By  on April 13, 2018

The Malibu fragrance-based beauty brand Kai, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary, is the definition of a sleeper brand. The gardenia-plumeria blend perfume oil, inspired by founder and chief executive officer Gaye Straza’s trips to Hawaii and the scent of the leis that greet visitors when they step out of the plane, became an instant hit when Straza began selling it in unmarked bottles beside the cash register of a then-retail store in the Malibu Country Mart.

It was actually surplus from a personal batch that Straza had a local perfumer create for her because she was too sensitive to other scents. “I had to order a whole pound of it, so when I sold my retail business, I just started giving it friends,” she said. Four months later she decided to sell it to other stores, packaging it with a lucky bamboo plant display. Her first wholesale account was Angel in Montecito, followed by Fred Segal.

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