Remember 20 years ago?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Seinfeld was the biggest hit on television. The Crying Game shocked people on the big screen. Gasoline was 93 cents a gallon!

And, Absolutely Natural was officially launched April 16, 1992. Our first bottle of sunscreen was sold at a resort in Hilton Head Island while many hours later resorts in Maui made their first sales.

At the time we had one employee (me) and a 500 sqft facility on Hickory Street in Melbourne, Florida. The goal was simple ... Make the world's first truly all natural suncare and sell it through resort hotels with company trained skin care consultants. 

We had just seven different products at the time, Rosehip Aloe, Pure Aloe, SPF 4, 8 and 15. Plus our Platinum Tanning Oil and our Professional Tanning Oil. The sunscreens were revolutionary and worked great, but were a challenge to sell as the Titanium was thick and white and left people looking like Casper, the Friendly Ghost. Great cartoon; not so great on sun lovers at the beach.

Within a couple of years we improved our propitiatory technology and we were able to add an SPF 25 to the mix and make the sunscreens less whitening as well. This was our entire product mix for about 10 years.

From those humble beginnings we grew. We added territories including Southwest Florida, Orlando, Las Vegas and Palm Springs. We honed our training and created programs that are still the gold standard in the suncare industry. We were often imitated but never duplicated and even now are light years ahead of our competitors with our training systems including the famous 3-P's program (see some of our past blogs).

Lots of things have changed in 20 years. We started at six resorts and now have products in more than 200 worldwide. Hawaii is still an important region for us but we are now in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Mexico, Canada and all over the Caribbean.

Our catalogue has increased from the original seven products to more than 250 with all natural formulas in Suncare, personal care, spa and specialty products. We now sell to Ritz Carlton properties all over the world, the Fontainebleu Resort in Miami, Sandals and Beaches Properties, Trump Resorts, the Venetian and Aria in Las Vegas and hundreds more.

We've grown physically as well and now have nearly 35,000 sqft of production, offices and warehouse in Melbourne, Florida as well as two stores in Kauai. Absolutely Natural employs 25 people full time with up to 20 more seasonally.

Some things haven't changed. Our formulas are still made with cosmetic grade raw ingredients and still hand crafted with exacting standards. Even though we make 1000x more product than we did in 1992, we will never take shortcuts. That's the biggest reason we have thrived over the last two decades.

There are scores of people to thank especially my wife, Kelly, who used to coordinate all of our labeling of bottles with housewives all over Brevard County burning up the miles in an old Ford Taurus station wagon. And, she has been supportive of me through good times and bad and the million miles I have had to travel and the great amount of time I was absent from our home.

Mike Kelley, my oldest friend, first customer and still my best client with his fantastic Beach Activities of Maui. My brother, Steve, who was instrumental in keeping the business going in the early years. Bob Hamner originally developed the formulas with me and still comes up with phenomenal fragrances and products. All our employees in the past for their hard work and all of our great clients who have made it possible for our growth. And, many, many more.

Additionally, I want to thank our fantastic staff today especially Danny Richards who has been with me his whole life and worked for the company for the last 11 years. Danny has done whatever has been asked of him and currently works in sales and with special projects. Also, Lindsey Barber who has put her heart and soul into the company for the last seven years and has proven invaluable in the day to day operations, product development and web sales. Todd Anderson is going on four years of service as our director of sales and resident technology guru and brings a wealth of personal experience to the company (see Todd's story in past blogs).

We are also fortunate to have Suzanne Clements on our team. Suzanne is an extraordinary graphic artist who is responsible for our label design, web site look, new product design, mail outs, all collateral material and much more. She is assisted by Curtis Canham and they make an award winning team.

Scott Faris is also an integral team member and our consultant CFO. Scott has been instrumental in developing our financial resources and some exciting license products that we will announce shortly.

I also want to thank Brittany Quave, who is so capable handling our mail order department, Jessica Bouwsma, utility player extraordinaire, Joan Marshall, our excellent bookkeeper, Josh Yanni, my other son and IT expert, Gordon Cameron, production manager who gets out a remarkable amount of work in a short time, Anita Shaw, head of our labeling department, Eddie and Franco Citron, our master blenders and most responsible for our unequaled quality products, Kristina Hamner, our micro wiz, Matt Carrerio, our warehouse manager plus our hard working capable crew in production, Chris Lurcott, Mike Pigg, and Calvin Littles.

In Hawaii, Aerial Farr is our island manger for our Kauai stores and has done a great job alongside her mother, Karen Farr, in making our first Absolutely Natural store a great success. Her sister, Julia Smart, handles duties at our kiosk at the Kauai Beach Resort and offers their clients the ultimate in guest service. They all three are fantastic representatives for our natural products.

I also appreciate our vendors who embrace our exacting standards and insistence on the best quality. They have been important in the growth of our company.

Finally, and most of all, I want to thank all of our tens of thousands of loyal customers who make our efforts worthwhile.

Best regards