The Cloth Diaper Industry: Giving Women Voices, Opportunities, and Income

The Cloth Diaper Industry is steadily growing, both in size, number, and value.  Just over the three years that I’ve been aware that it even existed I have seen tremendous growth.  Do you want to know one of the reasons that I love this industry?  The fact that it is primarily women.

Moms end up having a lot of ideas, usually inspired by becoming a parent and noticing a way they can make life easier by inventing a product or improving an existing one.  This was certainly the case when Tereson Dupuy invented the modern cloth diaper and founded Fuzzibunz- the first pocket diaper.

Bummis, bumGenius, Fuzzibunz, GroVia, and Happy Heiny’s are examples of million dollar companies that were started by mothers just trying to create a better product for their own babies and maybe a few more in the process.  I don’t think any of these women expected to become CEO’s of companies while being the CEO of their own family.

Bummis is the oldest company in the list.  Betsey Thomas started their company more than 30 years ago (along with a few other mothers) and had a hard time finding financial support.  She was quoted in the Montreal Gazette as saying “Nobody would give anybody making diapers money…Now the banks are trying to throw money at us.”

Jenn Labit, the inventor of bumGenius, has a more “rags to riches” story.  She started Cotton Babies, the retail store, first.  The idea for bumGenius came later. As told on their website– “Our company began very small – with $100 worth of product in a tiny green milkcrate stored in a shelf in our kitchen. It grew from there to a bookshelf, then a closet, then a bedroom, then a basement and finally, in 2005, the business expanded into a small commercial space.”  Did you know that the snap-down insert came before their snap-down One Size diaper?!

The cloth diaper industry is littered with these amazing stories of mothers taking their good idea, building it, selling it, and in the process- creating a company around it.  Women are the heart and soul of the cloth diaper industry.  I would dare say there are more women Presidents, CEO’s, and Owners in this industry than the {disposable} Feminine Hygiene Industry.  Why?  Because those companies are owned by much larger corporations.  Families are still largely in charge of even the biggest diaper brands in operation today.  In many cases, husbands work alongside their wives to help run the business, but I know who is calling the shots!

Similarly, the cloth diaper world has given me a voice.  I quit my job in 2008 to focus on my soon to be first born son.  I had just moved from North Carolina to New York and hadn’t found a job that I loved.  I had a college degree and no idea what I was going to do but for the time I decided I would be a Stay at Home Mom.  4 months into my son’s life I had the idea to help other parents “see” the cloth diapers I researched so heavily while pregnant.  I purchased a domain name, found hosting, and started “Dirty Diaper Laundry.”  While DDL is not a million dollar company by any stretch of the imagination, I have been able to sell advertising, do social media work, and even do some consulting on the side to generate income.  The pay is still small but I can do it all from my home and on my own schedule.  I still get to take my son to pre-school, join playdates, and enjoy time with my boys.  DDL gives me so much more than just income.  I get to express myself creatively; DDL is my voice and my passion.

One criticism about my website has been that my reviews are not critical enough.  That is probably true.  I look on the positive as much as possible when reviewing a diaper.  Do you know why?  Because that diaper was designed by a mom.  That mom designed the diaper for her baby; she put in hours cutting, sewing, making patterns, and testing it.  In many cases I know that this diaper works well for others, including the original test baby it was designed for.  It just didn’t work for my test baby.  There is already an excellent post about remembering this very fact.  Sometimes we forget that there is a person behind the brand.

When the new bumGenius Artist Series was unveiled I was appalled at the negative reactions posted to Facebook and message-boards.  When Fluff Bling was announced the mud was flying again.

These big brands we see now didn’t start that way.  Bummis didn’t begin as a brand developed by men in suits at a conference table tossing out ideas to make money.  bumGenius isn’t the product of market analysis.  Moms took an idea and make something amazing happen that we are all benefiting from.  I know my wallet is a little heavier thanks to the money I save using cloth diapers, my son’s bottom is exposed to cloth that is easy to use and designed well, and my trash can leaves my house a lot less stinky than it would with 20 pounds of waste inside.  I owe thanks to all of the women who made the products I love.

One day P&G might start knocking on doors trying to buy out these companies.  I hope they resist.  I love my cloth diapers, but I love even more that they represent the power, ingenuity, and down right awesomeness of women.  Think about that.  Women are pretty amazing- we make babies, we nourish them, and sometimes we do it all while running a sewing machine, typing at the keyboard, or attending a board meeting.

Take some time today to thank your favorite cloth diaper maker.  Unfortunately people always come to them when they have a problem, but rarely do people com forward just to say “Thanks.”  Post it to their Facebook, Tweet at them, send a contact form or email.  You would be amazed at how a simple positive email can change the course of their entire day.  

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