Issaquah’s Morgan Cosmetics named Small Business Exporter of the Year

Skin and hair care company that started in Bachir Abba’s kitchen is now a thriving international success.

The owner of Morgan Cosmetics in Issaquah, Bachir Abba, was recently awarded the 2024 Small Business Exporter of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Beating out district winners from several neighboring states, Abba was also awarded the Pacific Northwest Region Exporter of the Year, making the top 10 finalists for the SBA National Exporter of the Year award.

Abba, who grew up in Morocco sharing a one-room house with his mother and five siblings, is now being recognized not only for the success of his small business — with 85% of products sold to numerous countries in four continents — but also for his leadership efforts.

“It means a lot, you know, that the SBA recognized us, and we love to help small communities and create jobs, especially in Washington,” Abba said when explaining the significance of the SBA awards.

Morgan Cosmetics, established in 2012 while Abba was earning his master’s degree in international marketing from Goldey-Beacom College in Delaware, specializes in natural skin and hair care products.

“My professor was always pushing me to do my own business, and at that time I was trying to build my career through banking or anything,” Abba said. “Then finally, I said, ‘Okay, fine. Okay, let’s do it.’”

With influence from his professor and inspiration from his wife, Abba began his business with a few gallons of pure Moroccan argan oil sent by his family and bottled and packaged in his kitchen.

At first, “everything came wrong, labels came pink, and all that stuff,” Abba recalled.

In 2015, Abba moved his company from Delaware to Issaquah after discovering a saturated interest in organic skincare products in Washington, Oregon and California.

Although there was a booming market for his products, he encountered challenges getting his products on the shelves of major retailers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and PCC.

Some companies were unable to source new products, and others required expensive upfront costs of up to $15,000 to put a product into the catalog, Abba said.

Facing these challenges, Abba decided to pursue a business analyst certificate from the University of Washington. It was there that Abba became interested in exporting.

“When we learned that 95% of the world’s consumers live outside of the U.S., we became excited to showcase our products worldwide,” Abba told the SBA in an April interview.

With the help of a fellow student who previously attended the University of Tokyo, Morgan Cosmetics products successfully entered the Japanese market within two years, marking the beginning of Abba’s exporting success.

With funding from the SBA State Trade Expansion Program and Washington State Department of Commerce grants, Abba attended several international trade shows in South Korea, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Germany.

Available in nearly 10 countries, including Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Morgan Cosmetics is determined to continue its expansion, with plans to broaden its market presence in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Europe, Germany, Peru, Colombia, Chile and Mexico.

Since the early tribulations with large retailers, Morgan Cosmetics has become available on Walmart’s Canada and United States online platforms — but Abba still has his sights set on putting products on shelves.

‘’It’s another big potential for us, especially to go to Walmart stores,” he said.

Beyond growing the Morgan Cosmetics brand, its raw material has caught traction from multibillion-dollar companies — such as The Honest Company, owned by Jessica Alba — due to its rigorous testing standards.

“We’re the only company that does microbiological testing for the argan,” he said. “So when we do a production for, say 10,000 liters … we check for bacteria, mold, yeast, water activity, make sure all the quality’s good. Then we’ll ship it to their facility.”

From the first batch of products in Abba’s kitchen with pink labels to growing a widely successful small business, the beauty founder often reaches out a helping hand to guide small businesses through the challenges of getting into different markets and product registration.

Abba has also helped connect other small businesses with distribution opportunities by fusing relationships with large partners from places, such as the Middle East, which have a large market for beauty products.

“If there are any beauty companies in Washington…or the Pacific Northwest, I would like to help them explore the global market, too,” he said.

Go to Morgan Cosmetics’ website to learn more about the company and its products.