Category Archive: Blog Post

Star Tribune: A CEO Who Listens to His Employees

Posted on July 26th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

Having an owner who listens to his employees pays off big for Eagan skin-care business


Mo Saremi is an Iranian immigrant and scientist.

He’s also a grateful American entrepreneur who finally has hit his business stride.

“My vision has always been to create a big, profitable, niche organization in health and beauty products,” said Saremi, 57, at his expanding Eagan plant. “I really wasn’t successful until five years ago.”

The hard work, hustle and humility has started to pay off.

Saremi’s Bell International Laboratories of Eagan relocated last year to a spacious Eagan complex from two small plants in Minneapolis. In June, the health and beauty products company broke ground on a second Eagan facility.

Bell Labs, which added 100 good-paying jobs over the last year in research, manufacturing and marketing, expects to add another 50 by the end of 2017, bringing employment to about 300.

Saremi expects the company to grow profitably from $50 million in revenue this year to $75 million next year.

The secret sauce?

Bell Labs, with fewer than 100 employees only three years ago, started to focus increasingly on the lucrative natural-ingredient market for skin care that has fueled rapid growth since 2015 as the U.S. market followed the European trend of fewer synthetic chemicals in cosmetics, sun screens and other lotions.

“In five years, we would like to be more than $250 million in revenue,” Saremi said. “And I’m starting to see the next generation here starting to take over for me.”

Bell Labs manufactures high-end products for unspecified brand-name skin-care companies that are sold at retailers such as Target, Costco, Whole Foods, CVS, Kowalski’s and specialty stores.

“They are mineral-based and plant-based,” Saremi said. “And we also manufacture traditional sun-care products with chemicals. Our biggest area is organic, enviro-friendly products. They are not commodity products. And they are more expensive.”

That creates a wider profit margin that has enabled Saremi to reinvest as annual sales growth topped 20 percent in recent years.

Jim Vathing, a senior vice president at Anchor Bank, has banked Saremi since he bought the assets of a failing former client, International Beauty Labs, for $200,000 in the early 1990s.

Saremi and a silent equity partner expanded production of two skin-care products that worked, added related products, pushed revenue to $5 million and sold the company.

Vathing, then with another bank, watched Saremi use creativity, gumption and elbow grease, plus listening to employees, to resurrect the near-bankrupt company.

“Mo started making some money after a couple years at that little company,” Vathing said. “He listened and learned a lot. It grew, and he and his partner sold it.”

Bell Labs launched in 1995. But it struggled for years to find its focus.

Saremi bought out his partner in about 2003 after they differed over Bell’s future.

“That allowed Mo to really start investing and growing,” Vathing said. “He’s really focused on value-added products for substantial companies in the lotion and sunscreen world. They compensate for the value that Bell has added. Now, he selects the companies with which he wants to deal.

“Mo also is a good chemist, a good business negotiator and a good operator. His people are really important to him and he treats them right. He doesn’t have much staff turnover.”

Hiring and retaining good people is critical to Bell Labs’ success, Saremi said.

Saremi pays high-end wages and benefits, including paid leave and in-office yoga, health and wellness classes during work hours.

Most importantly, he says, is that he listens to employees informally and at regular meetings where he shares operational and financial results, even though he owns 100 percent of the company.

“You share things with family,” Saremi said of Bell employees. “We’ve made car loans and make pay advances when people need the money. I understand these things because I, in my career earlier, have also been in need. These things have happened to me.

“I remember when I was young and had a good idea at other companies and no one listened,” Saremi said. “I listen to them.”

Saremi is starting to think about succession and ownership transfer over the next decade.

He will slowly increase his time and attention to a growing interest in philanthropy, largely focused on female education, including in the Middle East where women often have fewer rights.

Saremi was born to a family of privilege in an Iran ruled by the late Shah of Iran, who was overthrown by the hard-line religious revolution of 1978. Saremi’s late father and uncle were high-ranking military officers in the army and not hard-line Islamists.

“My family went from top to bottom during the revolution,” recalled Saremi.

Saremi, a talented student of 18 in 1978, was stripped by the Iranian government of the full scholarship he had to study chemistry at private Hofstra University in New York.

