While many young women her age are interested in fashion, hair and makeup, Leanna Khan has a healthy fascination with feet.
When she was 13, she started a vacation business going to people’s homes and doing pedicures, initially her own family members and relatives and eventually building a clientele on referrals.
Now 19, she has put the pedicures on the sideline because of the pandemic and has developed her own brand of footcare products – Pedilee’s.
“It’s just a combined, shortened version of pedicure and my name,” Khan told WMN.
Her line of products includes whipped foot butters, foot scrubs and foot soaks, all ranging from aromatherapeutic to subtle. She is working on a new product – a whipped foaming scrub which she is hoping to launch in a few weeks.
Khan’s interest in footcare began with her own feet.
“People always ask me, ‘why feet? How can you touch people’s feet?’
"`It is just something I always liked doing and always made it a priority. I was always pampering my own feet and it grew into my passion and now a business,” which came as no surprise because of her foundation in business studies.
A former student of Providence Girls' Catholic School in Belmont and sixth form student at Bishop Anstey Trinity College East (BATCE), she placed ninth on the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) merit list for entrepreneurship in 2019.
In September, she will be going into her second year at the UWI, St Augustine campus where she is doing a first degree in management studies, with a possible minor in finance or marketing. Until then Khan is working as a communications intern at BATCE, where she is receiving training in media and marketing and content creation. “Which will further benefit me in my business,” she said.
She said she was driven to start Pedilee’s when she was in sixth form on the encouragement of one of her teachers.
“As a sixth form business student at BATCE pursuing my CAPE studies in entrepreneurship, I gained additional knowledge and necessary skills to start up my own venture. I was encouraged and continuously recognised by my teacher, Mr Pollard. Because of this I was able to integrate my passion while taking on the risk of a young, female entrepreneur.”
In 2020, when schools were closed and during the first lockdown, she used the time to research her products and do her business plan. Then, she spent countless hours in her kitchen in Arima working on her products. By October 2020 she was ready to execute.
“I am self-taught. During the four-month break from classes I looked at YouTube videos on making the products and I experimented with oils. I looked at things like shelf life, effects on skin, things like that. I gave samples to family and friends. My products are all organic, with natural preservatives in terms of carrier oils. I even dry my own rose petals used in some of the products. My unique selling point is that I provide organic foot products.”
She said the fact that her first year at UWI was online worked in her favour, as it allowed her to find the perfect balance between school and her business. For now, she is Pedilee’s jack-of-all-trades.
“I do everything. marketing, taking pics with my iPhone, creating content, posting and captioning on my Instagram. I have a creative side, so I design my own labels and I created my logo. Price list, behind-the-scenes videos, everything is done by me.”
For now, Pedilee’s operates as an e-business on Instagram. Customer contact and orders are facilitated via direct messaging, and she does deliveries. In addition to sales of her own products, she does gift boxes for different occasions, incorporating her products and other featured local products. Khan has almost 700 followers and hopes to see some growth soon, including on the international market. Sales have slowed down, she said, because of the restrictions, but she expects things to pick up eventually.
“People have nowhere to go so they are not taking care of their feet. A spa pedicure is now a fond memory, so I also offer guides to self-care on social media. For example, it can be very traumatising for people whose jobs require them to be on their feet all day. So, I offer advice on foot pain, and on things like getting rid of callouses etc.”
And while many people are moving away from brick and mortar in favour of an online presence, it is Khan’s dream to also have a physical space to market her products.
“I’m a very social person. I like networking and engaging with people of different personalities in-person.”
But because she pays so much attention to her feet it doesn’t mean she doesn’t understand the importance of taking care of the rest of her body. Pre-pandemic Khan enjoyed working out at the gym.
“I do yoga on my own and I believe having a positive energy and outlook on things is important. I also like cooking and trying new recipes,” – probably where the inspiration for the creation of her footcare products stemmed.
Follow Pedilee’s on Instagram @pedilees.