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Tips From The Top: One On One With Jessica Iclisoy

I spoke Jessica Iclisoy, Founder and CEO of California Baby, about her best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Jessica: I practice intermittent fasting; it has great wellness benefits such as autophagy, where the body auto-cleans itself on a cellular level to keep it healthy.

Adam: Your story is incredible. For those who don’t it and even for those who do, can you describe how you got here?

Jessica: For a lot of people, their business starts with an inspiration or a dream, mine started with outrage.  

When my son Ian was 3 months old, I was giving him a bath and washing his hair. On the edge of the bathtub was as a bottle of natural shampoo and a bottle of regular shampoo. I was curious about the difference, so I started reading the labels. I was shocked to find there wasn’t any difference– the ingredients were the same. Even worse, the ingredients in both had known carcinogens and hormone disrupters! I was sure it was just the brand I had at home, but when I started to look for a better, non-toxic shampoo for my son, I couldn’t find one.

And believe me, I looked.

Brand after brand, they all had these same toxic ingredients. The only difference was the marketing on the label. I became obsessed and for the next 3 years I immersed myself in researching alternatives. I wanted to know everything. I couldn’t believe that no one was asking what was in these products, and no one was doing anything about it. This research became the basis of my business.

Adam: Your gender was clearly instrumental to your success. What obstacles did you face, though, as an unknown female entrepreneur and what lessons can both women and men from learn from your experience overcoming them?

Jessica: Although I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back, I realize I had more than a few challenges. The biggest was that I was young—looked and sounded it – so I was often underestimated. The personal care/cosmetics industry was predominately male, which means they usually weren’t the primary care giver, so they couldn’t relate to my concerns regarding toxic ingredients. In the end, my passion and knowledge of chemicals and their health affects won them over, turning them from skeptics to advocates of my cause and ultimately my business. The lesson is: know your stuff and you will be taken seriously.

Adam: What is your best advice on going from idea to real business and from real business to scale?

Jessica: One of my first lessons came while I was working as a buyer and manager for the French fashion designer Azzedine Alaia who lived by the the philosophy: Product is Queen. My advice is to not rush your product because the marketplace says so. Believe in your product no matter what. It may take more time to establish, but at the end of the day, you have a solid product that can withstand changes in a real business atmosphere v.s. a series changeable of marketing concepts.

Adam: One of the most unique aspects of your success has been your ability to build such a successful company without outside capital. What is your best advice for entrepreneurs weighing whether to raise funding?

Jessica: First, ask yourself why are you doing this? To build a legacy company? To get rich quick?  Is this your passion? Would you do it even if you weren’t getting paid? The question of how to fund will be informed by your motivation. Once you’ve answered those questions, understand every aspect of how the funding could be structured. People think that funding equals success; they don’t realize it’s actually a form of debt and that they are giving away a piece of their company in exchange. They need to be fully aware of what their agreeing to. Don’t rush the process and make sure it works for you. If it, doesn’t keep looking.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Jessica: As a leader, your job is to see the entire playing field. Listening and observing is a skill that will serve you well. A leader needs to empower and support the team. I do this by going out in the world, being a scout by unleashing my curiosity and investigating new ingredients, processes, etc. I’m always pushing for innovation, it’s hard to do that behind a desk.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Jessica: Be demanding of yourself and others. Do the hard thing. You don’t know everything, so ask a lot of questions and listen.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Jessica: Work on your business, not in your business.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Jessica: Lead by example and be free with your ideas and experience. There is someone looking and waiting for that shared knowledge who can pick up the thread and make their mark.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Jessica: Growing up I was a competitive gymnast and the love of moving and pushing my body and mind is core to who I am. I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m always looking beyond the horizon—there’s always something new to learn.

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