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How the Founder of California Baby Took On the Skincare Industry

In 1995, Jessica Iclisoy borrowed $2,000 from her mom so she could start an organic skincare company.

Over the course of 22 years, Iclisoy has turned California Baby from a passion project into an $80-million business. And she did it with no outside capital.

“I didn’t have an exit strategy,” Iclisoy says. “I wanted to have complete control and autonomy. I didn’t want someone telling me what to do and how to do it. I didn’t even want my husband telling me what to do.”

Related: Why I’ll Never Regret Not Turning to Investors for Help With My Startup

It all started when Iclisoy became pregnant with her first child. One day, she picked up a chemical dictionary at the library and began researching the ingredients of baby shampoos. It was disappointing, she says, to find that synthetic fragrances and other chemicals were present in baby products.

So she took matters into her own hands, contacted a chemist, and developed the formula for the first California Baby shampoo. “[The chemist] would walk me through how to make it on the kitchen stove,” she says.

Two decades later, the California Baby skincare line has expanded to 80 different products, which sell for $10 to $20 and can be found at retailers like Whole Foods, Target, and Wal-Mart. Iclisoy has plans to launch pet and home-goods lines in the next several months as well.

Iclisoy isn’t stopping at baby products; she’s taking an active role to bring reform to the skincare market. In October, she launched the Natural Advisory Council, an organization that advocates for stricter regulation in the natural skincare industry.

“We have to stand for something, and people have to trust the meaning of ‘natural,’” she says.

To hear more about Iclisoy’s entrepreneurial journey, watch the video above.