Absolutely Natural Founded On Family
Charley Richards never set out to start a multi-million-dollar business in a niche market. But a business born from the needs of his own family led to him building a company run by a team that he treats like family. Surely in the what-you-give-is-what-you-get realm, Melbourne-based Absolutely Natural is thriving not only because of the quality and effectiveness of its products, but also because of the family atmosphere inside the day-to-day operations.
To understand the strong foundation of the company, we look back at Charley’s story. It’s all about family.
The West Virginia native moved to Hawaii at age 26 with his wife, Kelly, and young son. The tourist-filled resorts there were the perfect places for him to continue the suntan lotion sales he started while living in Florida.
But business became personal when the Richards realized that Danny, their youngest son, born in Hawaii, was sensitive to the chemicals in traditional sunscreen. Charley researched the ingredients and found that most were toxic. He believed: “There has to be a better way.”
Determined to help his son, Charley experimented with natural ingredients and discovered a new way to mix them without any chemical emulsifiers. The Absolutely Natural sunscreen was born, and the first bottle was sold in April, 1992.
“Absolutely Natural combines the philosophy of nature and science in all its formulas,” Charley said.
He accomplished the mission of providing his own family with a safer product, and in turn, countless other families, too. For the first nine years in business, Charley just sold sunscreen. And it was all about teaching people how to properly apply sunscreen.
The Richards decided to move their family back to the mainland U.S. and settled in Brevard County. The Melbourne factory now produces more than 250 products including bug repellent, anti-aging lotions, soaps, deodorant, hair products and more. Charley’s original two products — the mineral sunscreen and lotion — are available in their original bottle and packaging.
As much as Charley refuses to compromise on his commitment to using quality, all-natural ingredients, he is as equally devoted to maintaining a small, family run atmosphere. The 30 employees at Absolutely Natural include his wife as the business interior decorator and their two sons.
With a degree in marketing and a life-long personal history with the business, Danny, 32, recently stepped into the role of vice president. His older brother Josh, 37, is instrumental in keeping things running smoothly, heading up the IT department.
“The roots of the business are built on legacy and a family atmosphere,” said Danny, who has worked for the company since he was 13. His first job was in production filling lotion into bottles, then he processed mail-orders from the company website and answered phones. He was then promoted to a sales position while receiving his bachelor’s degree at UCF.
The family includes the employees.
“Charley gives so much to others,” said Lindsey Barber, former VP of Absolutely Natural and friend of the family since she and Danny met in 9th grade. “He brings out the best in people.”
When Absolutely Natural had a staff member diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, that family culture came into play. The employee needed extended time off for a radical double mastectomy and ongoing treatments. She received the time she needed and the company contributed to help her with bills while she was out of work.
Another long-time employee had multiple surgeries due to complications from type 2 diabetes. Charley made sure his medical expenses were covered, and continues to offer ongoing support toward a healthy lifestyle.
Growth through caring
With distribution to high-end resorts around the world, Absolutely Natural is concerned about its environmental impact globally and here at home. The company supports sea turtle rehabilitation, rescue and awareness. Marketing materials and product packaging are made with recycled and recyclable materials. By using natural ingredients and eliminating harmful chemicals such as parabens, sulfates and phthalates, the products won’t harm your skin or the ocean environment.
And the family is taking that philosophy to the next level. After the birth of Charley’s granddaughter, Zoey, Danny and his wife, Kelsey, wanted safer baby products than they found on the market. The family worked with the chemists at Absolutely Natural to develop Zoey Naturals — a line of gentle, hypoallergenic products specifically formulated for babies and toddlers. Products include diaper cream, body wash, lotion, hand sanitizer and of course, sunscreen.
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