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INTERVIEW: KETISH Superwoman, Emaan Abbass

There are very few things these days that really make us stop and listen, but KETISH was certainly one of those. A feminine and sexual wellness brand which goes way beyond just being a 'product'.

Emaan wants to change the dialogue and replace shame and stigma with sensuality and self-love by creating a luxury experience around feminine wellness. Perfectly aligning with our thoughts at Raemona we were very excited to get a chance to chat to Emaan herself..

Huge congrats on the launch of KETISH! Taking it back a little, could you tell us a bit about your childhood?

I have really amazing memories of my childhood. I grew up in a small country town south of the San Francisco Bay Area. My parents immigrated from Egypt to California back in the early 80’s. They left the only country they knew, immigrated to the states, and fearlessly raised my sister and in a super unknown land. They worked to protect us every step of the way, and clenched on to their cultural beliefs and values as well best as they could. I always felt a little different growing up, like I was trapped in between two world- a normal American girl and adhering to my parents strict household and cultural norms. I was always head strong and a bit rebellious. Every time I would get caught or do something outside of the rule book, my mom would always say “Do you have to touch the fire to feel it burn?” And my answer was always “….Yes.”

How did the idea for Ketish come about? What were the key drivers to make this dream a reality?

Although we’ve been working on KETISH for about 2 years, the brand's origin really dates back to my upbringing and some challenging experiences I faced with my own feminine health journey.

I was raised in a conservative Arab-American home where feminine health and sex were extremely taboo. Even to this day, as a grown 34-year-old woman, it is tough to talk to my parents about feminine health and sex. At the age of 21, while away at school, I decided to see a gynecologist for the first time, and it was during that first pelvic exam that they discovered cancer on my cervix, which had been caused by HPV (human papillomavirus), a common sexually transmitted infection.

I feared turning to my family for support, largely due to the culture I was born into. Pre-marital sex is one of the biggest no-no’s a young Muslim woman can commit, and I felt my parents would be ashamed and disappointed that I was sexually active at such a young age. I was scared that they would make it more about me having sex rather than what was actually going on with my health, so I chose to figure it out on my own.

This experience made me realize just how important my intimate health was and become hyper-aware of the products I was using on my body. I quickly realized that there was a gap when it came to taboo-free, trustworthy products in the intimate care space. I also went through this before the age of social media and Instagram, and felt that there weren't enough educational platforms or outlets for young girls like myself to lean on for support. I wanted to create a brand that not only provided effective, luxurious, and powerful products that were free from stigma, but I wanted to create the community and platform I wished I'd had throughout my journey.

This is what ultimately led me to create KETISH.

KETISH is a feminine and sexual wellness brand. We create targeted body care and wellness products that are super effective, multi-beneficial, and have that undeniable dope factor. Bigger than our products, we aim to create a safe space for women, by women. Powered by expert advice and powerful stories from personal experiences, we encourage women not to shy away from the dialogue, and to break down the barriers that still exist around feminine and sexual health.

When developing the brand, I was really inspired by my Egyptian heritage. You will definitely see it woven throughout the brand from the gold aesthetic details to the ingredients in the formulas. There have been so many strong and powerful women throughout Egyptian history that inspired us, but one in particular really embodied the KETISH spirit. When doing our research, we discovered Qetesh, the ancient Egyptian goddess of love, passion, sexuality and pleasure. We thought she was the perfect point of inspiration. We wanted to make sure our name was memorable and unique to us, so we put our own little spin on it and called the brand KETISH.

Women empowering women is something we want to see a lot more. Huda investing in your company is the epitome of this. How did this come about?

I started my beauty career with Sephora, at their US HQ as a manager in Supply Chain. I was a big beauty junkie, so although I was working for the biggest beauty retailer in the game, my dream was to get out of Supply Chain and closer to product. In 2016, I met with Huda while visiting Dubai and had the incredible opportunity to spend some one on one time with her, and I walked away from that meeting knowing that I wanted to be a part of this magic she was creating with Huda Beauty. Shortly after that meeting, I asked for a job, and 6 months later I was packing my entire life into 3 suitcases and moving from California to Dubai- to be on Huda’s Product Development team.

Fast forward to 2017, and Huda posted a video on her social media about starting a $10M fund called HB Angels. She was excited for this initiative because she didn’t always have the financial support she needed when starting out. She wanted to invest in passionate founders with mission-based business ideas and was calling out to entrepreneurs to pitch for seed investment.

