This week's Entrepreneur of the Week is Lara Tarakjian, the co-founder of Lebanese beauty chain and laser hair removal salon Silkor.
Back when Lara first began working with her brother Oscar to launch the brand at the tender age of 19, "we were not really called entrepreneurs," she says. "Now being an entrepreneur is very hip, it's very in… but back then, entrepreneurs were, well losers," she said candidly in person.
When she and her brother, both trained as engineers, couldn't find a job in Beirut, they decided to delve into the laser hair removal business. At the time, she confessed while chatting, even her parents seemed skeptical. "I could tell they were only supporting our idea because we were their children," she said.
Once she and her brother recognized the potential of the product at a conference in France, she decided to put everything into the product. Working together as a team was also critical for the survival of the business. "The days when he was down, I was up; when I was down, he was up- we balanced each other a lot," she said in our conversation.
Now, Silkor is well-known across Lebanon, the UAE, Qatar, Northern Iraq, and Oman, and is expanding into Kuwait and opening a branch in Saida, in the south of Lebanon. The challenge they face now is maintaining consistency across all of its outlets, says Tarakjian.
While there are many local laser removal salons, Silkor doesn't have much competition as a regional chain, she says, as it's actually quite difficult to scale beyond being a family business. At Silkor they've worked hard to create a sense of family, ensuring that each outlet is staffed by Lebanese women who "made you feel at home," she explained.
In our interview below, Tarakjian, who is also a graduate of the Executive MBA program at the American University of Beirut, discusses how she endured the early days and worked hard to build the brand, the moment when she thought it might be successful, the challenges of expanding, and her advice for entrepreneurs.
"Just don't listen to people," she says. "If you have a dream, just go for it. Have faith, have passion, and there is a lot of hard work involved. When I was 18, there are a lot of things I didn't do. I missed a lot of fun opportunities because I was here. But today I'm very happy."