With her own organic and Halal-certified skincare range, Mah has helped UK-based companies export to countries beyond Europe.
Dr Mah Hussain-Gambles studied pharmacology at Sunderland University before moving to the University of Leeds where she gained a Master's degree in health service research and a PhD in clinical trials.
“When I fell pregnant with twins, I realised that, even though my job in academia was going really well, the salary was not enough to put the twins in a crèche, so I decided to take a career break and pursue my hobby: making natural cosmetics, using old remedies and traditional ingredients.”
Her hobby soon turned into a cottage industry. Her products helped friends with skin conditions and, as they spread the word, Mah started a new entrepreneurial career, setting up her first business.
She founded and directed Saaf Pure Skincare, the world's first known organic and Halal certified skincare range (alcohol and animal free and thus permissible and lawful under Shariah or Islamic law) delivered in accordance with an eco-ethical business model.
“My professional background in pharmacology combined with my commercial experience in the chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturing industry has equipped me with the key skills required to create an award winning and innovative skincare range.”
Her early training as a formulation and product development chemist for leading pharmaceutical companies gave her in-depth expertise in innovative product development and branding.
Mah is recognised as a pioneer in applying chemistry to the Halal world, one of the fastest growing market segments in the world. She has travelled extensively, speaking at international Halal conferences and engaging with scientists from around to the world, culminating in her development of the first Halal standard for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry.
“I worked with international NGOs and Malaysian government agencies to improve on their local Halal cosmetics and pharmaceuticals standards and ended up creating a not-for-profit Halal accreditation organisation in 2006, specialising in chemical and personal care related products.”
Applying chemistry to the Halal industry, the organisation helped UK based companies export to Muslim countries by making their products Halal compliant.
Awards and prizes
In 2007, Mah was one of the winners of the BT Business 'Essence of the Entrepreneur Award'. She was also awarded the British Female Innovator of the Year Award at the British Female Inventors and Innovators Network Event in June 2009.
In March 2009, Mah was listed in Real Business Britain's 100 Most Entrepreneurial Women.
Mah received an MBE in 2010, and in the same year she was one of three European finalists for Cartier Women's Initiative Awards and was recognised by President Obama at his presidential summit on entrepreneurship.
Recently, Mah went back to her roots in the pharmaceutical industry and now works as a project manager for Reckitt Benckiser in Hull.
Words by Holly Salisbury
Images courtesy of Mah Hussain-Gambles
Published May 2013