Small Business Profile: Leah Kirpalani, Owner of Shop Good - San Diego
Hi Leah! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm Leah! I'm a fashion merchandiser-turned-wellness guru and natural product junkie. I grew up and went to college in Arizona, where I discovered my strong passion for retail, marketing and product. I then spent my 20's in San Francisco, where I started my career, met some of my best friends and my amazing husband, and worked to heal my body from a chronic illness. Now, I own a natural beauty + wellness boutique called Shop Good, located in San Diego, California. We offer a refined and curated selection of natural beauty, skincare and lifestyle products ranging from nontoxic red lipstick to organic tampons and toothpaste. I'm also the wellness guru that will tell you it's actually ok to indulge, and I enjoy a nice big glass of red wine after my busy workdays at the shop!
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I've worked in retail for 16 years, beginning with my very first job at age 16 with a tween clothing boutique in Chandler, Arizona, and then worked with Nordstrom for many years thereafter — if only I could count the amount of jeans and t-shirts I've folded in my life! I earned my Bachelor of Science in Retailing and Consumer Science with a Minor in Business and Consumer Studies from the University of Arizona, and post college, I continued to seek a career in fashion retailing and joined the Retail Management Program with Gap Inc. in San Francisco. This rotational program allowed me to gain a depth and breadth of experience in inventory management, production and merchandising, and I spent the next 7 years of my career working in merchandising for Old Navy brand. I even had the opportunity to help launch Old Navy into the Chinese market!
What led you to begin Good Life?
Good Life was inspired by my personal process of navigating through my eight-year chronic health journey. Figuring out my health issues and ultimately healing them was an incredibly slow and bumpy process, especially while trying to keep up with my fast-paced life in the big city. There was a ton of trial, error and tears, and it took a long time to solve the puzzle. And as I began to realize that I was reading more wellness articles than fashion, I knew I had discovered my new calling: to create a platform and space to share what I wish I knew back then that I know now so that I could help prevent other women from going through what I had experienced.
Good Life initially launched as a health coaching company, supporting women in fitting self-care and healthy living into their busy lives with ease. A big part of my message to the modern woman is around the products we choose to use on an everyday basis. Through my health journey, I realized the power natural beauty and personal care products have to heal and nourish, and, inversely, the harm toxic products can have on our long-term health. I not only wanted to share this pertinent information, but create a hub where women could access these products easily and without overwhelm. This is what motivated me to launch Shop Good, first online and now, a brick and mortar store.
As someone who had trouble with their health, do you have any advice/tips for people who are struggling and are looking for an answer?
One of my favorite things about being in Shop Good each day are the conversations I get to have with our customers. So many women who visit us have their own healing journeys and stories, and I'm so honored to be able to provide advice, whether it be a mindfulness practice or a natural skincare product that made a difference in healing my inflamed skin. My key advice for those that are struggling to finding answers to their health puzzle is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. 'She' almost always has the answers that no doctor, healer, or practitioner will have. This was a big ah-ha for me, as I saw countless doctors to find answers. Dead end after dead end, I took my health into my own hands and really turned within and listened to what my body was asking for. My own best practitioner was my gut intuition, and following my gut gave me the courage to make some pretty big changes in my diet, lifestyle, and products.
When did you decide to leave your corporate career and create something of your own?
I left Gap at the end of 2014. However, at the beginning of that same year, without the foresight of leaving to pursue a career in wellness, I actually had enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition with the sole purpose of learning more about holistic health for my personal health issues. Luckily, this training and education provided me a direct bridge into my next career. Once I finished my training with IIN in February of 2015, I immediately worked on launching my own company and setting up the business entity, marketing materials and business plan.
You recently opened a brick and mortar shop as well! When you began this journey, did you anticipate having a physical shop?
This was also a very unexpected next chapter, but has turned out to be one that I cannot imagine not stepping into now. The year prior to opening the physical brick-and-mortar, I was working tirelessly on growing the digital brand and the e-commerce platform. But as I delved deep into the business plan and held focus groups, there was a piece that seemed to be missing. Thank goodness for my talented friend Lauren, who is also a Glossary babe and owner of Local Nomad Boutique! She thankfully woke me up to the idea of opening a boutique of my own and turning our online offering and branding into a physical space. We both knew beauty products were so hard to shop for online, and I realized that San Diego was without a hub to shop for healing products in a fresh and modern environment. I'm grateful to have built our brand awareness and following prior to opening, as the most rewarding part of my job is meeting women face-to-face who have been following our journey for years! I'm also grateful to have come full circle back to retail! It feels so natural based on my years spent on the sale floor.
How do you decide what items to carry in the shop?
My number one filter is quality and cleanliness of ingredients. Our commitment to our customer is to fully research and vet the ingredients of each product that hits our shelves to make sure it is healing and not harmful. Effectiveness is just as important. At the end of the day, the product has to be results-oriented. Just because you choose a natural foundation doesn't mean it should wear off by noon! Packaging is increasingly important as well. We want the product to stand out on our shelves and meet the aesthetic of our brand. Finally, I like to pay attention to whether or not the brand is doing something new and different. It’s a really exciting time for natural products, and I love to see all the creativity and ingenuity being put into the products available. I try to ask myself, "what is the brand doing to bring something new and unique to our customer’s makeup bag?"
