Woman Entrepreneur Pushes the Boundaries of Clean Beauty and Wellness
Leah Kirpalani was riding high after graduating from college. She had completed a bucket-list tour of Europe and settled into a dream job as a fashion merchandiser for a large national brand in the Bay Area.
Then for reasons she didn’t understand, her health began to deteriorate. She felt sick every day. She gained weight. Her face became puffy, her acne worsened, her hair became brittle and fell out in chunks. Her eyes burned, muscles ached and her skin constantly tingled. Countless doctor visits revealed zero answers.
Journey to Health and a Second Location
Leah Kirpalani Shop Good
“It was very frustrating,” Leah confided. “Doctors told me I was fine and yet I was feeling the opposite.”
Determined to find her own solutions, Leah immersed herself in health and wellness blogs and learned about holistic living. Little did Leah know then that her struggles and discoveries would eventually put her on a path to an extraordinary entrepreneurial journey that continues to pay dividends in good health and success.
“The more research I did into my symptoms, the more ‘aha!’ moments I had,” she recalled. “I learned that 65 percent of what we brush, dab, wipe and scrub onto our bodies gets absorbed. I discovered that most of the products I was using contained potentially harmful ingredients. With daily application, the exposure adds up.”
“Aha” Moments Lead to New Entrepreneurial Direction
Leah plunged into the world of clean living. In addition to paying more attention to the foods she ate, she focused on her mindset and incorporated meditation and breathing exercises. And she swapped out all her makeup and skincare products for others with more natural ingredients. Her body soon began to heal itself and symptoms slowly began to improve.
“It took me eight long years to crack the code to my chronic health issues,” she said. “Now my mission is to share with others what I wish I knew back then and educate them about ways to live healthier lives without feeling limited or restricted.”
Motivated by her new-found way of living, Leah left her corporate job and launched her own business as a certified holistic health coach. Her approach to “all things good” and clean living gained traction and soon evolved first into an e-commerce shop and then a North Park cosmetics and skincare boutique and spa called Shop Good, which opened in 2017.
Shop Good’s commitment to clean, safe products quickly attracted a loyal following. Leah was able to hire additional holistic estheticians and product experts to serve a growing number of customers. Her success caught the attention of developers of a new, high-end shopping center in Del Mar, CA – One Paseo – that were looking for neighborhood retail gems to add to their shop mix.
“We had no active plans to open a second shop, but it made sense to create a convenient location for our North San Diego County customers,” Leah said.
Mission-based Lending Says Yes to Small Business Expansion
To transform the empty shell the developers provided into another aspirational Shop Good store required upfront capital, so Leah, true to her calling, went shopping, this time for a small business loan. She met with multiple banks, but was promptly turned down by all of them. It turns out that conventional lenders, more often than not, classify retail beauty spas as higher-risk investments.
Disappointed but determined, Leah turned to a business friend for advice and got a tip to call CDC Small Business Finance, a mission-based, small business lender. After a thorough analysis, Shop Good was approved for an SBA Community Advantage loan upwards of $200,000.
“The people at CDC Small Business Finance made all the difference,” Leah said. “They listened and believed in our business and what we were trying to achieve in the community.”
Assuming that in short order she would have cash in hand, Leah signed the lease with One Paseo and selected a contractor to build out the new space. Unfortunately, in a rare occurrence, the federal government temporarily shut down for a few weeks slowing progress on the funding of her loan.
“It was a stressful time, but that’s when the CDC team showed their true colors,” recalled Leah.
Going the Extra Mile to Ensure Success
Brad Roberson, a CDC Small Business Finance relationship manager, made sure Leah’s loan continued to move forward as planned through the funding pipeline.
“Brad and everyone at CDC were so supportive,” Leah said. “Brad even came to our grand opening in 2019. That kind of relational investment is rare and irreplaceable.”
"That kind of relational investment is rare and irreplaceable.”
A year after opening her new store, Leah was thrown a curveball: the Covid 19 pandemic. Once again, she turned to CDC Small Business Finance for assistance. She applied for and was granted an SBA Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan, which allowed her to retain all her employees and ride out the Covid 19 storm. To give Shop Good additional visibility during the economic downturn, CDC Small Business Finance featured Shop Good in its annual gift-giving guides, helping Leah generate needed income.
Shop Good enjoys a solid, loyal clientele, offering a wide array of non-toxic beauty products, all-natural skincare, wellness ingestibles and spa services. Leah vets every brand for full transparency on ingredients used. And she’s doubled down on “clean” in terms of the environment, deploying a beauty product container recycling program. Customers earn $1 of Shop Good credit for every full-size empty they bring in.
Leah’s entrepreneurial adventures have been featured in national and local media. One magazine may have characterized Leah’s retail pride and joy the best when it wrote that Shop Good-One Paseo is “worthy of a standing ovation.” Bravo Leah!