Mama Goals: California Baby Founder Jessica Iclisoy
The latest installment of our #MamasMakingIt interview series is with Jessica Iclisoy — the gorgeous and genius woman behind California Baby — a pediatrician- and dermatologist-recommended collection of hair and skincare products for babies, kids, and adults with sensitive skin. Read on to learn more about her journey to success!
What was your career path before launching your brand?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and always had an affinity for fashion (and still do!). In my early 20s I was a buyer for a French designer in Beverly Hills. I traveled to Paris, Italy and London. I loved it, but it was a hectic lifestyle. After a couple of years, I was ready to move on to my next adventure. I got married and decided to have children. California Baby was born right around the same time, by accident. I wasn’t intending to start my own business, but it has been one of my proudest accomplishments.
What inspired you to launch it?
In preparation for pregnancy, I changed my lifestyle and eating habits to become the healthiest I could. After the birth of my first son, I’d shop at farmer’s markets and health food stores, thinking the products I bought were the best. I started looking up the ingredients of the bath products I was using on him and found that many contained synthetic fragrances and other potential carcinogens. To say I was alarmed is an understatement. I resolved to create my own safe products using only biodegradable cleansers and pure essential oils. After three years of research and testing, I introduced California Baby’s Calming Shampoo & Bodywash, which is still a top seller today.
What advice do you have for budding female entrepreneurs who are also mothers?
First, make sure you are doing it for you. Not because it’s trendy or you think you should be doing it. Every business is hard, but when the business is everything to you, it's extra challenging. I ask myself, “If you weren’t getting paid for this, would you still do it?” If the answer is yes, then go for it. Don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep learning and keep asking questions. For me, it was all about making my job fit my lifestyle and doing something I absolutely loved. Owning your company is like having another (extremely demanding) baby in the house. In the early days of California Baby, I’d bring my children to business meetings with me. Creating “natural products” wasn’t a trend, it was hard work. I kept going and we helped to pioneer an entire industry!
What's your biggest pet peeve about today's baby grooming products?
My biggest pet peeve about baby grooming products is that the companies behind them still cater to an adult palette and aren’t always transparent about how they are manufactured. Some companies are more concerned with what is aesthetically pleasing or what is perceived to smell good. The problem is that what is most aesthetically pleasing or what is perceived to smell the best is often not the most effective. Mineral based sunscreen, for example, is white and is meant to sit on the surface of the skin — like a band-aid of protection. With proper application, it will look less obvious, but it’s not meant to be translucent like a chemical sunscreen.
Many of our products are lightly scented, but we only use the highest quality essential oils — those with specific functions, including lavender oil to promote calmness and tea tree oil to sooth irritated skin and scalp. Baby products shouldn’t be overly fragrant due to harmful scented additives. We also carry products with no fragrance designed for people with allergies and those who can’t tolerate fragrance. Many products that claim to be “fragrance free” actually contain a synthetic fragrance that act like a masking agent – to make it smell like nothing. Parents need to be educated about the reality of what they’re putting on their family’s skin and companies should be held accountable to them.
What's your favorite phone app or tool for staying organized?
I’m loving RealPlans — it’s a meal planning system that helps you plan your dinners for the week. You can search healthy recipes based on your diet restrictions like Paleo, gluten free, traditional, etc., and they create a customized shopping list. It also lets you select from a list of stores you prefer to shop at, such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and in my case — my local Farmer’s Market.
What are your current favorite California Baby products?
California Kids Willow Wash, with our konjac sponge, and California Baby Calendula Cream.
What are your big dreams for the brand?
For California Baby, the immediate future is all about making sure that natural and organic doesn’t lose its integrity or core values. It concerns me that some in the industry may only be interested in making money rather than honoring what this category represents. At California Baby, we intend to protect our industry and help it grow in a sustainable way without changing what we stood for when we created this sector over 20 years ago.
California Baby will continue to be the leader in educating consumers about the natural products category: What is natural? How is it different from organic? Why is it important to control the packaging of natural, allergen-free products? We want to reach as many consumers as we can – parents everywhere should be armed with all of the information before making hair and skincare purchase decisions for their families.