What are some brands that you are excited about that we should know of?
Oh goodness, my favorite question! One of the brands we at Shop Good are so passionate about is Botnia Skincare. Botnia is a San Francisco-based brand created by founder (and my business mentor!) Justine Kahn. She built the line in the treatment room while working as an esthetician, realizing that the products she was using were doing more harm to her clients than good. She worked side-by-side with a Stanford scientist to create an incredibly potent, results-oriented skincare line that has proven to be a game-changer for our customers' skin. She even grows the majority of her ingredients in her backyard organic garden! All of this is why we chose Botnia as our back bar for our in-shop treatment room. Our in-house holistic esthetician uses Botnia for our customized facials — she mixes each facial live while treating our clients based on their unique skincare needs. It’s unlike anything offered in San Diego! We're also in love with our brands RMS, Innersence Hair Care, Wildcare, H is for Love, Alima Pure, Urb Apothecary and Sigil Scent, just to name a few.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
New, undiscovered indie beauty brands. I could spend hours on Instagram, falling into a deep dark hole, only to come out having discovered the most incredible early-stage new skincare line. Connecting and interacting with brands like these is what inspires me the most about the clean beauty space. It’s a tight knit community of incredible creatives working to change the world and the health of so many people for the better.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
Instagram is definitely a powerful tool for Shop Good, one that connects me, as the founder, to each and every one of our customers. I love receiving messages and about our products, our mission and the wellness movement in general. It also serves as such a creative outlet for me and I so enjoy using this platform to further inspire women to honor their bodies with natural ingredients and make small and sustainable changes in their lives to start feeling better.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Chronic illness is on the rise. Most of us today know someone dealing with digestive, auto-immune, infertility or hormonal issues, or even unexplainable low energy. We should not have to feel this way! I'm so passionate about spreading knowledge, tools and inspiration so that women feel empowered to make the best decisions for their health, body and life. The possible halo effect here is that future female generations will be able to protect themselves from illness and disease.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced with your business?
A great challenge of mine was going from large corporate retailer in SF (working in teams with lots of like-minded people, being social) to new city and working by myself (rarely changing out of my PJ's). As a true introvert, the idea of working for myself at home excited me at the time, and while in it, I felt totally aligned to the lifestyle I chose. I now look back and realize how lonely it really was. I see how it affected my self-esteem, confidence and respect for myself as well. Now, actually getting dressed every single day and going into the store to spend time with my amazing team and like-minded customers, I have immediately felt like myself again. I think working from home is an awesome opportunity for the right person, but my advice would be to ensure you are scheduling in time for socialization and treating yourself to excursions and frequent meetings out of the house.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I think women are about to completely change the world. Our natural tendencies, innate creativity and how we approach problem solving bring an element into today's business space, marketplace and society that is so desperately needed, especially in the difficult time we live in now. Additionally, my store would for sure not exist without the support from the incredible fellow female entrepreneurs right here in San Diego. The local shop owners, artists creatives that made time to meet me for coffee and give me advice, or helped me raise funds for the build-out of our store... the power of women supporting women is so real.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
The makers of my clean beauty brands inspire me every single day. All I need to do is look around my shop and I recall each of their stories, accomplishments and their drive to bring clean products to women, improving the quality of their lives every day. I also gain so much inspiration from my inner circle of friends. I watched my dear friend Lauren of Local Nomad create her brand and boutique offering from scratch, all while moving to a new city. She fearlessly and unapologetically brought her unique vision to the Phoenix community and it has been incredibly well received. Receiving her encouragement and watching her inspire her own customers every day gives me so much motivation.
What tools or resources have been most helpful for you in creating your business?
Instagram has been our main tool for communicating and engaging with our audience. I would say roughly 1 of every 3 customers that walk into our store has seen us on Instagram before they decide to visit. Additionally, tools like Quickbooks Online and Asana keep me organized and on top of my to-do lists and finances.
How do you manage your time?
I love using Asana as a scheduler, project manager and task reminder. If a task isn't in Asana, it's likely not happening!
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
For me, these moments are best described as 'feel the fear and do it anyway' moments. I always look at fear as simply a cue that I am growing and strengthening a skill I may not have had before. I try my best to acknowledge the fear, send love to myself and then continue to move forward. If we are never fearful, it may mean we are never pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and thus, not growing. I hope my job continues to challenge me daily and help me to continuously develop into a stronger businesswoman, manager and leader.
What are some of your favorite places in San Diego?
On the weekdays, I'm picking up my shop florals at Native Poppy, sneaking in a half-caf iced Americano at Holsem Coffee or ordering takeout from Cafe Gratitude on a busy night. On the weekends, my husband and I love taking walks through North Park with our dog, Franklin, stopping for a drink somewhere outdoors (like Panama 66 or Trust), and ending up with Tribute pizza on our couch at the end of the night. Their pies are made with local, sustainable produce and are just heavenly.