A cousin who had married a woman in Mankato told him about the growing international student program at Minnesota State University, Mankato that today amounts to about 15 percent of the student body.

“I came to Mankato with no money,” recalled Saremi. “But the university admitted me and gave work to me and other students with financial difficulty.”

Saremi earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry from Mankato. He worked for nearly a decade for a small company, as a lab manager in chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota and as a consultant before starting Bell Labs.

In a recent chat with employees, Saremi discussed reasons behind Bell’s commitment to green chemistry, organic compounds and doing away with aerosol sprays, environmental moves that have been embraced by growing ranks of customers over the years.

“With air-based aerosol or continuous spray technology, you can have a consistent spray that isn’t pressurized and has no propellant gases,” he later blogged on an employee website.

Later, after a conversation with two chemists, Saremi made mental notes about some promising research.

“They really have good ideas,” Saremi said. “It pays to listen.”



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Senior Research and Development Chemist

Posted on July 19th, 2017, by Natasha Saremi in Job Post

A Senior Research and Development Chemist combines technical knowledge and innovation when formulating a variety of personal care products, cosmetics and OTC (lip balms and sun screens) from concept to finished product based on customers’ requests. Ability to look at different brands gaps and develop products based on those gaps or customer specification.

The requirements and responsibilities for a Senior Research and Development Chemist are:

· Experienced personal care researcher responsible for initiating project concepts, developing objectives, plans, assigning priorities and completing multiple projects under limited supervision. Independently investigates/resolves research problems/scale up issues.

· Ability to communicate with customers on technical aspects as well as regulatory and performance.

· Utilize and follow relevant legal requirements, regulations and product development standards

· Determine and perform appropriate cost reductions (raw materials)

· Scale-up of approved formulations, to include identification of critical process variables.

· Ability to trouble shoot production issues and address batch variations.

· Set product specifications and write compounding procedures.

· Supervise and coordinate pilot batches

· Provide paperwork for new formula and new raw materials to operations

· Provide specifications and other information to QC to receive and test new ingredients and finished goods

· Research product formulations and properties and interactions of raw materials.

· Vendor research for raw materials

· Interpret results of laboratory findings and assess risks involved in new products, and communicate findings to sales and upper management

· Remain up to date and current on trends in the retail market and trends on formulations materials, ingredients, etc.

· Training and supervising technicians and temporary employees

· Working knowledge of FDA regulations, and cGMPs

· Notebook documentation

· Other duties as assigned

Job Requirements

· BS in Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Chemical Engineering or related sciences with 4 to 6 years of formulating personal care products.

· Good problem solving and decision making skills. Displays a sense of urgency and initiative with creativity and flexibility.

· Excellent communication (verbal, written), interpersonal and presentation skills

· Demonstrates leadership skills.



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QA/QC Document Control Specialist

Posted on July 19th, 2017, by Natasha Saremi in Job Post

The QA/QC Document Control Specialist is a quality focused individual who ensures documentation and record keeping processes conform to cGMP and regulatory requirements as well as Bell Int. Labs approved procedures and output documents are accurate. The individual will assist in the day to day record management activities within Bell Labs complying with company and regulatory requirements. Essential Functions include at a minimum:

  • Performs QA document control functions, including document login, tracking, processing, review, distribution, release and archiving of documents.
  • Coordinates the revision, review, and approval and obsoleting of SOPs and other GMP documents. Responsible for ensuring area managers perform annual review of all cGMP documents and SOPs.
  • Organizes and ensures accurate and reliable filing systems for all paper-based GMP documents.
  • Maintains in house training programs including training matrix, training files and annual audit of training files.
  • Maintain SOP binders.
  • Maintains change control and deviation processes for SOPs, master batch records, specifications, test methods, validation protocols/reports, technical protocols, reports, and other GMP documents.
  • Actively participates in internal audits, customer audits and other activities as assigned by manager

