Jessica Iclisoy: Founder and CEO of California Baby

It’s a common thread between new moms that when you’re expecting, you read, you learn and you scrutinize your lifestyle. In preparation for her first pregnancy, Jessica Iclisoy did as many mothers before her and started to look for the best products for her baby. What began as a mission to provide what she felt was best for her own child, evolved into a business when Jessica realized that what she was creating could have greater impact for mothers everywhere.

Twenty years later California Baby produces more than 80 pediatrician and dermatologist-recommended hair and skin care products for babies, kids and even adults. With an eye for sustainability and “best in class” standards for every part of her business, Jessica has created a brand she calls “a lifestyle.”

“I ask myself,” relays Jessica. “’If you weren’t getting paid for this, would you still do it?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then go for it.”

How did California Baby come about?

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 does a day in your life entail?

As you might suspect, wellness and self-care is a big part of who I am. I’m also a former competitive gymnast, so workouts are a must as I’ve been conditioned to move my body daily. It also helps with managing stress. I work out with a trainer three times a week. I meet with a pilates trainer once a week, which I love because pilates helps me feel balanced. I do yoga at least once per week. I believe in eating only organic foods, and I do all of my produce shopping at local farmers markets. Just like with California Baby products, quality is key for me.

What is the biggest thing you’ve learned about business from starting and operating your own?

I believe integrity in business is huge. It’s just not just about making money. I believe businesses – especially those in the natural and organic space – are obligated to make change and be the solution. I think it’s very hard for companies to do the right thing when its only rule is to conquer the market. The one big advantage of owning your company outright is being able to do things ‘off-the-book’ so to speak and make change. I’ve learned that one can never go wrong with a long-term vision of making things better than when you found them.

Are there any landmark moments in your career so far that you’re most proud of?

California Baby just celebrated its 20th anniversary. I’m proud that California Baby pioneered an entire industry, and we have kept to our roots by never compromising on quality. Instead, we’ve upped our game as innovators, and we work to push the industry forward with our extremely high standards and relentless pursuit of quality.

I believe businesses – especially those in the natural and organic space – are obligated to make change and be the solution.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

I’ve worked hard to learn to manage stress so that it doesn’t keep me up at night. That doesn’t mean I don’t face challenges, but the odds are pretty good at this point that whatever it is, I’ve been through it before, and I know there’s a solution. It may not be easy, but I believe if you do it right from the start, challenges will be few and far between.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

My husband and I work very closely together at California Baby, and we’ve made it our lifestyle, so our business is a huge part of our lives. It’s important to be disciplined and cut off the business talk at the end of the day. Having hobbies and outside interests are important, too. In the very beginning work/life balance is almost impossible. I think when one is starting a business, they need to know and accept this. But, if you’ve laid the right foundation, then as the business grows the balance becomes easier and easier. Couple time also is important and shouldn’t be sacrificed. One no-fail tactic for me is to take a short vacation. It doesn’t have to be long, far or fancy. It’s the change of scenery that makes the difference. I always come back from vacation with a renewed perspective.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

I love botanicals, essential oils, skin care, gardening/farming, big and shiny manufacturing machines, sustainability and problem solving. And that is exactly what I do every day in one form or another. I’m never bored.

What advice do you have for someone who is interested in entrepreneurship?

First, make sure you are doing it for you. Don’t do it because it’s trendy or because 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. Never give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

The most fulfilling part of my job is knowing that we have created the best variety of natural products for babies, kids and sensitive adults. Also, I love seeing my vision come to life. When customers tell me how much they love our products or how California Baby has helped them in some way, it’s an incredible feeling that I am grateful for.

What do you wish our community knew about your job?

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that happens in terms of ingredient integrity and running a top-notch manufacturing facility. As they say in ballet, you don’t want to see the technique, just the art and beauty. That’s what I strive for too.

What are some of the rules you live by?

Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do as you promise. Also, I never take my health for granted and always worship my (body) temple.

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