Hollister native Emaan “Amy” Abbass has made a name for herself in the business world.
At just 35 years old, she has found global success after launching her feminine wellness brand Ketish in the Middle East this year. Over the past several months she has been featured in magazines including Forbes, Vogue Arabia, and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.
Amy’s father, Hamdy, however, doesn’t care about the high-profile magazines she’s been featured in; he wants San Benito County to know of her successes.
“He doesn’t give a sh*t about Forbes,” she laughed. “He wanted me to be in BenitoLink.”
Amy spent three years working on Ketish with the help of Huda Kattan, founder of Huda Beauty Angels and HB Investments. According to the Ketish website, the name Ketish “was derived from ‘QETESH,’ the ancient Egyptian goddess of sexuality and pleasure. A woman unapologetically free of shame, free of guilt and free to love herself.”
The main mission of Ketish, Amy said, was to remove the shame and stigma that exists around feminine and sexual wellness.
“I wanted to create a brand that was bold and empowering, and something that women could use and didn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed about,” she said.
The first product from the Ketish line is the Quickie. The website says the Quickie wipe’s “skin conditioning and naturally deodorizing properties [make it] perfect for refreshing and cleansing all over the body.” Amy has described it as “a pre-play intimate sheet.”
Making it Ketish’s first product reflected careful planning, Amy said, as it is a less intimidating product for feminine wellness.
“We thought if we launched with too much, there would be too much noise,” she said. “Especially launching in the Middle East—we have to kind of inch our way into that space, which we eventually will.”
Amy also had to inch her way into introducing Ketish to her parents. She knew she would need to discuss how, and why, her brand came to fruition.
Born to Egyptian immigrants Hamdy and Magda Abbass, Amy and her older sister Heidi were raised in Hollister since they were toddlers.
Like many Hollister natives, Amy sought a life outside the complacency of Hollister.
“Growing up in Hollister was not something I was excited about,” Amy said. “I actually wanted to be a news broadcaster. I thought I was going to be the next Oprah. I was convinced.”
Amy attended Cerra Vista Elementary School, played the clarinet while attending Rancho San Justo Middle School and was part of the water polo team at San Benito High School.
After graduating San Benito High School in 2004, she received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with a minor in Global Peace and Security, from UC-Santa Barbara in 2009. She worked briefly for Target in its management training program and received her masters degree in Executive Management from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. Soon after, a friend told her Sephora was seeking employees in product development in San Francisco.
Amy never saw herself making a career out of beauty or skin care, although she was passionate about the two, and learned more by working at Sephora. While visiting family in Dubai five years ago, Amy had the opportunity to meet with one of her beauty idols: Huda Kattan.
“I met her, and I totally wanted to be a part of her team and the magic she was creating with her brand,” Amy said. “I asked her for a job, and she offered me a job to be a product developer. It changed my life.”
In October 2016, Amy moved to Dubai to begin working for Sephora.
By 2018, she was working on Ketish: a brand that would soon find her revealing a decade-long secret to her family.
Family and cancer
“For a long time, I struggled with trying to understand what my passion was and what I wanted to do,” Amy said. “I would always say, ‘I don’t know what it is, but all I know is that I want to help people.’”
Being brought up in a conservative Egyptian family led her to want to end the stigma of feminine wellness for women around the world.
“We largely don’t talk about it until we’re approaching marriage,” she said of her culture. “Like literally on the wedding night is when your mom sits you down and tells you what might happen.”
To publicize Ketish and discuss why she started it, Amy had to reveal a secret to the world—including her parents: she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 21 years old.
She had contracted human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. “The relationship that I had with my parents—well, they were really strict,” she said. “I had felt really ashamed and embarrassed.”
Amy is now cancer-free, but lives with some physical or emotional scarring.
“I told my mom about two years ago,” she said. “I think that’s when it started to really sink in. The same with my dad, I told him about a year and half ago. Over Zoom because we were in COVID! Which I think was tough for both of them.”
Magda said it was not only hard to learn her daughter had cancer, but that Amy chose to keep it from her.
“I think Amy felt she would shame us or like she let us down,” she said. “And to fail your daughter not to come to you—it was really hard.”
Hamdy said that after speaking with Amy about her cancer, he realized that her youth choices were “part of growing up.”
“We felt bad, like ‘What did we do?’” he said. “We always tried to be open-minded and talk to them and everything. We understand that this was something that she had to do by herself. We’re not upset.”
“They’re so supporting, so loving,” Amy said of her parents. “I think, in retrospect, maybe I would have done it differently. Yeah it was a tough journey, but it is ultimately what drove me to create Ketish.”
Next for Ketish
“We want to break down these barriers, and empower each woman to learn about her body, and do so in a way that feels safe for her,” Amy said. “Because ultimately that’s going to allow her to care for her body in the most powerful way. I think that is our core mission, to open up the conversation, and to educate and empower women.”
Launching Ketish in the Middle East was a significant move, Amy said. Especially because of the region’s conservative beliefs regarding sex and feminine wellness.
“I recently went to Paris to present at a press day—it is a bit taboo in Europe, as well. We’re one of the first feminine wellness brands that Sephora has brought into their product assortment. And people are talking, regardless. Whether they’re supportive of it or if they’re still unsure, at least we’re opening their minds up to it. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
Amy has more products in the works for Ketish—“products that are really intended for women to become more attuned with their bodies,” she said. “And then eventually we will also launch pleasure-focused products.”
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