2023 Innovator Award Winner

HONORS | Young Undergraduate Alumnae

Chahhat Lakhwani Melwani, DMSB’18

Founder, Cleyo Beauty

Tahisha Charles Miixtapechiick

Want Your Beauty Product Stocked by Sephora? Ask Chahhat Lakhwani Melwani How It’s Done

by Brilee Weaver  |  October 16, 2023

That natural glow-up you’re after is simple, thanks to a three-step skincare routine developed by Chahhat Lakhwani Melwani. The founder of Cleyo Beauty, which launched in Chile and recently expanded online with Sephora U.K., invests in quality ingredients and effective formulas to treat all skin types. Melwani is among Innovator Award honorees this year. 

Cleanse. Exfoliate. Tone. Oil. Moisturize. And then some.

“So many beauty brands tell you that you should use 10 beauty routine steps every day,” says Chahhat Lakhwani Melwani, founder of Cleyo Beauty. But often, she explains, the chemistry of those many products and their unique ingredients doesn’t quite gel. In fact, competing formulations can react poorly and damage your skin, Melwani says. Not to mention the daily time investment required of a multi-step routine.

Cleyo is Melwani’s antidote to complexity. The super minimal skincare brand is all about quality ingredients, rather than steps, she says. Currently on the shelf: rose cream cleanser, milky toner, and banana softy moisturizer, which contains turmeric and squalane (both anti-inflammatory agents that soothe and nourish skin).

“I try to be as purposeful as possible with the formulas, using ingredients that are really effective for sensitive skin,” says Melwani, who earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northeastern University. Those ingredients, inspired by Melwani’s travels to farms and vineyards across the globe, are the foundation for her collaborations with chemists in South Korea, where Cleyo products are developed and manufactured. Once she’s got samples in hand, Melwani tests them with real clients—young people between 23 and 38 whom she hopes will relish both a streamlined routine and the “natural glow that [they] deserve” with Cleyo.

Melwani first launched Cleyo in her home country of Chile in 2021, and in just two years, she’s already experienced a major “pinch me” moment as she expands: her products are now available for purchase online at Sephora U.K. In the saturated beauty market—often dominated by the incessant rollout of celebrity- and influencer-backed products—such expansion and scale are particularly impressive, says Melwani, who currently lives in the U.K. She considers her ingredient-forward brand and affordable price point among the factors that make Cleyo stand out.

Melwani and her burgeoning skincare company are among the 28 founders and their ventures celebrated with Innovator Awards this year. The annual Northeastern initiative, spearheaded by the Office of University Advancement, strengthens entrepreneurial ties throughout the university’s global network by establishing a community of peers to support and learn from each other. Three years in, that community is 69 innovators strong—and has received more than $820,000 in funds to elevate its growing businesses. Melwani was awarded honors in the 2023 young undergraduate alumnae category by Women Who Empower judges.

Business runs in the Lakhwani family. It all started with Melwani’s father, she says, who left school in India and embarked for Chile when he was just 16 years old. Before long, he’d found a fresh start in textiles and began distributing clothing around Latin America. His entrepreneurial mindset likely inspired his son, Jiten Lakhwani, on what would become a transformative trip to South Korea.

There, Jiten Lakhwani discovered that K-Beauty, a category of skincare products derived from South Korea, was an “untapped market segment” in Chile, says Melwani. Research on Chilean clientele to match their needs with K-Beauty offerings came next, then the first Sokobox beauty shop opened its doors.

Now, the family business—which imports, represents, and distributes more than 20 K-Beauty brands, including Cleyo, at 10 locations—is “dominating” the beauty market in Chile, Melwani says. (Its largest store yet opens in Santiago this November.) In six years of business, the Lakhwanis have continued to prioritize and collect customer research as Sokobox grows. The same is true for Cleyo, the family’s first skincare product of its own.

“Our approach is to create a community,” says Melwani. “[We] ask what they’re looking for, and create what they want.” The titular ingredient in her banana softy moisturizer, for example, may not be common in skincare—but it’s something Chilean clients were eager to experience in Cleyo formulations, Melwani says. It’s also a tribute to India, she adds, where bananas are among “the most famous fruits.”

“Our approach is to create a community. [We] ask what they’re looking for, and create what they want.”

Chahhat Lakhwani Melwani, DMSB’18

“Our approach is to create a community. [We] ask what they’re looking for, and create what they want.”

—Chahhat Lakhwani Melwani​, DMSB’18

Melwani’s ongoing dialogue with customers manifests in transparent and informative marketing campaigns. She embraces digital content creation, primarily video tutorials, as tools for both selling products and raising awareness about her quality ingredients and their related health benefits. As the only full-time employee at Cleyo, Melwani spearheads both her organic and paid strategies, supplementing her efforts with help from freelance creators who contribute to Cleyo’s design aesthetic and website presence.

Melwani’s ambition and perseverance have fueled her mission to add value to beauty consumers’ lives, says Lakhwani, who doubles as brother and industry mentor. The CEO of Sokobox says he’s encouraged Melwani to “believe it before you see it,” a mantra that keeps them both going in a competitive international market.

“I see the constant hard work and passion,” Lakhwani says of Melwani. “[It’s] something I really look up to.”

Melwani’s ability to balance skills and passions simultaneously, shifting as beauty trends and life circumstances change, is perhaps most apparent in her major career pivot from hospitality to skincare. In 2019, she decided to pursue her master’s degree in hospitality administration and management, honing her customer service skills while she and her family considered opening their own hotel. Her studies brought her to Europe, where, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

“If COVID hadn’t happened, maybe I would’ve had a different career,” Melwani says now. She’d decided to return home to Chile as people around the globe reckoned with the rapidly spreading disease, and she began working for Sokobox. She says a notable side effect of constant mask-wearing was the spark for Cleyo: dry lips. She met the needs of the moment and launched her brand with a lip care line for the Chilean market.

“[Chahhat] managed to create a brand from zero,” says Lakhwani. “She [also] created wonderful products with excellent active ingredients which have our customers extremely engaged and passionate about her brand.”

With Sephora U.K. shoppers now among them, Melwani is as focused as ever on her global expansion. Her new relationship with Beauty and the Boutique, which offers curated beauty recommendations, will allow Melwani to reach buyers in the U.K., U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Among her offerings for them will be the second generation of the Cleyo lip product that started it all. Her all-in-one solution to exfoliate and hydrate launches in 2024.