Life’s a beach for Kiana Cabell, whose passion for surfing and food is only surpassed by her love for her highly successful line of coconut-based body care products.
As co-founder of coconut-based lifestyle brand Kopari, Kiana Cabell is sharing her love of co conuts through a variety of skin, body and personal care products sold at approximately 2,000 stores worldwide.
Cabell, who launched the line in 2015, admits the rate of growth has been huge, with almost every big-name retailer calling within the brand’s first year, wanting Kopari on its shelves. Among its first products was the Coconut Melt, made with pure, virgin, organic coconut oil that can be used as an all-over body moisturizer, as well as hair mask, makeup remover, shave oil and more.
“You can really see the pureness, and the way it smells, and the color and texture, and the way it just melts into your skin,” notes Cabell on the quality. “I use it for so much; I even put it all over my baby.”
Currently, Kopari has about 20 different items, with the No. 1 seller being Coconut Deodorant. It also recently introduced an exclusive collaboration with DryBar featuring Kopari’s charcoal deodorant and toothpaste and DryBar’s charcoal products.
“I think the overall idea in the beginning was launching products around coconut,” says Cabell. “Our goal was really to drive awareness through different marketing levers digitally, and it has just taken off quicker than we thought.
“For me (when I see our products in the store), it’s definitely, at this point, a pinch-me moment. Everywhere I go, people say, ‘Oh Kopari, I love your products so much.’ We’re super humbled, very lucky and very grateful to be where we are today.”
Born and raised in Kāhala on O‘ahu, Cabell graduated from Academy of the Pacific in 2007, and moved to California and on to New York, where she studied culinary arts.
“I always wanted to go to culinary school because I’m such a foodie,” she explains. “My dad (Joey Cabell) founded the Chart House, so I grew up in that food world and always had a strong passion there.
“I just wasn’t as interested in traditional culinary school, which at the time was all I really saw, but when I moved to New York, I found a school called Natural Gourmet Institute, which was more plant-based, holistic eating.”
She finished the program, interned with James Beard Foundation, and worked on creating a natural, better-for-you, food product, but struggled. Then, she remembered her love for coconuts.
“I was taking my coconut oil that I grew up using in Hawai‘i, slathering it on from head to toe, from the kitchen to the bathroom and back and forth, and I just had an ‘aha’ moment,” she recalls. “This is it. It’s so simple. It’s one ingredient, and it’s good for so many things. So, I dropped what I was doing, and I wanted to create a line of beauty products that really lends itself to the health benefits and properties of coconut oil.”
She shared her idea with friend James Brennan of Suja Juice, initially for recommendations on packaging. But as fate would have it, Brennan soon learned that his friends Gigi and Bryce Goldman also wanted to launch a coconut-based brand of products, so the four partnered up to create Kopari.
The company is headquartered in La Jolla, California, and has grown to nearly 50 employees. Its products are all made in the U.S., using coconuts sourced from small farms in the Philippines.
“We just got back from Philippines, where we had the pleasure of seeing the production and cultivation of the coconuts, and it was such an amazing experience,” says Cabell, noting that two coconuts are used to make one Coconut Melt.
“While we were there, we also built homes for people who lost their homes in natural disasters. We built 20 homes, and we were able to grant them to the homeowners, and that was an incredible experience. We’re building on that piece so we can continue to give back.”
These days, Cabell returns to Hawai‘i, which she still calls home, three to four times a year. She was just here earlier this month when fiancé Kevin Glaser proposed to her on the beach. The couple has a 2-year old daughter, Kennedy.
“When I’m home, I just love going to the beach,” shares Cabell. “I love surfing (Tongs in Waikīkī is her favorite spot) and paddleboarding (out in front of Outrigger Canoe Club). If I go to the beach, I love the North Shore, especially during the winter, when the waves are really big. I like being active, and I like going to all my favorite restaurants (including Chart House Waikīkī, of course).”
Cabell also grew up spending her summers on Kaua‘i, where her dad would anchor their boat out in Hanalei Bay for three months.
“I loved just sleeping on the boat and looking up under the stars,” she remembers. “I loved fishing off the boat and hiking up Hanakāpi‘ai.
“I’m a hybrid — city and island girl. That’s why I like Honolulu because it has city and island. I definitely see myself moving back here at some point.”
And while Kopari continues to go nuts in the beauty industry, don’t be surprised if Cabell follows in her dad’s footsteps.
In a way, she kind of already has. “My 10-year goal is to have my own restaurant,” she reveals. “I actually probably want to do it here somewhere. Food is such a passion of mine. If I open my own restaurant, I think it’ll be more of a passion project.
“I remember being a young kid, and doing everything with my dad. He would go every Wednesday to a manager’s meeting at the Chart House, and I would go and I would have a pen because I definitely had my opinion on foodie things. And then I grew up working there.
“I remember at 10 years old, having to go in the summer and work in the office and complaining about it because at the time I felt like I had other things I’d rather do, but it definitely instilled a work ethic in me at an early age.
“My dad was also a professional surfer. He was on the surf team with Duke Kahanamoku, and he’s just an overall professional waterman, sailor and windsurfer. He set a record going to Tahiti (from Hawai‘i) on his boat.
“He’s just intense in that kind of mind-set of being really driven. He taught me a lot of things. He taught me grit and how to be a hard worker and to just go for it and have that drive.”