Business Interview: Jessica Iclisoy, Founder & President, California Baby
Meet Jessica Iclisoy, the founder and President of California Baby, a natural skincare line for babies, kids and adults. Jessica built her now very recognizable business over the last 20 years from the ground up and her products are carried nationwide at huge stores like Whole Foods, Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond. If you are a mom or mom-to-be you've more than likely come across or even purchased products from the California Baby line! I certainly have and use it religiously on my twin babies, so being able to interview the brains behind a brand I use (friends as well) on a regular basis is just - WOW! Her interview is honest, down to earth and relatable. Jessica is sharing some valuable information in her interview so pay attention!
"As a small business, you have to have faith that you can make it and grow. You have to have trustworthy people around you and you must give those people on your team the proper structure to succeed."
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business. What is it called and what services / products do you offer?
My name is Jessica Iclisoy. I’m the founder and President of California Baby, a natural skincare line for babies, kids and sensitive adults. California Baby offers a variety of natural shampoos, conditioners, body wash, bubble bath, face wash, lotions, etc.
We have a super-star product called Calendula Cream. California Baby has a whole line made with calendula, which is a marigold flower. When extracted properly, calendula has properties that really soothe and heal damaged or burnt skin. People who have eczema or chemical sensitivities really love that it helps them.
California Baby grows its own organic calendula in Santa Barbara county. We process it in-house and extract all the fantastic things calendula has to offer. California Baby has so many fantastic things that make our products wonderful. Calendula is big part of that. We look at each individual ingredient and we always keep mom, baby and family in mind. We’ve started to say that the first ingredient in California Baby’s products is love.
Can you share a bit about how you choose this line of business? What transition did you make to owning your own business?
California Baby actually started by accident. I wasn't intending to start a business. I was originally in the fashion business and was traveling around to Paris, Italy and London. That was a very hectic lifestyle. After a couple of years, I was ready to move on to my next adventure.
I was married and thought it was a good time to have children. When most women decide to have children, they stop drinking coffee, they stop drinking wine - there's a lifestyle clean up and I just took it a little bit further than most. I started scrutinizing what I was eating and started doing more research. I found that a lot of our meat and milk was filled with hormones. Our produce was filled with pesticides. These were not things that I wanted to start my young baby’s life with.
I started to educate myself on how to eat properly to avoid those things. This was before organic was really even known, so there weren’t a lot of organic choices. I went through two pregnancies as a vegetarian, which seems a little crazy, but I was able to do it successfully because of the knowledge I had with food. That's really what spurred me into the natural lifestyle and once I was there, there was no looking back.
Do you have any special training?
Prior to starting California Baby, I had my gut and common sense to help lead the way. Thankfully, I was able to call scientists who could help me formulate the best-of-the-best of natural products. Quite honestly, it wasn’t training that got me where I am today. I wanted to put clean, natural products on my children and saw a gap in the market for that. My determination and research helped me fill that gap and now we’re here 20-years later.
What are some of your biggest accomplishments as a business owner?
It’s a great accomplishment to be a Certified Women Owned Business. On average, most women own businesses for up to five years and we’ve been around for 20. Also, I was instrumental in creating the baby section in the natural skincare aisle starting at Whole Foods Markets (then Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Markets). It was also a proud moment when California Baby became the first natural line to make the jump to the mass market giant, Target.
What mistakes have you made with your business? What did you learn from the experience and how did you bounce back?
The word mistake is not in my lexicon. I don’t feel I’ve made mistakes because I always think through and do not rush a decision. I’m very intuitive and try to see all angles of a problem and I feel that I have made the best decision with the information and experience I had at that moment in time. With new info or experience, I may have done something differently. In business, as in life, I don’t think there are mistakes, only decisions. I try to make good ones!
What do you consider the most important elements of running a successful small business?
Processes, procedures, trust and faith. As a small business, you have to have faith that you can make it and grow. You have to have trustworthy people around you and you must give those people on your team the proper structure to succeed. California Baby is made up of great people who understand the processes of how to do things efficiently so our consumers can benefit from having products from a well-run, responsible company.
Do you have any start-up advice you can share with women reading this who would like to launch their own businesses?
Don’t give up. Even on the days when it seems hard. Keep pushing through it. Keep learning and keep asking questions. I started this company during a time when creating “natural products” wasn’t a trend, it was hard. But I kept going and now we’ve pioneered an entire industry!
Do you have any advice on managing your small business finances?
Know your numbers. Pay attention and don’t let things slip. There should be checks and balances. Don’t take big spurts of income for granted and understand that rainy days will happen so the more you know your numbers the better.
How do you balance work and life owning a small business?
Thankfully, my husband and I work very closely together here at California Baby and we made it a lifestyle while we were raising our kids. Now, we make sure to take time for “us” when we can but our eye is always on California Baby. It’s a big part of our life.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
We see ourselves continuing to grow responsibly. We’re not trying to go public. We want to keep our company manageable, profitable and responsible. We love the family we’ve built here and hope to keep creating great new products.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
I was a competitive gymnast and was the first on my team to do a back flip on the balance beam.
Thank you so much for this AMAZING interview Jessica!
You can find out more about California Baby and purchase their amazing products via their website and as Jessica mentioned in her interview at Whole Foods, Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Website: www.californiababy.com