California-born Jessica Iclisoy started reading baby care product labels while she was pregnant and found herself shocked to see that most contained harmful chemicals. Sound familiar? The Honest Company’s co-founder Jessica Alba has told a similar story for why she launched her billion-dollar company in 2012. But Iclisoy was ahead of the curve. She began mixing baby shampoo in her Los Angeles kitchen back in 1990. It was a number of years before organic beauty products became so popular. In 1995, she borrowed $2,000 from her mom to launch California Baby with just one product, a nontoxic shampoo-body wash.
Today her company sells 90 non-toxic, organic products, mostly for babies, at stores like Whole Foods, Walmart and Target; its revenues totaled $80 million in 2016. Iclisoy, who owns 100% of the company as well as a 100-acre farm in Santa Barbara, is worth $260 million, enough to make her one of the most successful self-made women in the country. She is also richer than Alba, who is worth $200 million. One key reason for her huge success is her control over pretty much every step of the process.
From the beginning, Iclisoy set out to create safe products that parents could trust. But finding alternative, non-toxic ingredients that were certified organic and worked better than mainstream products was a big challenge, especially in the early days. Not satisfied with the manufacturers and suppliers, she purchased her own 15,000-square foot manufacturing space in downtown Los Angeles in 2001. It’s now an FDA-certified organic facility that, she claims, is held to such a high standard that it could even manufacture drugs.
Similarly, when she couldn’t find an organic supplier of calendula flowers, a key ingredient in her natural oil products, she purchased 100 acres of Santa Barbara County organic farmland in 2011 to grow them herself. Now called Flower and Vine, it produces 4,000 pounds of the plants annually that are then used in her California Baby products such as rash cream and sunscreen.
The mom of two avoided taking on investors for the same reason. “I needed to feel like I had complete control. If I brought on investors, they would have their own agenda. We don’t have any debt. We’re kind of a throwback,” she says. “I run my own facility. Most of these companies have other companies making products for them, so they don’t have this knowledge. I felt like I was in a unique position and I felt like I had an obligation to do this.”
These days she is busy expanding California Baby and working on an adult skincare line. “A rising tide pulls all boats,” says Iclisoy. “I think the fact that [organic] is growing, people are recognizing it, because my challenge in the beginning was just educating people why it was better for you.”
As for her path to this point, Iclisoy admits she had few role models. “When I was coming up in business, I was really getting inspiration from men’s stories. I don’t even believe I read a woman’s story,” says Iclisoy. Now her story and those of other women entrepreneurs can help inspire a new generation. “Women approach business differently. I approach business in a uniquely female way,” she recalls.
Jessica Iclisoy is congratulated on the success of California Baby, which is now one of the leading brands of natural & organic baby care products. By growing many of its organic ingredients, it is one of the few brands that has high control over its raw materials. It is also one of the rare natural / organic brands that has been successful in mass market retailers.
Related Insights: US Natural Personal Care Market – Segmentation and Labels
Source: Forbes / Ecovia (18/05)