It's not often you find two sisters at the helm of a budding makeup empire, but when you do, they are goals.
Cheve and Chika Chan
Having graduated from makeup school, and after accumulating industry accolades, Chika Chan wanted to pass on what she had learned to rising makeup stars. So she founded her school of makeup artistry, Make-Up Pro, and began teaching the masses how to craft a look like a pro.
“Makeup was always something she was super passionate about," says Cheve, Chika's sister. “So she wanted to hone in on that interest. We also come from an entrepreneurial family - my dad and my mother were both entrepreneurs."
Chika's sister, Cheve, was all the while studying fashion in FIT, and when she graduated she moved in elite fashion circles, including a stint at powerhouse Louis Vuitton, before settling on fashion production.
It was then that she realized that amalgamating her efforts with her sister might serve as the most beneficial way to push their careers forward. With both sisters being creative, driven and entrepreneurial-minded, they were two women who would ultimately work very well alongside each other to further build the brand Chika had started.
"Chika decided to start a business where she would help students find their dreams and get into the makeup world," says Cheve.
Given her background, it was easy to assimilate Cheve into the growing company her sister had created. She would take over the creative direction of the company, and between the pair, their vision has put them on the makeup map. They are creating the makeup artists of the future, tailoring them so they walk out of the Make-Up Pro workshops both industry and customer savvy.
The Make-Up Pro Studios are located in Soho in downtown New York, where the bulk of the teaching happens. The Chan sisters run pro-workshops for aspiring makeup artists, and in order to graduate, the students must complete 80 hours of work in the studios. “We welcome everyone from different walks of life who just want to be a part of the makeup world, so we have workshops that we teach everyday," says Chika.
"What's really great with Make-Up Pro is that we sponsor a lot of shows for NYFW, and we bring our pro artists to be a part of it, so they actually get exposure," says Chika. “Since Chika is my sister, I was always surrounded by cosmetics, so whenever there are shows I'm always the one executing in the background."
Make-Up Pro models. Photo by Katie Thompson
One of the workshops essentially acts as a feeder after graduation into high-end makeup counters across NYC and beyond, including Bergdorf Goodman, and with brands like Dior and Estée Lauder. The sisters prepare students for these real-world and high pressure scenarios with interview prep and clothing tutorials.
It's not just budding #MUAs the Chan ladies are working on. Within the studios and during shows, the Make-Up Pro girls are using their own cosmetics line, sold singularly in the New York studio.
The makeup line was launched in 2012, and Chika has kept it in house until Cheve arrived on board. “We're working on launching a new line that is not only for the pro, but is also consumer-driven. Eventually the goal is to sell it internationally," says Cheve, who will no doubt be head of launching a campaign to the wider consumer.
“We want that product that you would be able to use on your own that would look as fabulous as it would on editorial," says Chika.
While they work on the launch of the new line, the pair is constantly working on booking events for their rising pro stars. Every year, they add to the amount of runway shows they do, with this year totaling 35 so far, and 10 more to come for women's NYFW in September.
Make-Up Pro work with Ovadia & Sons
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.