Editor’s Note: As part of its commitment to cover diversity in business, The Dispatch will feature Asian American-owned businesses throughout May, which is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Diana Wang knew it was time to pivot when she couldn’t write the business plan for the bakery and café she’d been dreaming about for years.
“My heart was not there anymore,” said Wang, 38, of Grandview Heights, a former pastry chef who has worked for Pistacia Vera and other local restaurants. “Meanwhile, I found this thing that I just felt sudden passion for, and the idea excited me so much.”
That idea was to open a “clean” beauty store, offering items free of known or suspected toxins. Wang had already been transitioning to those products in her personal life, and she wanted to educate herself further to become a resource in Columbus.
Since August 2019, she has been doing just that with Fine Feather, located in the former Chapel Hill Florist space on Grandview Avenue in Grandview Heights. The quaint shop sells skincare products, makeup, hair-care items, fragrances and more.
“We are a wellness business disguised as a beauty business,” Wang said. “The goal is to help people be healthy through the things that they choose to put on themselves each day.”
On average, women expose themselves to 168 chemicals in personal care products each day, according to the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. Activists and government officials have pushed for legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration more power to regulate the products.
The beauty industry and consumers also have taken notice. The global natural and organic beauty market is projected to reach $22 billion by 2024, according to a Statista report.
While clean beauty products are available online, it helps to have access to local businesses to get specialized service, Wang said.
“I ordered things that were wrong for me only because I never got to try the products,” she said. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to. It’s very overwhelming. There’s a lot out there and you really don’t know what’s right for you. I found the process to be really frustrating, and it cost a lot of time and money.”
At Fine Feather, Wang provides consultations to make the process easier for her customers, including LaRae Keppen, who began shopping at the store during the pandemic.
“I was wearing a mask a lot and I had broken out pretty badly,” said Keppen, 42, of Worthington. “She took all the time with me. She prescribed a very simple regimen, listened to everything that I was concerned about and why. I get compliments all the time on my skin and I really credit it to her. She’s so knowledgeable. She knows everything about every product in the store.”
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Fine Feather also has an in-store recycling program, reflecting Wang’s passion for the environment.
Born in China, Wang moved to the U.S. when she was 7 years old and grew up in Ohio, in Oxford and Trenton.
After graduating from Ohio State University, she moved to New York and worked for a fashion magazine, but ultimately discovered she didn’t like the industry.
“It chewed me up and spit me back out,” she said. “I never wanted anything to do with fashion ever again, but I really loved food and cooking, and I found that to be my solace.”
But after toiling in the restaurant industry, skincare has become more meaningful for Wang, who said she has eliminated symptoms of a lifelong autoimmune condition with natural methods.
Her husband, Scott Ulrich, said he has witnessed her work ethic throughout her career.
“She goes all in,” said Ulrich, 35. “She has this incredible ability to be single-minded about something and to develop, in a pretty short amount of time, a truly encyclopedic knowledge of the thing that she’s doing.”
And he is slowly following her lead in transitioning to clean products.
“She’s replaced everything in my cabinet, too,” he said, laughing. “I’m certainly more mindful about the things I eat and use, so it’s definitely extended to me.”
Wang also helps other women entrepreneurs by carrying their products. Brette Luck, owner of Ohio Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine, jumped at the chance to have her menstrual pain formula sold in the shop.
“The store is a gem,” said Luck, 42, of Bexley. “Having that in the store lets people know that acupuncture is a resource for both for women’s health and also for skin conditions, and I also let my patients know about her.”
Wang said she is trying to reduce the number of products people use, and doesn’t believe in “upselling.”
“We want them to love the skin that they’re in and also have the healthiest skin of their life,” she said.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Asian American business spotlight Fine Feather focuses on clean beauty