Ron Rice (’64)

Category: Accomplished Alumni | Awards

Rice began his career as an entrepreneur at age five, when his father would drive him from their mountaintop cabin near Asheville, North Carolina, to a roadside stand at the base of the mountain, where he sold apples, grapes, nuts, honey, and apple cider plus wreaths at Christmastime. After earning his geography degree at UT in 1964, Rice worked as a high school chemistry teacher and football coach for seven years, supplementing his income by lifeguarding in the summers.

Rice’s life changed on a free trip to Hawaii, where he saw women on the beach using natural oils to protect their skin. He decided to create a product that would allow him and others to get a tan like native Hawaiians. He borrowed $500 from his father and set up a business in his garage. He mixed coconut, avocado, kukui, and other secret natural oils in a garbage can, bottled the formula, and set out to sell it.

By 2006, Hawaiian Tropic was the second-largest sun care company in the world, with sales topping $110 million. In April 2007, Rice sold the company for $83 million to Playtex Products Inc., which then sold it to Energizer Corporation.