Five years ago, Lafayette doctor Barbara Brierre was in a quandary. The internal medicine and women's health specialist's father had progressive mitral valve prolapse, an abnormality of the mitral valves of the heart that often produces a click or murmur. Through research, she learned that magnesium improved symptoms of MVP, but her father had trouble swallowing the horse pills for treatment. She wondered: what about administering the mineral topically instead of orally? "I had been looking outside of the box of [traditional] medicine for a long time, for about four or five years," she says.

The physician brought her idea to a local compounding pharmacist in 2003. Eventually, Brierre developed a transdermal magnesium cream, which is applied by pumping a metered amount between the inner wrists and rubbing them together. She was so impressed with the results she incorporated magnesium into a progesterone cream for her female patients who were suffering from conditions such as PMS and menopause. "The evidence came back with unbelievably good feedback," she says.

Today, Brierre's transdermal magnesium line, called SEABLUE, includes four products ' Balance, Vigor, Power and Calm. Balance is designed to help women suffering from hormone imbalance and vitamin deficiency. For men, Vigor touts relief from symptoms including low libido, fatigue, anxiety, depression, enlarged prostate and decreased muscle. Both sexes can take Power, a B vitamin-based fitness product. Calm is geared toward promoting healthy cells, tissues, organs and organ systems. The key component in each of the four compounds is magnesium. A new transdermal calcium product, Strength, is scheduled for release June 12. "We are the first company to do vitamins through the skin," she says proudly.

Patents are pending on two of Brierre's inventions ' one for the magnesium-based transdermal products containing magnesium, and another for the calcium composition. The original patent, which was filed in March 2004, is in the final stages of the approval process.

Brierre launched the product line by herself, manufacturing the first batch in the spring of 2004 at an FDA-approved facility in Brownsville, Texas. She started out by giving products away, then selling them on a limited basis from her private practice. In May 2005, Lafayette native Michael Handley joined SEABLUE as chief executive officer. "I joined the company to commercialize the products and take them to market," he says.

Since expanding into retail last May, SEABLUE has increased its sales each month. Internet sales skyrocketed from 9 percent to 50 percent, bringing in $400,000. This year, the company expects to do more than $3 million in business. The products are now available online at www.SEABLUE.com and at 20 area locations, from traditional pharmacies like Teche Drugs, Acadian Prescription Shop and Begnaud's Pharmacy to spas such as Coccolare and Ashero. "We are doing great," Handley says. "Sales have been ramping [up] very well."

Staff is growing, too. When Handley joined the company in 2005, the Lafayette corporate office at 1720 Kaliste Saloom Road had three workers. Currently, SEABLUE has four Lafayette sales representatives and six others in California, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Florida. By the end of this year, he projects having about 22 employees in Lafayette.

"This is home for all of us," Handley says. "So, it was only natural that we would build a business in the community where we make our home. The fact that we are here in Lafayette is great ' you usually don't see something like this coming out of Lafayette."

Juan Herrera, who previously served as general manager at á la carte, recently joined the company as vice president of Latin American sales. Herrera will be in charge of selling to the Florida market, as well as expanding sales into Latin America in 2007.

Currently, SEABLUE's products are available in five states. The company's short-term goal is to expand to 20 states by the end of 2006, then go nationwide. "Our goal for 2006 is to dominate independent retail pharmacy in the southeastern United States, as well as to have a significant presence in the natural products industry," Handley says. "We expect to be in 350 independent health food stores and chain stores, and in about 400 pharmacies, by the end of the year. We will be nationwide."

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