From Immigrant to an Owner of a Billion Dollar Hair Care Company
Dr. Farouk Shami, Founder and Chairman of Farouk Systems, Inc. a company that manufactures and distributes high quality professional hair care products, including industry-leading brands CHI® and BioSilk® in over 150 countries joins Enterprise Radio.
Listen to host Eric Dye & guest Dr. Farouk Shami discuss the following:
- Being an immigrant and a hairdresser, how did this help you build a billion-dollar company?
- How have you used your success to help others?
- You own 23 patents, where do your ideas for new ingredients, technology and products come from?
- You are in over 150 countries world-wide, what advice would you give to someone branching out internationally?
- You recently partnered with LG Household and Healthcare and purchased a company in Germany called Red Deer. How do you see these companies advancing the beauty industry?
The History of Dr. Farouk Shami
In 1986, Dr. Farouk Shami founded Farouk Systems, Inc. He defied the odds by creating the world’s first ammonia-free hair color, finally making a safer work environment for stylists, customers, and the environment. Farouk also developed a system to triple process hair in one setting; something that had never been accomplished before in the professional hair industry. Yet, these are just some of the many firsts achieved by a true legend; a man stylists and consumers lovingly call “The CHI Man”. His trademark of wearing of “red boots” has not only become a part of his persona but something that brings a smile to all he comes in contact with. His journey reveals the true meaning of artistry and a passion for life. Today, all of this vibrancy paints a picture that is Dr. Farouk Shami.
Farouk Shami: A Man of Many Colors
Dr. Farouk Shami’s legacy begins with many colors. You can see it in the red, white and blue of his American Dream. You can find it in the rich tapestry surrounding his heritage and his undeniable passion for the color wheel.
As the son of a Sheikh and Chief of the olive farmers in Palestine, Farouk Shami was born in mid-October 1942. He grew up exposed to the trials and tribulations of war while learning from his father the meaning of hard work and sacrifice. Through this, he also learned the tales of hope about America. His mother, Jamilah which means “beautiful” in Arabic, lived up to her name in every way. When his father was away fighting for liberation, she took on the role of both mother and father to Farouk and his siblings. She was a very creative woman which was reflected in her striking embroideries and woven baskets. It was here that Farouk learned how to make natural dyes along with inheriting her love of nature and beauty.
When it became time for Farouk to leave his homeland, he traveled from Palestine to the United States on April 1, 1965 with only $71.00 in his pocket. Combining all that he learned from his parents, he knew that his love of color and artistry was his destiny. He proudly obtained his cosmetology license in 1966 and began working in a salon. This would be just the beginning of a career that would significantly impact the professional hair industry and the world.
In 1978, Farouk decided to move from Lafayette, Louisiana to Houston, Texas; forced to leave an industry he loved so much due to severe health issues caused by the ammonia found in hair color. After much suffering, Farouk was diagnosed with an allergic reaction to ammonia, the very chemicals that made his career possible. It was here doctors told him to quit. However, Farouk was not a quitter. His love for color and hair was just too strong. Instead, he decided to fight not only for himself but for the safety of other stylists.
Tests and trials later, the world’s first “ammonia-free” hair color was created; a brand Farouk called, Sunglitz®. This passion and perseverance drove him to develop a safer product not just for hairdressers but for the clients in their chairs.
1981 was the year Farouk entered into a partnership with his first Texas salon called, Le Salon. Here, he thrived as an owner, stylist and colorist, embarking upon yet another point in his life story: scientist and product developer. This mission to create safer and environmentally friendly hair care products led to the beginning of his accomplishments in Texas.
After years of growing the salon and his clientele, Farouk took his career to the next phase by starting Farouk Systems, Inc. in 1986. Building on years of success with Sunglitz®, Farouk continued his need for modern styling creating a new wet line known as BioSilk® and later the beauty staple, Silk Therapy®. Through continued innovation and Advanced American Technology, Farouk introduced the world-famous CHI® line of products and tools which further revolutionized the industry. Farouk Systems now has more than 2,000 employees and product distribution in over 150 countries worldwide.
Inspired by his research in ophthalmology and the physiology of color, Farouk realized sunlight is not one color, but a mix of red, yellow, orange, blue, green, and violet. When hair is exposed to the sun, it lightens natural hair color by reducing and neutralizing the natural pigment. The results achieved due to the sun’s action, depend on the natural pigment in the hair and the amount of sun to which the hair is exposed.
