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True Blue- An Interview With Our CEO Jeff Bedard

It all began with a little red wagon.

Crown Laboratories founder and CEO, Jeff Bedard, learned the value and reward of hard work when he was just  5-years-old. Raised on an Iowa corn farm in a blue-collar family, Jeff’s first successful business opportunity presented itself when his grandfather made him a deal.

“I wanted a red wagon,” Jeff said. “I would do anything to get it. We owned a farm and produced sweet corn. My grandfather told me in order to get the red wagon, he’d buy it up front and I would pay him back, but I had to go door to door selling sweet corn. So I’d load up that wagon and knock on doors. I paid for that wagon the first week.”

That early experience sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in Jeff. “Work is something you grow up with in Iowa,” he said, smiling. “It’s nothing to be afraid of.”

After graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in chemistry, Jeff’s childhood dreams of becoming a doctor or professional basketball player were thoughtfully considered, but ultimately rejected. Weighing his options, Jeff headed to Arizona in search of his next opportunity. “My dad taught me, don’t go where the job is. Go where you want to live and find the job. Growing up in Iowa, one thing you learn is it really feels good to be warm,” he said.

Jeff landed a job with a mid-sized dermatology company and, as a salesman, put 80,000 miles on his car the first year. “I thought I’d stay in the dermatology field for a year or two and then move on to something else. But here I am, 32 years later.” A smart career move, some might say. And while Jeff would agree, his focus has evolved way beyond being a topflight career man.

A dermatologist friend contacted Jeff in 1998 regarding an opportunity to distribute Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen in the U.S. Trusting his instinct, Jeff arranged a meeting the very next week. “The man who created the formula in Australia wanted to enter the U.S. market, and was seeking a distributor who had a dermatology background. He knew he didn’t have the funds to compete with popular American products right off the bat and was looking for a way in.”

Choosing a more ethical promotion plan over standard marketing procedure, Jeff drew on the support of the medical community - doctors, pharmacists and dermatologists who he knew would appreciate the integrity and efficacy of the Blue Lizard formula. It was this brilliant business strategy, coupled with the bold move of following his heart that led Jeff back to his entrepreneurial roots. He eventually created Crown Laboratories, bought Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen and followed his biggest dream - making a positive difference in the lives of others.

“The real magic of Blue Lizard is the people behind the product,” Jeff said from the expansive Crown Laboratories facility in Johnson City, Tenn. “If you don’t believe in a product, your heart’s never in it. The people here at the plant, the people in the field selling the product, we all believe in it. We feel we’re doing a service to the general public to educate them about sun safety.”

Melanoma and other skin cancers have become epidemic problems in the U.S., and Jeff’s biggest mission is to help reverse this trend through education and awareness. “I equate what we’re doing with sun safety education to what we did early on with car seats and seat belts. When I was 3-years-old, I sat in the middle console in between my mom and dad. I didn’t even have a car seat. But when my kids hop in the car, it’s second nature for them to click the seat belt."

“If a 2-year-old grows up wearing sunscreen, a hat and eye protection when they are in the sun,” he continued, “and is taught to seek shade in the middle of the day, sun safety becomes second nature. Once we achieve that with the next generation, skin cancer will drop in the U.S.”

Jeff Bedard’s formula for success is as simple as selling corn from a little red wagon: take care of people and produce a product that will enhance their lives. With Crown Laboratories, he's done just that.


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February 23, 2015 by Blue Lizard Staff
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