I never set out to have a company – LeiLani Kopp

LeiLani Kopp, Founder and Creative Director of Sweet LeiLani shares the role that Mentors and other supporters have had on her and her business.

LeiLani opens in sharing that she never set out to have a company. She had been working for years in film and TV as a Hair and Makeup Designer. During this time LeiLani had also trained as a Paramedical Makeup and Tattoo Specialist in Canada and came to realize that makeup on the market was full of chemicals, and she need better beauty products.

Twelve years ago, after researching ingredients, LeiLani came up with her first product, a skin care cover. This was largely used with the Burn/Trauma Unit, cancer patients and by dermatologists.  Through her volunteer work, many surgeons were referring patients with so many skin issues, that LeiLani soon realized she needed more products and from there created a full line of Cosmetics.

LeiLani, humble and laughing, shares that this is where she made her first two mistakes in the business. Namely, underestimating how hard it would be to produce a line of products and then how difficult it would be to take these to market without a business background.

LeiLani credits her success to a few reasons. Firstly, she is one determined individual who can make a list and keep at it; not coming up for air until each item on there has been ticked off. Secondly, she was a pioneer in clean beauty products which – fast forward to 2018 – are increasingly popular and highly desirable with today’s consumer. LeiLani was well ahead of the curve. Even her packaging is recyclable and makes use of vegetable ink. Very cool!

For the past eight years LeiLani has had a full retail line of cosmetics that retail in Drug and Grocery, and has been immersed in her business. Over the years FWE has seen LeiLani’s business grow and evolve. LeiLani took E-Series, FWE’s flagship educational program, in 2004 and then again in 2015, and has spent time as a Mentor and as a Mentee along the way.

Before her second time taking E-Series, LeiLani recounts, she was at a tipping point. LeiLani found a great Mentor with FWE, who jumped into the role with vigour, and she set out to make some really big changes in her business.

Sweet LeiLani went to a bigger distribution system, closing their warehouse and beauty bar, increased their margins, revamped their website to build online sales and built their team with an in-house representative, rather than continuing to use brokers representing many products, and a social media position. All of this happened at once and it was full on (to quote LeiLani: “Holy Crap, it was full on!”). LeiLani even had to have a home office set up.

Looking forward, LeiLani’s goal is to get out of her business a bit more, so that she can work from anywhere and, at some point, become semi-retired (which, I have a sense, will probably look more like the hours of a regular full-time job than most semi-retirements do!). Now on her way to manifesting her goal, when LeiLani looks back, she says she really doesn’t know how she did it.

 I had it all in my head, but my Mentor made me spell it out.

With her husband, Mentors and supporters holding her corner, LeiLani has seen the business grow and change. There have been some challenging times along the way, that’s for sure.

Mentorship can bring so much to a business, from keeping you accountable to having a person external to your day-to-day to bounce ideas off of. Being an entrepreneur can be very isolating. LeiLani reckons that her Mentor holding her accountable for her numbers was invaluable – she always had a good idea of what was selling and where she was at but never produced full reports until that point.

LeiLani’s biggest takeaway from being a Mentee with FWE? Working with her Mentor to articulate her thoughts; dissecting them and pulling them out to create a plan that she could dive right into.