On Immigrating From Palestine and Building A Billion Dollar Company

Published: July 31st, 2019
Dr. Farouk Shami
Farouk Systems, Inc.
from Houston, Texas, USA
started July 2019
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My heritage begins as an immigrant and son of a Sheikh and Chief of the olive farmers in Palestine where I grew up exposed to the trials and tribulations of war. I migrated to the US with only $71.00 in my pocket.

My career path of hairdressing resulted in illness from the harmful effects of ammonia which led me to create the first ammonia-free hair color. Known for many firsts, I went on to create award winning hair care and styling tools (including 23 patents) that have revolutionized the beauty industry.

Today, my company Farouk Systems, Inc. is in over 144 countries with over a billion dollars in sales. My passion for being an American success story has resulted in humanitarian efforts and a recent appointment as Special Representative and Adviser for International Affairs for the NDUF (National Defense University Foundation) and a frequent speaker on leadership at Harvard University.

I was also presented the first Doctor of Beauty Arts by SeoKyeong University in Korea. This prestigious honor was bestowed upon me for my vast achievements and outstanding contributions to the beauty industry throughout my 30 year career.

I started my company in 1986. Building on years of success with Sunglitz®, I continued to create hair care that would be used by women all over the world such as BioSilk® and later the beauty staple, BioSilk Silk Therapy®. Through continued innovation and Advanced American Technology, I introduced the world-famous CHI® line of products and tools which further revolutionized the industry.


What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?

My mother was a very creative woman who was reflected in her striking embroideries and woven baskets. It was here that I learned how to make natural dyes along with inheriting her love of nature and beauty.

Combining all that I learned from my parents, I knew that my love of color and artistry was my destiny.

I proudly obtained my 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, I decided to move from Lafayette, Louisiana to Houston, Texas; forced to leave an industry I loved so much due to severe health issues caused by the ammonia found in hair color. After much suffering, I was diagnosed with an allergic reaction to ammonia, the very chemicals that made my career possible. It was here doctors told me to quit. However, I was not a quitter. My love for color and hair was just too strong. Instead, I decided to fight not only for myself but for the safety of other stylists.

After many tests and trials, the world’s first “ammonia-free” hair color was created; a brand I called, Sunglitz®. This passion and perseverance drove me to develop a safer product not just for hairdressers but for their clients.

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 my salon and clientele, I took another career path starting Farouk Systems, Inc. in 1986. Building on years of success with Sunglitz®, I continued to create more products and tools under the BioSilk® and CHI® lines. Farouk Systems now has more than 2,500 employees and product distribution in over 144 countries worldwide.


How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I am currently working on a color machine with my LG Household & Healthcare partnership. Together, CHI and LG H&H have been trailblazing new color technologies that have been in research for two years and will take the guesswork out of hair color. It will revolutionize the professional salon industry and help colorists around the world create the ideal formulations.

I continue to serve as the National DefenseUniversity (NDU) Special Representative and Adviser for International Affairs. It has been a pleasure to serve the Nation Defense University (NDU) Foundation as a Board Member for the past 8 years. I have dedication and generously supported the NDU Foundation to enhance the goals for all graduates and especially for the International Fellows.

While education and my background has positioned me into this role, I hold dedication and commitment to my employees and the future of the company a priority. My plans include building new partnerships, creating new Advanced American Technology and growing the future of cosmetology students and schools.


What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Farouk Systems, Inc. has distribution in over 144 countries world-wide. In the United States we are part of Cosmoprof, Ulta Beauty, JC Penney, CHI.com, Biosilk.com and many other retailers.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The world itself is my teacher. Meeting people, listening to them and paying attention to everything around you can provide you with ideas, knowledge and experience.

I actually wrote a book about my life in hopes of inspiring others to overcome hurdles that we each endure. It is my story of loving this country and how fortunate we all are to be American. It is called American by Choice.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Never stop. If you stop, you don’t have the passion. And, if you don’t have passion, you will never grow.

Listen to others and observe the world around you. Inspiration comes from both and has never failed me.

Mistakes do not indicate failure as long as you learn from it. I never let anything hold me back and view it as education on what not to do next time.

Where can we go to learn more?