By Pam Kragen The San Diego Union-Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After realizing many products billed as "organic" had artificial fragrances, dyes and petroleum-based ingredients, One California couple became determined to develop their own organic baby lotion. To come up with the final formula, the McCorkles spent six months experimenting with 27 different formulations and 14 product prototypes, which they tested and fine-tuned with the help of fellow moms in a local toddlers' play group.
College chemistry professor Kent McCorkle and his wife, Kim, waited a long time to have a baby. So when their children Connor, 2, and Chloe, 1, came along after many years of trying, they wanted the best for them.
But while shopping online for organic baby lotion, they found that many of the products billed as "all-natural" were actually laden with chemicals. So, armed with Kent's Ph.D. in chemistry and Kim's entrepreneurial spirit, the Oceanside couple invented their own lotion. In April, the McCorkles launched BareBaby Organics, which has already built a small but enthusiastic following.
BareBaby's Premium Moisturizing Lotion is 100 percent organic, with ingredients that include shea butter, extracts of aloe leaf juice, marigold and dog rose fruit, as well as organic coconut, olive, grapeseed, avocado and sunflower oils.
To come up with the final formula, the McCorkles spent six months experimenting with 27 different formulations and 14 product prototypes, which they tested and fine-tuned with the help of Kim's fellow moms in an Oceanside toddlers' play group.
While sales so far are modest, about 7 to 8 bottles a day on Amazon.com and their website (barebabyorganics.com), customer satisfaction is strong. With the help of 86 enthusiastic reviews since mid-April, BareBaby's organic lotion has jumped from page 14 to page 1 in searches for "organic baby lotion" on the Amazon website.
Kim, 41, said she and her husband went into this project with the goal of helping their own kids, so the positive response from customers has been a huge bonus.
"It feels good knowing that we're helping people and that we're making a product that safe enough to use on our own children," she said.
Kim, a stay-at-home mom, is overseeing the small business. Kent is a full-time chemistry teacher at MiraCosta College in Oceanside.
The couple met in 2008 in Sacramento, where Kim's family settled after immigrating from South Korean three decades ago. Born into a family of entrepreneurs, she was working in the medical office management field when she met her husband. Kent, 47, was raised in Indiana and moved to Sacramento 11 years ago for a chemistry teaching job.
They married in 2009 and became a family of three when they adopted Kim's niece Isabel, now 16. But their efforts to have a child of their own were fruitless. They had pretty much given up on having a baby when Connor was conceived 2-1/2 years ago.
Then after moving to Oceanside two year ago for Kent's job, they were surprised once again by baby Chloe.
Because Kim has Graves' disease, the couple has always tried to eat a mostly organic diet. So it was second nature to try and find organic products for their children, a task that proved harder than they anticipated.
"All parents want the best for their children, and because we were older parents who waited so long for children, we were really determined to get the best for our kids," Kent said.
After realizing many products billed as "organic" had artificial fragrances, dyes and petroleum-based ingredients, they became determined to develop their own. They researched ingredients on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which rates products on a toxicity scale of 1 to 10. Some well-known products like Johnson's Baby Lotion and Burt's Bees Baby Bee Nourishing Lotion rank 5 or 6 because the EWG rates their ingredients as unhealthy.
Next, the McCorkles cross-referenced the ingredients they wanted with Whole Foods' premium body care standards list, and then excluded all artificial fragrances and dyes, sulfates, phthalates and parabens. Working with a cosmetics lab in Los Angeles, they thought formulating their lotion would take six weeks. Instead, it took six months to create a lotion that wasn't too runny, too greasy or too sticky and that absorbed quickly into the skin.
Since introducing the unscented BareBaby lotion -- which sells for $11.95 for an 8-ounce bottle -- Kim said she's been surprised to discover that many of her customers aren't parents with babies. Most are adults with extremely dry skin or conditions like excema.
The couple is now working on formulating a second product, a shampoo/body wash, which they hope to introduce online soon. Kent said he would love to see the company grow into a successful online business that can support his family when he retires from teaching.
"When my son graduates from high school, I'll be 63 so I'd like to spend as much of my time as possible with them," he said. "I had a dream three years ago that in five years I'd like to have an online business I could run anywhere in the world. We could home school our kids and live anywhere we wanted. Maybe this will make that dream happen."