Qualifications and Education Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in scientific discipline preferred
  • Quality professional with 2-5 years of hands on experience with document management in a regulated industry – pharmaceutical, cosmetics or medical device industry – with direct document control experience.
  • Must be well-organized and proficient at reviewing and editing documentation.
  • Have the ability to maintain attention to detail while executing multiple tasks.
  • Must be skilled in the use of MS office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat.
  • Must be self-motivated with ability to handle, organize and prioritize multiple tasks and able to perform under pressure to meet deadlines.
  • Ability to effectively build and maintain relationships, communicating and interacting in a matrix environment

Preferred Skills Exhibit a quality mindset and a willingness to develop yourself and others. Demonstrated knowledge of GMPs, , 21 CFR 210 and 211 and other regulatory agency requirements sufficient to apply to quality operations and compliance. Audit or inspection experience preferred.



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Bell Labs Exceeds Jobs Projections, Announces Even More Jobs, and Expands Campus Again

Posted on June 28th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

Press Release
For Immediate Release

Contact
John Komarek
6512602330
john@curlycreative.us


Bell Labs Exceeds Jobs Projections, Announces Even More Jobs, and Expands Campus Again

Eagan, MN – Minnesota-based contract manufacturer Bell International Laboratories continues to exceed expectations and expand in every measurable direction.

“Due to the ever-growing demand for Organic Health & Beauty products, we projected a large growth, and now we plan for even more.” Bell Labs CEO Mo Saremi said.

Not only did Bell Labs meet its projection to add 100 jobs, but it also achieved this in less than six months. Today, the company announces that it expects to add 50 more jobs before the end of the 4th Quarter.

“We are far from done with the work to expand Bell Labs.” CEO Saremi said. “Not only do we expect to employ up to 300 people by the end of 2017, but we will add an additional 100,000 sq. ft. to our Eagan Campus.”

By the end of this next physical expansion, Bell Labs will have nearly tripled the size of its Facility from 75,000 sq. ft. in Minneapolis to 220,000 sq. ft. in Eagan.

To commemorate this achievement, Saremi will ceremoniously hang up the very sledgehammer used to usher in construction at their new site. Signatures of his employees – many of whom have been with him since day one – will cover every square inch, from hilt to head.

“Together, we have put Bell Labs at the top of the Health & Beauty industry.” Saremi said. “And, we will not rest on our laurels.”

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Star Tribune: Cosmetics maker Bell Labs expands again in Eagan, adding 50 jobs

Posted on June 28th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

Star Tribune June 24, 2017 — 12:08am

The company’s growth is spurred by demand for natural and organic skin-care products.

Bell International Laboratories of Eagan broke ground Friday on its second plant and jobs expansion in a year.

The company, which manufacturers organic health and beauty products for name-brand manufacturers, moved last year from two small plants in Minneapolis to a large facility in an Eagan industrial park.

Bell Labs has added 100 jobs in the last 12 months and intends to add another 50 this year.

“We are far from done with the work to expand Bell Labs,” said Mo Saremi, founder and chief executive. “We expect to employ up to 300 Minnesotans by the end of 2017 [and] add an additional 100,000 square feet to our Eagan campus.”

Saremi, an Iranian-American chemist who studied at Minnesota State University, Mankato, started Bell in 1996, after working as a chemist at other companies.

Two years ago, his firm employed about 80 people.

But it started to focus on the lucrative natural-ingredient market for skin care that has fueled rapid growth since 2015 as the U.S. market followed the European trend of fewer synthetic chemicals in cosmetics.

Saremi said Bell will post revenue of $50 million this year and approach $75 million in 2018. “Sun care is a very big part of our business and people want natural products that are not synthetic, active-ingredient chemicals,” he said.

He said the company handles manufacturing for most of the sun-care products seen in retailers like Whole Foods. The company has spent heavily on research and innovation to develop the higher-margin natural products.

“They are mineral-based and plant-based,” Saremi said. “And we also manufacture traditional sun-care products with chemicals. Our biggest area is organic, enviro-friendly products. They are not commodity products. And they are more expensive.”

That creates a wider profit margin that has enabled Saremi to reinvest in new products and personnel.



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Ingredient Ideas for your next Organic Product

Posted on April 12th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

When formulating an Organic product, the Organic ingredient you select can provide you with a marketing advantage.

