blessed with melanin have different issues too, which most skincare brands didn’t, and still don’t, cater for.
I also wrote a blog (Lip Balm and Hand Cream), for about 5 years, and it allowed me to understand the skincare industry in a way a course would not be able to. You can’t learn about the industry in a classroom, you really need to experience it, including hearing what brands have to say, how most market to your fears, how they treat customers vs influencers, the world of influencers itself, and how brands use them. It was great market research and spurred me on to create an authentic brand determined not to create fear about skin ageing and determined not to market to fears. All skin is going to age, and all we do is help skin age more gracefully by feeding it with nourishment. We will also work with smaller influencers who may not have a massive following, but who are also authentic, and know her / his community.
I also went on a course to learn about blending oils to shore up my knowledge, so that I could continue to formulate the products myself.
HOC. How long have you been running Sofia Latif® and was there ever a point that you thought it was too difficult to get the business off the ground, or did most things go according to plan?
SL. I launched in 2017, after years of planning, dreaming and manifesting. I had talked about it so much with friends, and just needed to take the plunge. Fear of failure was a big hurdle for me, which prevented me launching sooner. Once I understood my fear and stopped allowing it to take over, and also understood that everything I do is going to be shaped by belief in myself, I was able to take the plunge and launch the brand. I still have moments of fear and doubting myself, but my belief in the brand and products is far greater and always wins. My biggest motivation is being able to inspire South Asian women of all ages, and show them that it is possible to launch a skincare business as a British Asian in her 40s.
HOC. We hear that your business ethos is to give back to others, and for every product that is sold by Sofia Latif® your business donates money to businesses in low-income countries, can you tell us more about this?
SL. I wanted to build giving into our business model from the start, and have done this by donating a set amount from each product sold via our website. We donate to Lendwithcare, who provide microloans to small business owners in low-income countries. I have seen first-hand the positive impact women have on their families and communities when they are given the opportunity to work. I worked in Katanga Slums in Kampala, Uganda, with a Community Based Organisation in 2010, who taught women how to sew and make jewellery, which they then sold at their local craft market. These women used the money they earned to support their families, reinvest in their businesses, and spread their training to others in their community, helping to support others around them. I knew then that I wanted to support women like these as directly as possible, which is what we are able to do through Lendwithcare. You can even track who we have supported via our website.
HOC. Did anyone offer you a core piece of advice before launching Sofia Latif®, something crucial that you remember to this day, and that you still advocate?
SL. Stay in your lane and control what you can control. You cannot control what others are doing or thinking of you, but you have control over you and your reaction. From this I understood your journey is yours and someone else’s journey or path is theirs. Comparing your success against someone else’s will make you judge yourself in a negative way, which attracts more negativity. Celebrate successes, and don’t berate yourself too much for the failures. These are all designed to ensure you stay on the right path for you and just you.
HOC. Have you made any mistakes that turned into a great learning curve since starting your business?
SL. Oh yes, I have made mistakes, both small and large ones, but I don’t see them as mistakes. To me they are opportunities to shape the direction and growth of the business.
HOC. If you were to offer one piece of advice to someone thinking of founding a small business, what would it be?
SL. I would tell them to go for it, and don’t listen to the naysayers. Only listen to the words of encouragement from friends and family. Find one friend or person from whom you know you will get sound business advice, and use them as a sounding board. But after that just listen to your gut because it is your second brain after all. You are uniquely you, and the reason a business will succeed or fail is all down to you. No one knows your business idea or passion as well as you. There will be others giving you their take on things, and unless they are a business mentor you trust, then don’t let them sway you too much. Your path is your own, and no one else’s.
HOC. On your website you mention that each evening you give yourself a face massage, can you leave us with details of how we can do this at home, and let us know how this simple act can help our skin?
SL. Of course I would love to. So, you know the way your skin feels plump and healthy after a facial? That is the magic of your facialist’s fingers massaging your skin with the glorious products she is using. You can recreate that at home, every day, by massaging your skin gently with our face oil, using either your fingers or our Rose Quartz Face Roller. The massaging action helps the product to be absorbed into skin, relieves tension in the muscles under skin, and boosts circulation by bringing blood to the surface of the skin. Blood brings oxygen and nutrients in it, feeding the skin from the inside. The massaging action also moves the lymphatic system, which drains the toxins away.
A simple technique is to warm some of our face oil in your hands, hold your hands over your face and breathe in deeply the scent of Jasmine and Rose. Then apply the oil to skin gently, and using your fingers massage in a circular motion, moving from the centre of the face out to the sides and then down your neck. Don’t forget to massage your neck and décolleté as the skin is delicate here too, and will benefit from the nourishment from the face oil. Continue massaging, focussing on areas of tension, such as between the brows, along the jaw line, around the eyes, all areas of the face which move with our expressions. I would recommend 5 minutes of massage, this will help the product to be absorbed by skin whilst leaving you with plump skin. You can massage skin in the morning too, by adding a drop of our face oil into your moisturiser to bring a glow to skin at the start of your day, and to get the lymphatic system moving after a night’s sleep.
Thank you for taking the time to answer all our Girl Bosses of Great Britain questions for House of Coco Magazine.
Visit Sofia Latif for more information.