At 83, Joyce M. Barrows, founder & chief financial officer of Bluebonnet Nutrition Corporation in Sugar Land, TX, passed away from prolonged surgical complications on Sunday, February 10, 2019.
Since the company’s inception in 1991, Joyce put her indelible stamp on the Bluebonnet brand grooming her sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be an instrumental part of nurturing the success of the brand for generations to come.
In 1990 Joyce was approached by her younger son, Gary, a successful sales rep for popular supplement brands, to consider starting a vitamin company … one that walked the “natural” talk using exceptional branded ingredients and being fully transparent.
At the age of 55 when most people are winding down their careers, she inspired her youngest son to act on his vision. So, in 1991 Bluebonnet Nutrition, a supplement line that was designed to be as close to nature as possible, was born taking its name from the official Texas state flower. Seven years later, Joyce recognized that the company could not sustain its early growth in their starting location, so she championed the construction of new headquarters west of Stafford in Sugar Land. Just a few short years after moving into their new Sugar Land headquarters, Joyce – along with Bob Sr., husband and chief executive officer – worked tirelessly yet again to oversee the construction of Bluebonnet’s 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, kosher-certified, GMP-compliant manufacturing and distribution facility in 2001 with earth-friendly, pharmaceutical-grade systems and in-house analytical laboratories containing some of the industry’s most technologically advanced testing processes and equipment. Joyce was no stranger to hard work.
Born August 5, 1935 in Bottineau, ND to Elmer and Ruth (Volker) Jacques, she was the second oldest of four children (Gayle, Bud and Judy) living and working on the family farm near Kramer about 20 miles from the Canadian border. Her legendary work ethic was a result of her formative years on the family farm. “In the beginning years of Bluebonnet,” Gary recalled, “I would go out and sell the product while mom would do all the heavy lifting on the inside by receiving, packing, shipping and invoicing the order, and then collecting payment. While I was out in the field introducing Bluebonnet to any retailer who would listen, she basically took care of all the back-end operations until my brother Steve came on board to oversee fulfillment.
Her role then shifted to focusing on the company’s finances. Since we were growing exponentially each year, it was a blessing to have mom there to financially manage that growth.” “Not only was she a financial wizard, she was a terrific wife for six decades,” said Bob Sr. “Encouraging, upstanding and emotionally intelligent. She understood people. She knew which button to push to not only make everyone feel good but to also get what she wanted out of them in order to get the job done right.”
Joyce and Bob Sr. met at North Dakota State University in Fargo, ND when they were sophomore’s in college in 1955. They got married in Fargo five days after graduating in 1958 and started a family shortly thereafter with three sons each about two years apart—Bob Jr., Steve and then Gary.
After raising their sons for 10 years while Bob Sr. moved the family around the country working for defense and NASA contractors, Joyce began working as a teacher when they moved to Houston focusing on math and special education. Her patience in handling special needs children along with her math skills groomed her for being an incredible mentor, manager and financial shepherd of the Bluebonnet enterprise. By 1999, Bob Sr. and Bob Jr. left their respective careers to work full-time as Bluebonnet’s chief executive officer and VP of sales and marketing, respectively. Now that each immediate family member was on board full time, Joyce was able to focus on the financial growth and expansion needs of the company for the next 20 years.
“Until just 18 months ago, Joyce was knee deep in securing the financial means for Bluebonnet to vastly increase our manufacturing capacity to keep up with our current and future growth,” Gary commented. “Today, Bluebonnet employs more than 200 employees and is about to break ground on an additional 105,000-sq.-ft. technologically advanced manufacturing facility across from the company’s headquarters. This milestone was achieved not only because of her foresight, but because of her incredible ability to pass on her wisdom and business prowess to a whole new generation of family members and employees.” Today, Bluebonnet Nutrition is a product of two dreams. One that reflects the founding principles of an industry – as the last full line supplement brand to hit the natural products market. As well as the second dream of providing a thriving opportunity for each Barrows family member to be able to fulfill their own individual career goals.
Both have been made possible due to the unbridled love and hard work of a pioneer mom who had the courage to roll up her sleeves at 55 and embark on an unknown path with her youngest son that would not only change the landscape of the supplement industry but also create a legacy for her sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to grow and flourish.
Along with her husband of 60 years and three sons, Joyce is survived by eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.