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Keith Garber, B.S.’97

Jennifer Levine

“Lightbulb Moment”

By Carol Olechowski

For Keith Garber and lifelong friend Kevin Schwartz, the entrepreneurial “lightbulb moment” came in 2004. “Kevin and his wife were thinking about starting a family,” recalls Garber. “They wanted their baby to be safe, but also free to play, crawl and explore, as babies should. They started searching for products that would make their home, and the planet, safe, but couldn’t find them.”

That’s when the idea for Babyganics – the Westbury, N.Y., maker of “household and personal-care products made with plant-based ingredients and designed to help parents create a baby-safe world” – was born. The company, “run by two dads,” has developed “a whole ecosystem of products, from home care to skin care, from the bath to laundry to sun care,” according to Garber.

As an undergraduate biology major at UAlbany, Garber was planning a career in medicine. “My love for biology and physiology was overtaken by my entrepreneurial spirit, and I completed a minor in business administration. The reality is, I had already begun my entrepreneurial career sophomore year, with classmate and best friend Josh Shaw [B.S.’97], as a founding partner of Student Advantage. By the time we were 24, we had built a six-person organization into a 650-person publicly traded company on the NASDAQ, generating more than $100 million in sales,” Garber notes.

While he went on to initiate other successful start-ups, “I didn’t feel I was making a real difference in the lives of others – a dream of mine since I was a kid. When I teamed up with Kevin, I was finally able to combine my passion for growing a business, being a dad, and ultimately providing millions of parents access to baby-safe products.’”

Babyganics products

Garber and Schwartz “keep a simple goal for the company: to continue making baby products that use the safest ingredients available, are attainable for every mom and dad, and work insanely well!” The business “is so much fun!” adds Garber, who has three children – Zachary, 9; Skylar, 6; and Ashton, 2 – with wife Nicole. “Our wives and kids are test subjects for new formulas and packaging, and as our families grow, we uncover new parenting scenarios that require new products and solutions. Knowing that new parents discover our products every day, joining our journey to make their babies free to explore safely and freely so they can thrive, only reinforces the passion that drives us every day to continue bringing the Babyganics ‘baby-safe world’ mission to life.”

With the exception of diapers, all Babyganics products are manufactured in the United States, “underscoring our baby-safe promise by maintaining the highest safety and quality standards and expectations. We answer to mom (and dad) at the end of the day and take the trust they place in us very seriously. And, with our company’s tremendous growth, it’s nice to know that we are creating more jobs and opportunities throughout the U.S.,” Garber observes.

Babyganics products are sold by leading national retailers and online. Distributors include Babies ‘R’ Us, Toys ‘R’ Us, BuyBuyBaby, Diapers.com, Amazon.com, Target, Walgreens, CVS, Publix, Safeway, Kroger, and Wegmans.

Given its ambitious merchandising strategy, “Babyganics is fortunate to have some of the best online talent working within our business-development and marketing departments and at our agency partners,” says Garber. “With their expertise, Babyganics is very well positioned in the online world to engage with parents and parents-to-be and help to educate them on what they need to know when it comes to doing better for their families.”

Advice for Entrepreneurs

Babyganics co-founder Keith Garber advises aspiring entrepreneurs from UAlbany to “network with students from other schools to cross-pollinate and bring different business perspectives and approaches to life when building a business.” He speaks from experience: Garber and business partner Kevin Schwartz, a University at Buffalo graduate, “complement each other very well in business, and our combination has delivered a 1 + 1 = 11 equation in day-to-day business.”

Next: David Kahan, B.S.’82