More than 25 years ago, scientist and entrepreneur Jim Brown moved his family to the Valley and founded Floratech, a supplier of botanical ingredients to major skincare companies. The Brown children grew up with a resident chemist who brought home jars of skincare concoctions from the lab. When daughter Susan decided that moms and babies could benefit from skincare potions made with those same natural oils, she took her marketing degree and got to work. Throw in a few pearls of wisdom from—who else but dad—and her Chandler-based company, Susan Brown’s Baby, was born.
Vicki: What was it like growing up with a chemist for a dad?
Susan: He would mix stuff in his lab, like lotions, diaper ointment…and he would bring it home. They make jojoba esters, (a by-product of jojoba oil) and it is great for your skin. He would bring home a big jar of it and I would share it with my friends, and my mom would share it with her friends.
Jim: She was an early tester for the products.
Vicki: Did you ever imagine back when Susan was growing up that she would go into the business?
Jim: Apart from the lemonade stands…well, it sort of evolved as she entered school, and graduate school. It wasn’t a long-term strategic plan.
Vicki: You use oils from several different sources—cocoa butters, sunflower seeds, macadamia [nut]. Isn’t jojoba a local plant?
Jim: Jojoba is native to the Sonoran desert—the southern Arizona desert, northern Mexico, Baja California, southern California. At one time, our only source was the area around Cave Creek and Carefree, when we moved here in the early ’80s. It’s now cultivated around the world.
Vicki: How did you do your research when you were in the planning stages?
Susan: I knew there was a market because I had friends having babies. When I knew I was going to do this, I started to work at a baby boutique. I really got to know what was out there and I think there was a void.
Jim: And, the world is getting greener. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the carbon footprint of the petrochemicals and the synthetic materials, as opposed to the naturally grown and produced raw materials.
Vicki: What ingredients are in the Susan Brown’s Baby line that are different from what you might buy at, say, the drugstore?
Jim: If you take a look at the labels, most of them have high levels of petrolatum. Petrolatum is a petroleum-based material, which is a very occlusive ingredient on the skin. It prevents the skin from breathing, essentially. The emollients that we are using have an entirely different type of feel. They are natural. So it’s a natural route to a more skin-friendly formulation.
Vicki: What’s it like to work together?
Jim: It’s amazing to see the transformation and the learning curve that Susan’s gone through. Coming out of school is one thing, but creating a new business is an entirely different world. And she’s done very well.
Susan: I’m just a couple of offices down, but he’s busy with Floratech, so I don’t see him that often. But I know he’s there if I have a question. It’s nice to have my dad there when I need him! RAK