It can be difficult to measure the real influence of influencers, but not what it comes to Negin Mirsalehi. At this peak in her professional career, she’s less an “influencer” by traditional definitions and more of a bonafide beauty mogul. With the launch of her hair care brand Gisou in 2015, Mirsalehi has not only made the most of her business acumen, but has used her platform and Gisou’s products to elevate awareness about bee conservation. Gisou is formulated with honey and propolis from her family’s own bee farm, a six generation effort that has extended now to incorporate a range of smash hit hair products including masks, texturizing sprays, heat protectants, and more.
After six years of success, Mirsalehi had her eye on the Middle East market. She is as passionate about the region, where she has Persian roots, as consumers here are for Gisou. Noticing the demand in the market and allied with the perfect retail partner, Mirsalehi launched Gisou exclusively at Sephora Middle East last week.
In anticipation of the launch, Savoir Flair sat down with the iconic Mirsalehi while she was in Dubai for the launch for an exclusive interview. Listen in.
Why is Sephora the right partner for Gisou?
I personally shop at Sephora and for me, that’s super important. I also love that they’re supporting smaller brands. Doing direct-to-consumer, we were still figuring out how we could really deliver to the Middle East in the most customer-friendly way. And, then when we launched with Sephora US this opportunity came along and we were like, yes, Sephora Middle East is the right partner.
Your mother’s own honey-infused hair oils must have had an influence on the launch of Gisou.
She created a similar hair oil, so, she did have a really big influence.When we started to launch the brand, we added a few more ingredients here and there, but she basically started this infusing of honey into her products. In that way she really started it. She started it because she believes in the power of honey.
And what are the properties of honey that are so beneficial for the hair?
Honey contains vitamins, minerals and oxidants, but I think what is especially great about honey – and that’s also the reason my mom really believes in applying honey to hair products – is because it’s a natural humectant. That means it attracts and retains moisture, and it improves the moisture levels of your hair.
What are some must-have products from the Gisou collection?
Our first product we launched is our honey infused hair oil, which is still our best selling product. I think the reason that people love it so much is because it’s multipurpose. There are three main ways of using it, but there’s always at least one way that people find it working for them. So, the three ways are using it after you’ve showered, on wet hair before you do anything with your hair. You can use it as a finishing product, but I also sometimes put a few drops in a hair mask just to intensify the hair mask treatment.
Can you use it on skin and nails at all? Or is it just for hair?
It’s interesting that you’re saying, because we have seen that people are using it in that way and they’ve seen results. It’s very fun to see our audience trying it in different ways. For instance, I’ve seen people using our hair primer on their brows!
I’ve also heard rave reviews about the Gisou hair mask.
Our hair mask is one of our best selling products. You can use it of course, in your shower routine, but also people love using it as an overnight treatment where they leave it in and they wash it out the next morning. We’ve also got the hair perfume, which we really wanted to create because it’s got our signature scent, and it really reminds me of the scent that is at bee gardens.
You have three products that are infused with propolis. What does propolis do?
Propolis is another bee product. It’s way less popular than honey, but it’s really a very strong and good ingredient. Bees use it mainly to strengthen and protect their beehives. It’s got great antiseptic properties as well. We use it more in our styling products so it also gives a lot of texture to your hair. We’ve got the polishing primer, which is my go-to, whenever I curl my hair. It’s always the first thing I use, because it really holds your hair in place, whether it’s straight or curly. Propolis is also in our heat protecting spray and texturizing wave spray.
Beekeeping has run in your family for six generations of beekeeping. How has the family bee farm grown to keep up with scaling demands?
My dad already had a pretty good amount of beehives. My dad never sold honey, he sold his beehives to farmers. Farmers used the bees to pollinate vegetables and fruits. Obviously, we had to scale up, especially the last years.
We are really conscious of only taking the surplus from every beehive. It’s not like we’re using all the honey in every beehive because bees use their honey as well. It’s their food. We only take surpluses. We have a lot of beehives and every year we assess how many hives we need. And it also happens that sometimes a product is sold out because there’s not enough.
But you know, it’s not like our products are one hundred percent made out of honey. You can’t apply raw honey to the hair. Our products do rely on the power of honey, but a little honey goes a long way.
What is your production schedule? Like?
We base our production schedule on the supply of honey we get, which comes in two stages, during spring and after summer. We let it evolve around those two moments. If we run out of honey in January, there’s no way we can produce. So it’s very important that we make good projections.
I can see why, especially if you are opening a new market and you’re not quite sure how it’s going to perform. That takes a lot of forethought and a lot of planning.
We also take that into consideration. We always try to do a little bit more rather more than less, but it does happen sometimes that our products sell out and we have to wait until there is a new supply of honey to produce more.
On top of sustainably sourcing your products via your family bee farm, you are also really passionate about bee conservation. Why are bees so important to the ecosystem?
Research has shown that one third of our food supply is dependent on bees because of the pollination they do. But, bees are facing a lot of challenges. Parasites are one. There’s one very well known parasite in the Netherlands, and that’s something my dad really needs to deal with with medicines. Then there are pesticides being used so much, which is super harmful. And of course, deforestation and climate change. That’s also the reason why I think beekeepers are so important because we need their expertise to keep bee populations thriving.
That’s why we are supporting beekeepers in big cities. Research has shown recently that urban beekeeping is very important. Some people have one or two bee hives in their garden, which is awesome. We set up a program where we’re supporting urban beekeepers in New York, as well as in Paris. We’re extending this project also to support bees.
During bee season, with every package, we give bee friendly, flower seeds. So people can blend them in with their balcony or in their garden. We do different things in order to raise awareness. This year, we want to introduce a beekeeping course that people can do on our site.
This awareness and education is a huge part of what you’re accomplishing with Gisou.
That’s the thing that makes my dad proud. Spreading awareness to a young audience helps bring in a new generation of beekeepers. In the Netherlands for instance, 90% of beekeepers are male and they are usually 65 years old, or older, because they are retired and they need a new hobby. My goal is to get more females attracted to beekeeping, and to make them start younger.
Nowadays, we’re talking a lot about mental health. Beekeeping is so therapeutic. Sometimes, I go to the bee farm, and I don’t take my phone. I’m there from morning to night. When I’m done, I feel like I had the best yoga session ever. That’s also the reason why my dad loves it so much. You’re so in the moment; you’re so involved in the process. It’s like meditation. That’s also something that I want people to start learning.