California Baby shows how small businesses can make big waves in their industry
Year after year, bottle after bottle, Jessica Iclisoy builds consumer confidence that has the power to change the game of hair and skincare.
Photo courtesy of California Baby
Twenty-six years ago, Jessica Iclisoy fulfilled her mission. She knew there was a gap in the market for a brand that offered natural and safe products. personal care products that actually worked, so she founded a company that was committed to filling that gap. Twenty-six years later, the impact is staggering.
California Baby, mother of the natural and sustainable skincare movement, has families in mind when creating its products. “Parents shouldn’t have to be chemists to trust the skincare they’re using is safe,” Iclisoy said. Value when we met her in September. “Especially parents with kids with allergies or eczema, they get thrown out there and they have to do their own thing, and it’s not fair that they have to do that in my mind because companies should provide safe and reliable products.”
But Iclisoy does not minimize the value of the conscious consumer; in fact, it 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 it happened saying, “Because of our existence, Johnson & Johnson was forced to reformulate their baby shampoo. I don’t know if you remember, but Johnson & Johnson went through a major reformulation and repackaging; that was about five years ago. They had to because of companies like California Baby. We were given the example: “they take your market share. You can’t say the customer doesn’t want better ingredients; you can’t say they won’t pay more for it.
As Worthy 100 adviser Martin Whittaker has noted, it’s tempting to oversimplify how difficult it is for a company to keep up with the chops and stick tightly to its mission. Iclisoy is not afraid of this challenge. Every step of the way, she and her team ensure that their products are safe, naturally sourced, environmentally friendly and, perhaps most importantly, up to their incredibly high standards. But staying true to those standards means making tough decisions. “My son Miles has worked with us since college; he’s the one who redesigned our website,” says Iclisoy. “It’s fantastic to have a 23-year-old working on all your tech stuff, but more importantly for me is teaching him the core values of California Baby – to agree that this isn’t good enough, or no, dump this batch. When everyone’s like, “Oh my god, do you know how expensive it is?” And I’m like, ‘yeah, but it’s not good enough .’ I don’t care about sales – sales will come if you have an amazing 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 utmost importance to California Baby, and they’re doing it the right way. By creating products that inspire lasting trust in their consumers. But Iclisoy not only wants its consumers to have confidence in the safety of their products, it also wants them to have confidence that they will have the same functionality as products from major brands. Consumers want natural and sustainably sourced products to meet the same standards of efficacy as mass-produced ones, and while that means doing more work, the impact these standards have on the industry as a whole is what drives lasting change for both the consumer and the environment.