Soul-ly Reya Lakhani

Los Altos resident Reya Lakhani, above, and friend Priyanka Shah are the co-founders of Soul-ly.

A local teen and her friend have launched an all-natural skincare business. Los Altos resident Reya Lakhani and Priyanka Shah of Fremont last year co-founded Soul-ly, creating a line of essential-oil-based products they sell online.

“Lots of these benefits that people are trying to find through their skincare can actually just be found naturally,” said Lakhani, a Homestead High School sophomore. “And a lot of these other ingredients that people use … in the long term, they’re not good for your skin or your body or the environment, even.”

Shah, whose mom is a holistic nutritionist, came up with the idea. Her mom’s friend is in the aromatherapy business and taught the Mission San Jose sophomore about the benefits of essential oils. Shah then pitched the idea to Lakhani, and they soon formed Soul-ly.

“Our goal is to primarily let people know the benefits of essential oils and all-natural skincare products, because it’s so easy to go to a store and get a product that has so many chemicals in it,” Shah said. “People are brainwashed, I feel like. Sometimes they think that some products are completely natural without any chemicals, but in reality, that’s actually not true because most of the products in stores have preservatives and have other really harmful chemicals.”

Starting the business was not easy, however.

“I was, like, I’ve got the name, I’ve got everything else down,” Shah said. “But then it was really challenging. It was hard for us to get things going.”

Commuting to meet in person proved a challenge for the co-founders, who also had to manage their school responsibilities, but they’ve made it work.

“Initially, it was a little overwhelming,” Lakhani said. “We didn’t really know how much thought you’d have to put into it, how many details go into physically running a business, from packaging to how your Instagram posts are going to look.”

While creating their products, Lakhani and Shah said they follow an extensive process to ensure they are safe for people with different skin types. They then send test kits to close family and friends for feedback before offering their products for sale.

Most of their customers are people they know. A share of their proceeds support organizations that promote climate change and people in need, according to Lakhani. During their India COVID Relief Skin Care Product Drive, the teens donated all of their proceeds to Oxfam, India, to help ease the impact of the delta variant outbreak. Similarly, during their holiday drive, they donated 25% of their profits to a San Francisco-based homeless shelter.

Finding their niche

As for the future of Soul-ly, Lakhani and Shah said they want to branch out via smaller online platforms like Etsy and at local farmers’ markets.

“We don’t want to go really big,” Shah said, “but we do want to get more people to know about us, just so that we have more people know about our initiative.”

The young entrepreneurs encourage other students to start a business, if an idea strikes them.

“Expose yourself to a lot of different hobbies,” Shah advised. “If students find their outlet, and they’re kind of, like, ‘Wow, this is really something that’s made for me,’ and they’ve found their niche, I think they should really just go for it.”

And while it may be daunting at first, Lakhani and Shah said there is much to learn when embarking on such an adventure.

“When you really think about it in the long term, you can learn so many lessons from a business, especially when you’re doing it with a partner,” Shah said. “You learn so many things from them and they learn so many things from you.”

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