The cabinet under the kitchen sink is the Fort Knox of the American household. We keep it so barricaded with the latest in childproofing technology that sometimes we as parents can barely break through – all to protect our curious little ones from getting their hands on certain household cleaners.
However, two St. Louis dads had a thought: What if we didn’t have to worry? What if instead of harmful chemicals, our cabinet could be filled with all-natural products that aren’t only safe for kids and pets, but can clean as well as traditional brands? Through their efforts and the launch of their business, Better Life, dust spray and floor cleaner no longer have to be kept under lock and key.
Kevin Tibbs and Tim Barklage, high school friends from St. Charles West, both had successful careers – Barklage in business, Tibbs in product formulation chemistry. Their career paths merged a few years later when the two each welcomed baby girls to their families three months apart.
Said Barklage, “Our girls started crawling around the same time, so we were baby-proofing the house, locking things up. I was telling Kevin about the green cleaning products I was using to keep my daughter safe. He decided to look into these products and discovered while they may be more environmentally friendly, water-downed versions of conventional products, he didn’t feel comfortable if a toddler or pet got into them.”
In fact, according to Barklage, the “green” options he was using weren’t very green at all, especially since there is little government oversight regarding the “green” marketing of cleaning products as there is in the food and cosmetics industries.
“It makes sense there are regulations in the skin-care market because the products are absorbed by the skin and going into the body,” remarked Barklage. “But the cleaning products we’re spraying on our countertops on a daily basis aren’t regulated even though we’re intentionally or unintentionally exposing ourselves to the chemicals. The only marketing claims that are regulated are in regards to antibacterial products – other than that, you can claim anything you want and there’s no government oversight.”
Upset by these discoveries, Tibbs went to work developing naturally based, plant-sourced cleaning solutions for their families. After testing the products in their homes and discovering they worked as well as their big-name counterparts, Tibbs and Barklage felt they had developed a safe cleaning alternative. They took the prototypes to Whole Foods, which immediately jumped on the products, and in 2008, Better Life hit the store shelves.
Quickly, parents and cleaning professionals alike began snapping up the eight products in the Better Life line. Converts to Better Life products began to realize what exposure to the conventional brands had on their skin condition and overall health and were impressed with the cleaning efficiency of the new products. “We’ve had people with severe asthma, health issues and sensitivity to chemicals tell us they’re so happy, that they feel liberated," Barklage said. "They can clean again and not feel the cleaning performance is compromised. People have really gotten behind what we’re doing from a safety standpoint.”
Today, Tibbs and Barklage continue to grow their business while supporting their growing families. Each family has welcomed another child to the mix since Better Life began, and the business provides them the flexibility they need, even though its continual growth keeps them hopping.
These two dads are inspirations to other parents considering starting their own businesses. To them, Barklage offered a few words of wisdom on making their move, “The biggest piece of advice I can give to people is to see that there are a lot of parents opening businesses out there – it can be done if you have an idea you believe in. Just like having kids, there’s never a ‘right time’ to start a business. But with time, energy and intellectual capital behind you, take that leap of faith. Do it and don’t look back.”
By Nicole Pledge, Lifestyle Blogger for Smart Parenting