Ask any number of business owners the key to success and the answer most likely to come back will be passion. To stake your financial hopes and dreams on a project, not to mention untold years of your life, you must be passionate about what you do. For parents, nothing is more important than their children, and Kevin Tibbs (’95) was so passionate about the health of his daughter he risked everything to start a business that would give her a better life.
After graduating from Truman with a degree in biology, Tibbs went to work in St. Louis as a formulation chemist focusing on personal care products and cosmetics. When his daughter was a toddler, the family realized she had asthma and skin sensitivities with one of the major contributors coming in the form of the cleaning products they used in the home.
“With each spray we were filling the air and surfaces in our home with toxic and irritating chemicals that would trigger a reaction,” Tibbs said. “I decided to dedicate my time to developing better cleaning products – cleaners that were safe, natural and effective.”
Tibbs put his chemical knowledge to work and established a line of four different types of cleaners. In 2008, he and his business partner quit their jobs and concentrated their efforts on the new company, Better Life.
“I resigned from my job and a very successful career, during a down time in the economy, with a toddler and a newborn, to start Better Life,” he said. “There wasn’t a safety net, so failure was not an option. Because I believed so strongly in what I was doing, and the difference these products could make in people’s lives, it kept me motivated to make certain Better Life was successful.”
Tibbs personally creates and tests each product the company makes, and he requires specific quality guidelines be met before their release.
“Better Life products needed to work as good or better than the traditional chemical cleaner, but they had to be safe,” he said. “This meant beating the performance of that big orange bottle of laundry detergent on your washing machine, but not using any of the harsh, toxic chemical ingredients that are in it.”
The company started by selling products at two Whole Foods locations in St. Louis and soon expanded to the franchise’s other locations in the Midwest. Word of mouth was the main way the business grew in the beginning. As the reputation of the brand’s quality spread, momentum picked up, and more opportunities became available. Before long, Tibbs could be seen as a guest host on the Home Shopping Network. A 2013 appearance on the hit television show “Shark Tank” boosted sales, especially through the company website.
Better Life may have started with the noblest of intentions, but Tibbs still wants it to be as successful as possible.
“My dream has always been to make Better Life a well-known, household name, and each day I work toward this goal,” he said.
At the 10-year mark of its founding, the company is now a multimillion-dollar enterprise. While the profits are nice, Tibbs draws the most satisfaction from his customers, whether it is the pet owner who is thankful it was a Better Life product her dog got a hold of rather than a traditional chemical cleaner, or a person with sensitivities who can finally clean their home. Tibbs is achieving his original goal and helping many others along the way.
“This makes me smile, and thankful that I am part of something special,” he said.