How Leila Kashani Disrupted the Beauty Industry with an Anti-Beauty, Beauty Brand

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.

Leila Kashani is the CEO and founder of Alleyoop, a beauty brand whose products are created with intentional designs that make it easier to declutter your life without sacrificing your needs.

Kashani created the Alleyoop brand as her love letter to smart self-care, and every one of her category-changing products are designed to help others get time back for whatever matters to them. Leila’s philosophy is all about efficiency and empowerment: rebelling against products that don’t do enough, and trends that make people feel like they aren’t enough. 

Prior to founding Alleyoop, Kashani worked in the marketing and product development field for companies like, MGA Entertainment, Nike, Sorel, and Columbia. Kashani is using her first-hand experience of being a multi-faceted, time-starved woman to demand more from the beauty industry.

In this Q&A, Kashani shares how her upbringing inspired her entrepreneurial journey and ultimately influenced how she can use her company to empower others to embrace their natural beauty.

Leila Kashani, CEO and founder of Alleyoop

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs. There is a ton of expectation to succeed in my family — and with that comes pressure. Personally, I see the pressure as motivation, but with that also comes so much empathy and support from my family and loved ones.

I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur — my dad encouraged it actually. Whenever I would start my own business, such as a lemonade stand, he would help me understand the business side of the process. He used to give me double of what I made if I beat the goals that I set for myself. He stopped doing that once I got older, but as a kid it gave me a lot of confidence and drive.  I’m extremely grateful to have a solid support system and starting Alleyoop has strengthened my family’s bond. 

My upbringing helped me build a solid foundation for my entrepreneurial journey. Before launching Alleyoop, I helped numerous companies with strategy and brand building. I always knew I’d do something to improve the lives of others with a company of my own — I just never knew what that change would be until two years ago. 

Q: Why did you choose to enter the beauty industry ?

It was kind of an accident. I lived out of a suitcase while traveling for work and always tried to pack as light as possible so I could explore cities between work events. I started to create makeshift products by popping out eyeshadow pans from within my palette to lighten my load. 

Later when I was working at a toy company, I was presenting a new doll line to the buyers at Target, and realized I forgot to shave one of my armpits —yes just one. We laughed about it at the time, but at that moment I knew I had to create something that could keep up with my lifestyle. Beauty and body care were hardly made with efficiency and the modern person in mind. So I took action, and that’s how Alleyoop was born.

Q: What issues did you see in the beauty industry before you started your company?

The majority of beauty, bodycare, and skincare products made for women haven’t been innovated to keep up with our modern lifestyles. I was determined to change that.

Makeup has primarily been made for makeup enthusiasts, but what about the rest of us? We like it, but we don’t want it to slow us down or transform our faces. Some of us want minimal makeup — we have other things we’d rather spend our time on. It was time beauty was made easy and for everyone, not just the experts.

Q: What problems were you trying to solve with your company?

The beauty industry can be extremely overwhelming. Not everyone is looking to use makeup to transform their faces. We’re constantly being told that we need makeup and skincare in excess. A lot of us don’t want to have a 14-step skincare routine or a makeup bag full of products we never use. Things needed to change. 

We wanted to target mindful consumption while embracing our natural beauty. We created products that are intuitive — based on useful and multi-functional products so you can spend less time getting ready and more time on things that bring you joy and keep you moving.  

Q: How have you integrated your values and mission into your own company structure?

If you were to ask my team, they’d say we live by our values and the name. Everyone helps one another and we’re always looking for ways to be more efficient. Our mission is to “help others make moves in their lives + the world.” I get a high out of helping others and have a love for making products that are simple, innovative, and efficient for people. I enjoy what I do and try to live life to the fullest – even if that means taking a break to have play time. 

Our values show through in the people who are building Alleyoop, in the products we create, and the community that Alleyoop was inspired by. I am so honored and grateful to be running a company that is aligned with who I am. It definitely makes things so much easier and more exciting. 

I also believe company culture is important over everything. It’s important to love what you do because that is what you’re doing the most! My team and I make sure to celebrate our wins, have fun, and practice gratitude. Cultivating a strong community is imperative when growing a brand. We listen to our customers and keep them in mind for every decision we make —their feedback is always taken into consideration. 

Q: Do you have a favorite quote or “personal mantra” you use to keep yourself motivated?

“Be light as a feather,” has been my key mantra for 2021. As a founder, we sometimes get set on something happening and  need to pivot and adapt as a result of new information quickly comes in. This mantra has reminded me to be light and open during those times and has really provided so much more clarity along the way. 

Q: What is your advice for other female founders at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys?

There are so many lessons you learn as you go through your entrepreneurial journey. A hurdle I’ve had to overcome was imposter syndrome. You aren’t going to know how to do everything in the beginning and that’s totally okay. Learning is something to take advantage of—not be fearful of. 

Many entrepreneurs can also be scared to ask for help — I definitely was! My advice is to push this fear aside and leverage your network for contacts and recommendations.

  • Originally published July 20, 2021, updated April 26, 2023