Kevin Schwartz and Keith Garber are cofounders BabyGanics, an innovative line of natural and gentle baby products, from mineral sunscreens for kids to baby-safe floor cleaner. They shared with Motherly the story of the ‘lightbulb moment’ that led them to found their company, advice for other parent-entrepreneurs, and insight into how Millennial parents are making “green” the new normal.
Can you tell us about what were you each doing before Babyganics?
Kevin: Sure. I started my career in technology, but felt it was missing something – I didn’t feel fulfilled. I’m an entrepreneur at heart and wanted more than just the typical 9 to 5… something of my own.
It was when I got my puppy Tucker (my first “baby”) that I was tapped into that [entrepreneurial] spirit and founded a successful pet health and wellness business. It was a great eye opener and indirectly, I think helped set the stage for what would become my next business. (Also, happy to report Tucker is still part of the family and going strong at 91 - in dog years).
Keith: Similar to Kevin, I‘ve always been an entrepreneurial spirit – it’s probably why we get along so well. I actually co-founded of one of my first companies when I was still in college, which then became a publicly traded company on the Nasdaq.
I’ve built several other startups that ended up as leaders in their categories, but even with those successes, I didn’t feel I was making a real difference in the lives of others – which was always a dream of mine since I was a kid.
When I teamed up with Kevin I was finally able to combine my passion for growing a business, being a dad, and ultimately making a difference in the lives of millions of other families.
Was there a moment when you realized that you knew you needed to start Babyganics? What clicked for you?
Kevin: It’s funny – we actually call it the “lightbulb moment” in our office. My wife Ali was pregnant with our first and we were starting to think beyond ourselves— about our baby on the way.
It wasn’t going to be just us anymore, and like with most parents, it made us consider the world our child would be entering, including our home. We wanted to make sure he was going to be safe, but we also wanted him to be free to play, and crawl and explore – as babies should.
So, we started searching for products that would make our home safe without us having to worry. It was also important to us that the products we used were green, so they were not just safe for the baby, but safe for the planet too.
And, you know what? We couldn’t find them. That’s when I knew that something needed to be done. By the time Tyler was born, so was the idea of Babyganics and my mission.
It took the help of a lot of dedicated, passionate folks who share this mission, but today we’re a company run by two dads (myself and Keith) and we have a whole ecosystem of ‘baby safe’ products — from home care to skin care, from the bath to laundry to sun— that just couldn’t be found a few years ago.
And knowing that every day, new parents discover our products and join our journey to help their babies naturally and happily grow and thrive only reinforces it was the right thing to do.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Kevin: I have to say, it came from my mom. It was right before Tyler was born. She told me to enjoy every moment with my kids. She said “They grow up so incredibly fast and if you don’t make time for them when they’re young, you can’t get that time back.”
She also told me that as much as I want to protect them, I need to give them their freedom so they can find their way on their own. “Guide them but don’t hold them back.” That was something that always stuck with me.
How has fatherhood transformed your careers?
Keith: I have always wanted to impact in the lives of others. It wasn’t until becoming a dad that I realized I wanted to make a positive impact in the lives of other children and families beyond my own.
Fatherhood helped me identify my purpose. I love business and I love the whole idea of ‘family’ – being able to combine those two every single day, it’s amazing!
Kevin: I have to agree. Being able to have my work directly impact and benefit my family, and vice versa – I couldn’t ask for anything more. I think being a dad also helped me grow as a person, to be more patient and understanding.
I find myself focusing more on the important things and making sure I have balance. And this isn’t something I expect for just myself, but for our entire organization.
Family is so much a part of our culture and it’s important to the two of us, that our entire team prioritizes a healthy balance of work and family.
What’s your secret to integrating work and family?
Kevin: Family drives the passion behind what I do, but it also drives the need for what I do. Being a parent and knowing what other parents look for, what they want, I have a focus group right in my own home!
It makes my job that much easier. And again, it also helps me prioritize the important things. I believe in family first and I practice what I preach. If I didn’t, I couldn’t lead by example – which is something I take very seriously.
Keith: For me, it’s about setting the right example. It’s all about the team environment, pulling together, supporting each another. This is not only something I try to instill in my team at work but also with my family at home (we actually call ourselves Team G).
I spend a lot of time working in the community, running developmental athletic programs for kids. I believe in encouraging them and helping them find their strengths – which is something that I have learned throughout my years in business. It’s how I motivate all my teams.
What are your words of wisdom for other parents wanting to turn their passion into a business?
Keith: It’s just that – you need passion. Passion and mission, actually. Passion gives you heart and mission gives you drive and keeps you focused.
If you lack either, it will quickly turn into just another job. It’s the two that will keep you going during the hard times. And there will be hard times – trust us.
But it can’t just start and stop with you. You need to share your passion, make it infectious, so that those around you want to join your journey in creating something great!
And the second piece of that is surrounding yourself with good people. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for our team - the other fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents – all who have believed in the Babyganics mission and committed themselves to creating better choices for parents.
How are Millennial parents changing the conversation about what it means to be “green”? Is “green” the new normal?
Kevin: Millennials, more than generations before them, see “green” as almost a base line. They are more aware of labels and are searching for products that are better for them (and their families).
They also have higher expectations; they are not willing to sacrifice efficacy just because a product is green. They take an uncompromising approach to their needs and are not willing to settle – and to be honest, they don’t have to.
What are your big dreams for Babyganics?
Keith: Part of our DNA at Babyganics is about driving innovation, especially when it comes to the safest and best ingredients to use in our products.
And quite frankly, it is something that we are very proud of. As part of my dreams for future, I want to us to not only continue as a leader, but to also drive change.
Change that inspires a movement for more consumers to demand better ingredients, better choices and that challenges the status quo. Because status quo is easy, and easy is not acceptable when it comes to the wellbeing of family.
Kevin: I totally agree with Keith. If we do our job, and help parents make smarter, better choices for their families, those decisions will lead to overall lifestyle changes for the better.
My dream is for Babyganics to be the catalyst that shifts families to think differently and to make healthier lifestyle choices across the board. Not just specific to the products that we create, but to all the decisions they make in their world.
What have you learned about modern mothers and fathers through Babyganics?
Kevin: Parents today spend more time with their children than their parents ever did. Both mothers and fathers consistently say family time is more important than their job or other leisure activities.
Parenting is not seen as a burden, but a privilege and source of happiness.
They also celebrate the freedom and independence of their children, which is a view point mirrored by editorials, scientific studies and schools. Today’s parents understand that babies need to explore and satisfy their curiosity and not be kept in a bubble. This is critical for their emotional, physical and mental health.
This is what Babyganics is all about. We support this baby freedom by helping parents create a world that is baby safe for full exploration!