Consider these ingredients in your next Organic product:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Pure Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Avocado
  • Sea Salt
  • Argan Oil
  • Lemon Essential Oil
  • Aloe Vera
  • Almond Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Shea Butter
  • Jojoba Oil

Contact us to talk about how you can incorporate Organic ingredients into your next product.



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Don’t Mislead, Be Verifiably Organic

Posted on April 12th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

Every year, thousands of products attempt to give themselves the product claim of “Organic” when it’s misleading at best, and completely incorrect at worst.

This is not good for your product, brand, and company. Misleading and incorrect claims are quickly discovered by regulatory agencies. Consumer watchdog organizations like EcoWatch and neighborhood bloggers spread the word about your products misleading or incorrect claim. You can face legal issues, and see sales drop. It’s simply not worth the risk.

You can achieve an Organic status for your product through a partnership an NSF Certified Organic Facility like Bell International Laboratories. We ensure that the proper procedures, paperwork, sourced ingredients all adhere to regulatory standards.

Through a strategic partnership, we can plan out a truly Organic product that will keep your consumers happy and be regulatory agency-friendly.



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Conversation with the CEO: Taking a small step into the green market.

Posted on April 12th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

We sat down with Mo Saremi to talk about one simple way to start entering the green market.

INSIDE BELL: It seems that the green, environmentally friendly market in health & beauty is only growing. How can a company break into this market?

MO SAREMI: As an NSF Certified Organic Facility, we recommend sourcing and formulating 100 percent organic products. This takes time to complete, but the customers seeking the verified ingredients will become loyal purchasers.

IB: But what if I’m not quite ready to go 100 percent Organic? Is there anything I can do to show my customer that I have environmental considerations?

MO: There are many ways, but one I’ll recommend is dropping any product that uses aerosol spray. The gases can have an environmental impact, and the contents must be put under pressure, which can cause problems in shipping or worse yet in the consumer’s hand through accidental explosions.

IB: So I can’t have spray products anymore?

MO: Not at all! With air-based aerosol or Continuous Spray technology, you can have a consistent spray that isn’t pressurized and has no propellant gases. We can formulate and fill many types of products in Continuous Spray packaging. And, with continuous spray, you can begin to take a step towards environmentally friendly products. Your customers will take notice, and you may start to attract new ones.

IB: That sounds pretty easy, and a simple way to start being a little greener.

MO: It’s definitely a start. The next step is to review and revise your formulations to see how you can make them more organic.



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How does Continuous Spray work?

Posted on April 12th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

If you’re looking for a greener way for your product to spray, avoid aerosol and opt for continuous spray technology.

What is Continuous Spray?
Continuous spray is an air-based aerosol replacement solution. No propellent gases are used making the packaging non-pressurized.

How does it work?
When the customer presses the button, a small amount of liquid under pressure is taken in and then it releases mist-like spray. The output is dosed and remains constant throughout the life of the product.

Is there a product it doesn’t work with?
If your product has a high viscosity, solvent-based, or your formulation dries quickly.

What is our capability?
We have already filled hundreds of orders for customers and environmentally friendly brands. With our continuous spray bottling machine, we are able to output large volumes of product quickly, efficiently, and error-free.

Formulas for continuous spray packaging can be filled for volumes starting from 200ml through to 700ml.

Ready to formulate?
Contact us to start a conversation about your next continuous spray product.



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Sun Care products were made for Continuous Spray

Posted on April 12th, 2017, by Bell International Laboratories in Blog Post

The days of slathering thick, white cremes into skin for what seems like hours are gone. You know that customers have applying the product correctly, and can have embarrassment over streaks of white. A good spray product helps eliminate these problems.

Propellant gas aerosols, however, aren’t environmentally friendly, and my customers are. That’s where Continuous Spray technology comes in.

Continuous Spray technology gives your sun care product an edge in the market by providing an environmentally friendly and easy-to-apply product.

We formulate, reformulate, and package continuous spray products for a host of sun care product lines.

As an NSF Certified Organic Facility, we can help you formulate a 100 percent Organic product to fill your Continuous Spray bottle.

Contact us to start the conversation before swimsuit season arrives.



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