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Small Business Spotlight: Healthy Times

As a new mom in 1980, Rondi Prescott wanted the best for her baby.

In search of a healthy teething biscuit, Prescott, the chief executive officer of Healthy Times, a developer of U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic baby food, cookies, cereals, teething biscuits and natural baby care, decided that what was available on the market was not what she wanted for her baby.

Prescott began making her own biscuit made from a molasses cookie recipe, substituting white flour and sugar with healthier ingredients. The cookie she came up with became the basis for her teething biscuits, which now sell for $2 apiece retail worldwide.

“We live a healthy lifestyle and we wanted something healthy for her,” Prescott said, referring to her daughter Lorissa, who is now 25 years old.

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The Poway-based company has grown considerably since its inception 25 years ago, with annual revenues now totaling $4 million.

The first batch of cookies was made in groups of 200 and distributed to local health food stores in San Diego, Prescott said.

The company’s products were recently picked up by the Albertsons supermarket chain, which will carry Healthy Times goods at 70 stores nationwide, she said.

Healthy Times products can also be found nationwide at Whole Food’s, Henry’s, and Wild Oats, and internationally at health food stores in Singapore, Australia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and New Zealand.


Resum & #233;

Name: Rondi K. Prescott.

Title: Chief executive officer.

Company: Healthy Times.

Address: 13200 Kirkham Way, Poway.

Phone: (858) 513-1550.

Founded: 1980.

Prior experience: Took nutrition/cooking classes in college and committed to a healthy lifestyle.

Average hours worked weekly: 48.

Source of startup capital: $1,000 in savings.

2004 revenue: $4 million.

2003 revenue: $2.5 million.

Number of employees: 15 national and seven international brokers.

Web site: www.healthytimes.com.


Background

Born: Dec. 27, 1955.

Education: Two years at Colorado State University.

Residence: Poway.

Family: Husband, Richard; and daughters, Lorissa, 25, and Kristina, 16; and son, Richard II, 18.

Hobbies: Running, working out, cooking and spending time with my family.


Judgment Calls

Reason for getting into the business: When my first-born baby daughter began teething, I developed a natural teething biscuit, as there were no natural baby food products on the market. Our lifestyle was geared toward staying healthy and raising our children the same way and the grocery stores were devoid of any products for babies or children that promoted a healthy diet.

How I plan to grow the business: Continue developing great tasting foods for babies and toddlers that are organic and of the highest quality available. Continue to expand our natural baby care line to include all of the items mothers need to keep their baby’s skin and hair healthy.

Biggest plus of business ownership: The rewarding feeling of knowing that babies are receiving the highest quality, purest foods and baby care products available on the market and offering mothers a choice that they have never had before.

Biggest drawback: I do not see any drawbacks to my business.

Biggest business strength: The creativity in product development and packaging that the competition lacks and the ability to be able to keep quality in the products. Because we are not public, unlike the competition, the bottom line is not the priority for us.

Biggest business weakness: Going up against big business and the power they have to keep smaller businesses off the shelf.

Biggest risk: When we marketed the products in the first conventional supermarket and we were required to pay a huge amount of upfront money to get on the shelf.

Smartest business decision: Starting the company and taking the risk at the time when money was scarce.

Biggest business mistake: Giving our startup capital to a bakery that went bankrupt on us when we started.

Toughest career decision: I cannot think of any. I did not think of this as a career, but it was, and still is, my passion.

Biggest ongoing challenge: Obtaining shelf space in grocery stores when big business pays high dollars to keep us off.

The most important part of my business: Giving consumers what they want in terms of quality, taste, package and experience when purchasing the Healthy Times brand.

My business works best when: The people that I work with have the same priorities as I do.

How your business has changed throughout the years: Healthy Times has grown from being available in some health food stores to being available nationwide and internationally as well as in grocery stores and all-natural food stores.

Best way to stay competitive: Stay creative and continue to bring out products that mothers love. Big companies are more concerned with bottom line profit, not quality. This is where we excel.

How you measure success: Growth, as far as the number of products in the food and baby care line and the volumes of cases sold to our accounts, tells me we are on the right track.


Goals

Goals yet to be achieved: To branch out into more healthy products for toddlers and children and finish our online baby store.

My five-year business plan: To finish the organic baby and toddler products planned and to add products not yet addressed by any company on the market.


Philosophy

I would sell my business only if: I am not considering at this time, but if I was, I would have to have a guarantee that whoever purchased my company would keep the high standards that I built the company on and not change any of the products to a higher profit margin, which means lower quality for babies.

Guiding principles: My guiding principles are nutritional, which means healthy, organic and great tasting products; environmental, by using only organic farmers who have the same visions in keeping the soil free from harmful pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers; and ethical, by giving consumers organic baby food that doesn’t use water as a first ingredient and doesn’t add fillers.

Important lessons learned: Do not wait for change when you have outgrown a manufacturer. Always make sure you get the end product you want.

Advice for those looking to go into business: Believe in yourself. Do as much research as possible and make sure that you can commit to any amount of time necessary and do what it takes to make it happen.

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