Today we’d like to introduce you to Gaya Samarasingha.
Hi Gaya, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
Born and raised in Sri Lanka, I came to the United States in 2004 with two suitcases, the love of my life, and full of dreams. I am a mom, a wife, an immigrant, and an entrepreneur who is passionate about not only clean skincare that addresses the needs of ordinary women and men; but also empowering women in business. After climbing the corporate ladder rather quickly, I decided to leave an executive position in 2017 to follow my passion.
Since moving to the United States, I struggled with multiple skin concerns from adult acne, skin discoloration to some signs of aging. As a young, working mom with a demanding career, I didn’t have time to maintain my 8-10 step skincare regimen and was unable to find a comprehensive solution to my common skin concerns. I knew I wasn’t alone.
Going back to my roots, I created a skincare regimen using unique natural ingredients from around the world, ingredients that have been used in skincare rituals, Ayurvedic medicine, and daily diets for thousands of years.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Is it ever a smooth road? Going into it I knew it wouldn’t be easy and setting that expectation early on in this journey definitely helped me not give up, especially during the pandemic. There are many struggles I faced along the way, but I will share three with you.
One of my biggest struggles was finding the initial funding I needed to get started, especially as a female entrepreneur. I was naive to think, with two degrees and almost a decade of experience would make it easier. I was asked by an investor how I plan to manage the workload of a startup as a young mom. That’s when I decided to fund Kalaia on my own. It was hard because I didn’t have a million dollars lying around to invest. So, I had to think outside the box, completely change my business plan, and drastically cut costs to bootstrap the company. But I’m glad I did.
Finding great business partners (employees, vendors, manufacturers, service providers, etc.) is so critical but at the same time really hard with the constraints of a startup. I was blessed with many great partners on this journey, but I will say I also learned a lot through some of the not-so-great partnerships.
Not only the pandemic but also some of the changes happening in the Direct Selling industry forced us to pivot, especially in 2021. Change is hard, takes a lot of effort, and can be costly. But it is necessary. Kalaia is currently in the process of some major changes, which I am so excited about.
Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Kalaia?
Kalaia offers a clean, simple, and effective skincare regimen inspired by ancient Sri Lankan beauty rituals. We bring ingredients from your kitchen to your vanity through our products. The goal is to improve the overall health and wellness of your skin using these unique natural ingredients rather than treating the symptoms with multiple regimens. Our multi-tasking skincare regimen offers 18 skin benefits with just four products, so even the busiest women and men can take care of their skin without compromise.
What I’m most proud of are the lives we change through Kalaia and the Kalaia Cares charitable program. The stories of our customers regaining their self-confidence because of our products never get old. I know Kalaia makes a huge difference in the lives of women who partner with us to earn an extra income by sharing our products.
Lastly, 1% of every dollar spent with Kalaia goes towards funding female-owned businesses through a micro-loan program. These are women who don’t have access to funding through traditional methods and we are fueling their dreams in hopes of creating a future with better gender equality. As of today, we’ve funded 48 loans to women in 24 countries.
Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
We are a lot stronger and more capable than we give ourselves credit for. I work with a lot of women and most of the time they underestimate themselves. We bring that strength to life when we are pushed against the wall but imagine what we could do if we believed in ourselves from day one.
This is one of the most important lessons I learned during my first year in business. I used to say, I need to hire people to do the things I didn’t have experience in. But when I decided to fund Kalaia on my own, I had to figure things out on my own.
I was honestly surprised at how much I am capable of. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t do everything yourself as the company grows, but being able to and willing to figure it out is essential for your survival during the early days of any startup.
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