Melbourne-Based Absolutely Natural Grows With the Family
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Melbourne-Based Absolutely Natural Grows With the Family

Melbourne-Based Absolutely Natural Grows With the Family

Melbourne-based Absolutely Natural was green and gentle to people and the planet at a time when green was just a color. With the goal to fashion a sunscreen safe for his young son, Charley Richards went on to create a family company so well respected that it has for years been the go-to-choice on the shelves at some of the country’s top resorts and continues to grow alongside the growing Richards family.

“We were on the forefront of natural and green,” said Charley, who launched Absolutely Natural in 1992, when son Danny’s allergies to chemicals in traditional sunscreen prompted him to find a better solution. 

It is fitting that Danny succeeded his father at the helm of Absolutely Natural, and as the company president, continues the tradition of expanding product lines. Like he inspired his father, Danny’s children have inspired new products, too. Absolutely Natural launched a baby products line Zoey Naturals crafted to benefit his first daughter, Zoey, now 7. Younger daughter, 5-year-old Kinsley, is the inspiration for a soon-to-launch line of essential oils.

“I couldn’t ask for a better role model and father,” Danny said.

He first showed interest in his father’s company at age 3, when he eagerly picked up a phone to help field a customer call. 

By age 13, Danny was filling lotion bottles and by 16, he was working full time for his father, with the blessing of a special career track offered by Brevard Public Schools. He segued into just about every job in the company and earned a business degree in marketing from the University of Central Florida while working full time at Absolutely Natural. 

“This has been what I always wanted to do,” Danny said. “I’ve always felt very happy here.”

While Charley’s wife, Kelly, has retired to enjoy the grandbabies, brother Josh is also part of the business as the IT guru who keeps a complex inventory system humming. Danny’s wife, Kelsey, was the driving force for the Zoey Naturals branding. Charley still works full time, but he now has the luxury of being able to pick and choose projects.

Summer Job to Career

Charley has always led his family and his employee team — which he also considers part of the family — by example, never diverging from a proven formula of hard work, trust and respect. His modest beginnings in West Virginia have always kept him grounded and grateful for his blessings.

“Back when I was a kid, owning a business was a fantasy,” he said. 

The fantasy started becoming reality at age 16 with a summer visit to Daytona Beach, a trip that first gave Charley the opportunity for his entrepreneurial spirit to shine. What was originally a teen’s fun vacation led to seven summers selling suntan lotion at Daytona hotels. 

With his own family in tow, Charley later moved to Hawaii to build upon the fledgling suntan business he had started in the Sunshine State. Working as a high school teacher and wrestling coach added to the income the family garnered from selling suntan lotion and renting beach chairs at Hawaiian hotels.

It was in the Aloha state, after Danny was born, that Charley realized the products he represented during the late 1980s were laden with toxic chemical emulsifiers and troublesome oxybenzone, a chemical with a cornucopia of nasty side effects that includes skin allergies, hormone disruption, thyroid problems and even toxicity to coral and marine species. There had to be a better way, Charley thought, and he was going to find it.

“We set out to make a better mousetrap,” he said.

With extensive research and the advice of chemists and engineers, Charley developed a sunblock lotion that was effective, yet instead of harmful parabens, sulfates and phthalates, contained entirely natural and beneficial organic ingredients like rosehip and aloe. When Absolutely Natural sunblock first appeared in 1992, it was a rare product indeed. Charley was a pioneer of a new niche market.

“Charley came from humble beginnings and with no investors started the business from scratch,” said Kelly Richards, who pitched in during the early days by labeling the lotion bottles.

Kelly has known Charley since they were 13; she never doubted he would succeed.

“He has always proven he can do anything he sets his mind to,” she said.

Blooming on the Space Coast

Richards was not interested in quantity, but rather focused on quality, and did not pursue rampant expansion, instead growing his business with care and precision. In 1988, the family left Hawaii for Florida, traveling down the coast to look for a likely place to establish roots to grow the family and the company. They found it in Indialantic, where they fell in love with the house in which they still live.

The mom-and-pop operation, launched with seven different natural formulas manufactured in 400 feet of space, has grown to now encompass more than 300 suncare, skin care and spa products manufactured in the 33,000-square-foot Melbourne facility. Products including bug repellent, soaps, skin care, deodorants and shampoos are sold at resorts around the world, online at the company website and through Amazon, and at the bricks-and-mortar store at 644 Atlantis Road in Melbourne.

The Absolutely Natural product lines will continue growing and evolving as Danny, Kelsey, Zoey and Kinsley grow and evolve. In 2017, when Zoey was born, Zoey Naturals appeared on the market, a response to the need for products specifically formulated for a baby’s sensitive skin. 

“We wanted to offer quality yet affordable natural skin care for babies,” Danny said. 

The brand, which offers sunscreen, diaper cream, body and hair wash and more, is sold at more than 100 baby boutiques, and the company is under negotiations with a big box retailer. Kinsley Oils, a collection of essential oils, is slated to debut at the end of this summer. 

Loved Around the World

Absolutely Natural depends on a team of 50 employees, which includes a full-time chemist (and Florida Tech graduate) who keeps developing game-changing products for the Absolutely Natural brand, as well as for several private labels the company produces for under its Monas Labs division.

“We keep everything under one roof,” Richards said.

Absolutely Natural products are sold at resorts including Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Sandals and Beaches. It’s also a trusted manufacturer for private labels like Young Living, a direct marketing company specializing in essential oils. Absolutely Natural produces shave lotion, muscle tension relief, shampoos, conditioners and more for the 30-year-old firm.

“We are so glad we found Charley,” said Young Living’s main buyer, Marsha Dean.

Keith Miller of Panhandle-based natural suncare products company Shine on Living, also is grateful for his connection with Absolutely Natural.

“Thank you for all you’re doing to make marine eco-friendly products for all the beaches around the world,” Miller said in a video message celebrating Absolutely Natural’s 30th anniversary two years ago. 

Continuing to walk the natural talk, the Richards family depends on recycled and recyclable materials in product packaging. For the Richards family, going Absolutely Natural has proven the right way to go, both for family and business.   

“Absolutely Natural is a legacy Charley has built,” Kelly said. 


Absolutely Natural
644 Atlantis Road, Melbourne
321-728-7191 or 800-848-7623
Instagram: @absolutelynaturalskincare 
Facebook: /absolutelynaturalskincare  

From the Archives

Sept. 3, 2019: Absolutely Natural Founded on Family
March 1, 2019: Baby Soft, Baby Safe
Aug. 25, 2017: Absolutely Natural Celebrates 25 Years, Naturally

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