I always had an idea to start a feminine wellness brand but never thought it out until I saw that video. I was nervous to approach Huda, not just because it was something that was so personal to me, but because I was an employee and wasn’t sure how she would receive it. I finally worked up the courage to approach Huda with the idea for KETISH. After several post-pitch conversations, the family saw the vision really clearly and decided to invest.

Have you ever doubted yourself?

All. The. Time.

The last two years have been a beautifully grueling journey. Trying to launch a brand at a time the entire world was at a stand-still and with so much uncertainty all around was a challenge, but also a blessing in disguise. I was given the gift of slowing down, and taking the time to truly understand the depths KETISH’s mission.

The value of knowing your brand’s purpose, and understanding how crucial it is every single step of the way, has been paramount. It is my guiding light, my north star. Taking the time to understand exactly what KETISH stands for, what we want to represent, has been crucial during these times of self-doubt.

There have been many sleepless nights, a lot of tears, a lot of “WHAT AM I DOING” moments, BUT going back to that purpose has been key. Realizing that KETISH has the opportunity—and the power—to help so many women, to give women a voice, to educate, to put the power back in their hands, that is what gets me out of bed each and every morning.

Why do you think that these so-called 'Taboo' subjects are still not talked about enough? There are so many societal factors that silence us, often putting us women into a little box. We are told what to do, how to behave, what is acceptable, what is not, what we can and cannot do with our bodies. Growing up in a traditional Muslim, Arab-American home, I battled these notions, a lot, but I’ve realized this goes far beyond specific cultures and demographics. It is something that affects all women as a whole. It is a cycle that has existed for far too long. I wanted to build something that worked to break down these barriers, that removed the stigma and shame around the topics of our bodies, intimacy, and reproductive health, not for the sake of being rebellious, but with the purpose of breaking the cycles that have existed for far too long.

I want women to understand that they hold the power. I want to give women a voice and allow them the opportunity to make educated decisions about their health and their bodies.

I truly believe that if I had adequate education on preventative feminine healthcare or even a community I could turn to for support without feeling this sense of shame, maybe my situation could have been avoided. This is something I am super passionate about bringing to women.

What are the main subjects you feel we aren’t open enough about when it comes to being female?

There are so many unknowns and assumptions made around feminine and sexual health issues. Whether it is PCOS, infertility, endometriosis, postpartum depression, we deal with such incredibly heavy things day in and day out that may make us feel ashamed to share or discuss publicly—largely because it is not normalized. I think it's because we have been taught by society that as women we need to hide behind doors and deal with these things in private, which is really unfortunate. There is so much power and beauty in being seen, heard, and supported. The first step to doing that is bringing awareness to these issues, and allowing women to feel they are not alone.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

As cliche as it might sound, it is definitely my parents. They are some of the most caring, resilient, and loving people I know. I aspire to have hearts as big as theirs.

They have had to deal with a headstrong, somewhat rebellious girl, that decided to launch a taboo brand in the same region they immigrated from years ago. It has not been an easy road to get to this place, but launching KETISH transformed our relationship and has brought us so profoundly close. It stripped back all the boundaries that used to exist within us. They are my biggest supporters. I have seen their mindset change and evolve throughout the years and it inspires me so incredibly much.

What is next for Ketish?

Honestly sky is the limit. There is SO MUCH we want to do. Outside of continuing Our biggest focus right now is cultivating our community and creating a safe space for women to learn about their feminine and sexual health. We plan to launch our next product very soon, and continue to launch bold, empowering, luxurious products that range from targeted feminine body care to pleasure focused products. Long term, a dream of mine is to be able to give back to women in a big way especially in underserved communities.

What advice would you give to new female entrepreneurs?

As female founders we often feel the responsibility to carry the world on our shoulders and do it ALL. I have always been quite terrible at asking for help. I think it is something I learned growing up, and I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being self-sufficient. One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was not asking for help more often, when I needed it most, or even when I didn't feel I needed it. As a founder, there is absolutely no way for you to do it all. I have had to rewire the way I think and really push myself out of my comfort zone to ask for help and lean on my team for support. I have been super fortunate to be surrounded by such an incredible group of driven, talented, creative, hard-working, and passionate people who have taken KETISH and treated it as if it were their own. With every new person that joins the brand changes exponentially, and has transformed in ways I never could have imagined and it is all thanks to them. My team makes me stronger. They push me to be a better leader every single day, just by showing me that I can trust them, I can lean on them, and we can build this as a family.

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