At the corner of a quiet square behind El Gouna’s Marina lies Norshek, a natural beauty product store turned holistic art studio. The sunny, open space smells like a herbal garden, luring visitors with freshly brewed self-serve teas and a big wooden swing.
A well-stacked bookshelf fills the space alongside a series of ethically sourced, cruelty-free, and low-waste products for “hair, body and spirit”. Norshek’s mission is painted on the wall, stating that “only love will heal the world, so our vow to you is love”.
Based on respect for humans, animals, and the environment, Norshek aims to create a community that pioneers sustainable and creative living in Egypt.
Norshek Fawzy, entrepreneur and mother of two, first got into making her own body products when she was pregnant in 2012.
“I got paranoid about using chemical products, so I started making things at home and testing them on my husband,” she laughs. Years later, he suggested turning her creations into a product line, and that was the birth of Norshek’s first range of self-made soaps.
“We wanted to create a family business that aligns with our morals and beliefs”, Norshek explains. “We wanted to raise our children with an example of an ethical business, to prove that you don’t have to step on others to be successful.”
Norshek sells body lotions, for which they “had to sneak into heaven and milk sacred cows” and a mud mask which “If [they] were to be scientific while naming this mask based on the effect it has on your face, [they] would have called it ‘baby butt face’”.
Discovering the store’s range of products is a joyful adventure through smell and creative imagery.
“We don’t just have a store,” says Norshek smiling. “We share a space, we offer an experience. Whenever we have a new product, we assemble our friends and co-workers, tell them the product’s function, and host a competition of who comes up with the funniest description.”
Togetherness & ‘Happymess’
As part of their vow to spread love, Norshek engages in community and social development programmes. Following a spirit of collaboration and coexistence, they offer their space to like-minded artists and brands, and participate in initiatives that clean the environment or work towards women’s empowerment.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many women whose income depended on tourism struggled to pay their rent and even buy groceries. Norshek created the Togetherness initiative, to support “homebound individuals who need to make extra income on the side by co-creating and selling their handmade products.”
Women from Gouna, Marsa Alam, and Siwa sell their custom made bracelets through Norshek. The vision of the initiative is to move beyond jewellery and explore different ways of empowering women through arts and crafts.
“Happymess” is when the store turns into an art studio and workshop space, “engaging the community, encouraging collaborations, and celebrating differences.” In organising book readings and film screenings, Norshek nurtures a community that strives for the brand’s main pillars: love and sustainability. Artists that use the space range from sculptors to costume designers to painters, often merging their craft with Norshek’s product design.
The Seastain and the CO-Lab
“All our products are plastic-free, but they still need to be improved,” Norshek says, asserting that much more can be done to reduce the carbon footprint of their work. They currently use sugar-cane bottles, but that is just a pit-stop towards more innovative solutions towards conscious consumption.
The Seastain Lab is Norshek’s in-house lab, led by an environmental officer who works on providing eco-solutions for their own problems as well as those of others. In Egypt, sourcing eco-friendly materials is the biggest obstacle to a climate conscious business. Norshek tests most materials in their lab, which is expensive and limiting.
Apart from experimenting with materials on their own, they also nurture the CO-Lab by joining forces with like-minded local brands. With VeryNile, they co-designed gift boxes and dedicate a percentage of their revenue to cleaning the Nile on a daily basis. In total, this campaign funded the cleaning of approximately 430 kilos of plastic.
Norshek works on similar campaigns for women’s empowerment, most recently to raise awareness of breast cancer treatment. Six female artists came together to create a gift bag which funds mammograms and ultrasounds for women with breast cancer.
Norshek has big dreams for her brand. When talking about her journey towards sustainability, she is careful to assert that creating an ethical business is a process of trial and error, and that “the seeds that you plant in the beginning grow with you.”
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