In order to recreate this natural lightening process, Farouk spent endless hours of development by first replacing harmful silica powder with rice powder and by adding olive oil when mixing bleaches to reduce toxic dust. Before his innovation, clients were exposed to gases from ammonia bleach with every lightning treatment. Next, Farouk discovered how colors could cancel each other out to create a white light and that violet neutralized yellow and blue neutralized orange. Based on his development efforts, Farouk Shami successfully changed the industry’s bleaching process when he developed and launched Sunglitz® a system that lightens and brightens hair using non-oxidizing pigments.
BioSilk Silk Therapy, formerly known as Repair and Shine, is a wet line infused with natural silk to hydrate, replenish and repair the hair. BioSilk Silk Therapy contains 17 amino acids out of the 22 that naturally occur in hair. This innovative leave in treatment for hair led to the development of BioSilk Hair Color: a line that is also an ammonia-free product containing the highest grades of dyes and organic pigments with an oil base for smooth artistic application.
BioSilk continues to be one of the company’s strongest brands with new lines launched in 2013 such as the BioSilk Volumizing, BioSilk Color Therapy, and BioSilk Hydrating lines providing consumers with products that leave hair feeling silky and smooth.
In 1997, Farouk Shami discovered the benefits of ceramic heat while on a trip to Italy. It was here that he learned how a pizza crust stayed moist when baked using ceramic heat and how it should be able to do the same for hair. After returning from his trip, he went to the drawing board and introduced the industry’s first CHI Ceramic Flat Iron.
The CHI brand has continued to grow and expand since this original model. Dr. Shami has engaged the science and knowledge of NASA to develop tools with Nano Technology. And, recently partnered with LG Household and Healthcare plus the purchase of a company in Germany called Red Deer (barbering tools). In order to bring more organic products to market, Dr. Shami has been growing his own aloe, nettle and olive oil. The brand is also known worldwide for being a pioneer in bridging both beauty and technology with the launch of tools like the CHI Touch (the first touch screen hair dryer), the ARC (a self-rotating curling iron) and the CHI Lava Spin n Curl to name a few. In addition to these tools, CHI also has its own ammonia-free color line along with a well-established wet line to support and strengthen the hair.
As Farouk likes to say, “I was born in Palestine, but I was made in the USA.” Farouk has made enormous strides manufacturing products that are safe for the environment and for the people that use them. Sam Lapin may be called the “Father of Color,” but Shami has become the “Father of Environmental Beauty”.
Farouk is a leader, humanitarian and spokesperson for people’s rights. He is a frontrunner globally in the beauty industry that loves sharing his knowledge and expertise with others. He fulfils this love of sharing by contributing and promoting his educational skills to his students at the CHI School of Cosmetology in Houston, TX plus over 500 partner schools across the country. Farouk’s goal is to impact the growth and development of future hairstylists as well as influencing their lives globally with his Advanced American Technology and passion for hair.
In addition to his humanitarian efforts, he serves on the board of many organizations including the NDUF (National Defense University Foundation) and is a frequent speaker on leadership at Harvard University. His many awards include: The Palestinian Diaspora Award, The International Salon/Spa Business Network (ISBN) Legend Award, Apollo Green Award, Beautymaker Award (BMA) & BMA’s First World Humanitarian, Arab American Businessman of the Year and the 2003 Ameristar Award to name a few.
Recently, he was presented the first Doctor of Beauty Arts by SeoKyeong University in Korea. This prestigious honor was bestowed upon him for his vast achievements and outstanding contributions to the beauty industry throughout his 30-year career. Plus, the Center for Arab American Philanthropy (CAAP) honored Dr. Farouk Shami, with their first ever “Outstanding Arab American Philanthropist Award”. They recognized his charitable endeavors globally as well as a successful businessman and innovator. This past spring, he was appointed National Defense University Foundation’s Special Representative and Adviser for International Affairs. Dr. Farouk Shami has tirelessly given to hairdressers in need whenever a natural disaster has occurred. He has helped to build schools for education and manufacturing plants to help those in need of a career or simply a job. He stands as a leader in protecting the environment, holding true to strong ethics.
Success happens when you dedicate yourself to be the best in your work to accomplish your goals. If you ask Farouk about how to plan your future he would say, “I think it is what your heart tells you to do that matters and, when your mind and heart work together, you complete a circle that satisfies your mind and your emotions. This is true happiness and that is how I have to live my life.”
Today and the Future
With Dr. Farouk Shami publishing his book, “American by Choice”, he documented his life, his contributions and legacy closing the many of the chapters of his life. Today, he still runs the company devoting much of his time and knowledge working closely with the chemists to develop and test the next phase of advancements.
“We are a family-owned and operated company. If you do business with us, you are now part of our extended family”.
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