California Baby Shows How Small Companies Can Make Big Waves in Their Industry
Twenty-six years ago, Jessica Iclisoy realized her mission. She knew there was a gap in the market for a brand that provided natural, safe personal care products that actually worked, so she founded a company committed to filling that gap. Twenty-six years later, the impact is astounding.
California Baby, mother to the natural and sustainably sourced movement in skincare, has families in mind when creating their products. “Parents should not have to be chemists to trust that the skincare they are using is safe,” Iclisoy told Worth when we caught up with her in September. “Especially parents with children who have allergies or eczema, they are thrown out there, and they have to do their own work, and it’s not fair that they have to do that in my mind because the companies should be providing safe and trustworthy products.”
But Iclisoy does not discount the value of the conscious consumer; in fact, she depends on it. Even though California Baby is not a massive company, it has inadvertently harnessed the power of the conscious consumer to generate a lasting impact on the industry as a whole. Iclisoy breaks down how this happened saying, “because of our existence, Johnson & Johnson was forced to reformulate their baby shampoo. I don’t know if you remember this, but Johnson & Johnson went through a major reformulation and repackaging; this was about five years ago. They had to do it because of companies like California Baby. We were being thrown up as the example: ‘they’re taking your market share. You can’t say that the customer doesn’t want better ingredients; you can’t say that they won’t pay more for it.’”
As noted by Worthy 100 advisor Martin Whittaker, it is tempting to simplify how difficult it is for a company to walk the talk and stick closely to its mission of purpose. Iclisoy doesn’t shy away from that challenge. Every step of the way, she and her team ensure that their products are safe, naturally sourced, environmentally friendly and—perhaps most importantly—meet their incredibly high standards. But staying true to those standards means making some hard decisions. “My son Miles has been working with us out of college; he’s the one who revamped our website,” Iclisoy says. “It’s fantastic to have a 23-year-old working on all of your tech stuff, but more importantly, for me, is teaching him the core values of California Baby—being okay with saying that it’s not good enough, or no, dump that batch. Whereas, everybody goes: ‘Oh my god, do you know how expensive that is?’ And I say, ‘yeah, but it’s not good enough.’ I don’t care about sales—the sales will come if you have an incredible product and the consumer can trust you, year after year, bottle after bottle. So we’re building an enduring brand, not just a company that sells shampoo.”
Building longevity is of the utmost importance to California Baby, and they are going about it the right way. By creating products that inspire lasting trust from their consumers. But Iclisoy doesn’t only want her consumers to trust that their products are safe, she also wants them to trust that they will have the same functionality as big name-brand products. Consumers want natural, sustainably sourced products to meet the same efficacy standards as those that are mass-produced, and even though it means putting in more work, the impact that those standards have on the industry as a whole is what generates lasting change both for the consumer and the environment.