Max Pauwels and Nassima Belafdil are two Berlin based proactive entrepreneurs and founders of MAYE BERLIN. Max being 21 and Nassima 20, the Belgian and Moroccan-French pair are absolutely rocking the cosmetic market. They lived in different cities around the world, being involved in different interesting projects for a few years. By using the roots from Nassima’s father, the young couple got a fabulous idea: to import an extremely pure and better priced Argan oil from Morocco.
The young couple got introduced to the pure Argan oil coming from Agadir and after they used if for themselves and introduced it to friends, they decided to bottle it and start a small company around it.
What have you done before starting MAYE Berlin?
M: Well, I quit school when I was fairly young and I decided spontaneously to move to Miami, then Barcelona, London and finally Berlin. Being so young and putting myself in such situations, I am definitely a self-taught guy. I have been involved in different projects – understanding what I am good at and where I needed to develop my skills. From life to design, home decor, architecture, marketing, cuisine…
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
N: My dad is from Morocco and he has always been a proactive user of Argan oil. He knows where to find a 100% pure and organic one. So then it was like a chain, everybody found out that the benefits are so unique that everybody wanted more and more, so we decided to start our own brand.
Why do you think it will be successful? What makes it unique?
N: It’s an incredible moisturizer for the skin and for hair. Because it’s so pure, the effects become visible in such a short time. A large amount of the commercial oils on the market are mixed with chemical ingredients which makes them less effective. Most of the time the percentage per 100ml it’s about only 0.2%. You can really see the instant effects healing or covering up scarves or eczemas: when it’s pure it helps really quickly, in one week you can see differences.
The best way to use it, is by applying it after washing your face and before going to sleep. Since it’s a bit oily, it’s really better than applying it in the morning. Otherwise, it’s also really good for hair/beard: just apply it in the shower with wet hair and leave it for 30 min. It’s an incredible moisturizer for the skin and for hair.
Who helped you to develop the business plan or to invest the money in it?
M: The whole project is self-founded, we didn’t have the chance to meet any investor. We just played around and it was so good. Then we went to different startup conferences and meetings to learn more because we had no clue. We learnt from the others just by listening to their stories and asking them few questions. Nobody else helped us, apart from Nassima’s father. He used to send us the product every month, but now we have a supplier and we trade from Morocco and we trade directly with him.
Who is your target audience?
N: We thought at the beginning that it would have been a project based on female buyers from 25 on. We discovered with time that men are interested in the product too since it’s really useful for the beard as well. It’s overall for people who are into natural cosmetics, who want to have a 0 chemicals ingredients on their skin and hair.
What’s the next step?
We are trying to expand our market, cooperating with platforms like YEAY, where we can get some more fame and to be able to sell online. We want to stay in house for the moment. We don’t want to sell our products to a big scale.
What do you think about Berlin market to open a startup or a business?
N: In Berlin, you see so many startups, there are so many co-working places. It’s really easy to start a business learning from the others – totally for free!
M: People in Berlin are so open. People want to try out new things and test them. People are interested. They like to see ideas growing and be part of them. Berlin is the perfect place for entrepreneurs-mind-sets! In France or Belgium, it would have been so much harder to prove to people that a small brand can be good, even if still brand new. People just trust big companies.
What do you in your free time, while developing this project?
M: We work on this project every day, I have more time because I work on product design and some home decor ones, and all the rest of the time I put it in Maye. Nassim studies law, so she has less time. Since we registered our brand we have less bureaucracy to deal with, but we still have a lot to learn about marketing in PR which is now essential. We are reading a lot about this, watching videos, talking to different people from different businesses and backgrounds.
N: In our free time we travel. We love to cook, make cocktails. We want to make bitters for cocktails as next business.
Interview by Chiara Vilasi