christina wangari

Making ‘old school’, ‘new school’!

Posted on July 21, 2014

I am very internet savvy and when I was expectant, I joined a couple of international pregnancy support community online forums like BabyCenter. Within these forums you get to connect with other moms and moms-to-be and share stories about pregnancy, giving birth, parenting, etc. It is in these forums that I first heard of modern cloth diapers. I was of course confused…“these couldn’t be the grandma nappies of the old days, could they?”

So I did my research and found that they are actually very popular in the western countries. Modern cloth diapers are a new style of diapers that are user friendly and environmentally friendly. They are shaped and as easy to use as  disposables…but rather than throw them away you wash them and re-use them. One major reason that more families are going for cloth diapers is that they are an ulterior method to avoid diaper rash. Chemicals found in disposable diapers can cause skin reactions when in contact with a baby with sensitive skin. Cloth diapers tend to be more breathable while disposable diapers’ lack of airflow can cause diaper rash as well. Although there isn’t one single identifying cause or absolute cure for diaper rash, many moms attribute their switch to cloth as the solution to their babies’ diaper rash. Financial savings is also a factor, which can be up to $2,500 for just one baby. Another popular reason is that cloth diapers are stylish and eco-friendly. Finally, research shows that disposable diapers can take up to 5 lifetimes to decompose in landfills, among other reasons.

I was sold! I made the decision that I was going to exclusively cloth diaper my baby. I looked for them in Kenya (my region) without any success. So I went ahead and made an online purchase from an American company. When they came, I loved them. I showed my friends and family with babies and they loved them too. That’s when the idea of starting a cloth diaper store in my country was formed. Initially, I had wanted to become a distributor for the American brand, but it proved difficult as I did not meet the strict requirements. But I did not give up.  I searched and found a manufacturer who I worked with to develop my own cloth diaper line. I branded it “BabyNatural”. I decided that it would be fun to create a brand of diapers that would be affordable and easy to use for ALL families. As a business, our goal is to encourage more parents to choose cloth diapers instead of disposables!

Having started the company 1.5 years ago it has grown. It has become the leading supplier of ecofriendly cloth diapers in Kenya and soon in other Eastern Africa region through retail, wholesale, and distribution sales channels.

However, like many other startups we too have had our fair share of challenges. The main challenge has been distribution. Since it’s a new product, most people in this market prefer to see the product before they buy. We are in the process of handling this challenge by establishing various distribution channels in the country, as well as finding ways to educate the potential consumers of our products.

To start the business my husband and I used some of our family savings. This was a huge risk for us, but we believed in the idea enough, because we believed in the product.  We started small with about 3,000 diapers.

I have learnt that with business you have to be a risk taker, see the big picture, have confidence and passion for your business to drive sales. I have also learnt the art of delegation. Being a full time employee and a mom to a young baby, I have had to completely delegate most of the day to day tasks to our very capable and reliable employees. Now, I mainly help with the overall management of the business.

We get lots of referrals and that has been our main marketing platform. Our sales have tripled in the 1.5 years we have been in business and we have increased the number of staff from just one shop attendant to 5 members of staff who help with key matters such as marketing, book-keeping, order fulfillment and packaging.

I have learnt that a successful business requires time, patience and capital. I would say thoroughly researching your market and client is key prior to even producing your product. I think there is lots of potential in using social media to grow businesses and women should take advantage of the captive audience that the world of social media puts at our fingertips (literally). We should make the most of the free web space to make our businesses visible and engage with our customers.

Christine Wangari

Proving to the world that old traditions are still viable in these new markets

  • Mr. D

    Well done, very good story. My sister also uses cloth diapers and she has never gone back to the disposable ones. Hope you can get them into the supermarkets.

  • iamyoungpreneur

    We will admit, in writing this article we learnt a thing or two. Didn’t realize that cloth diapers were modernized, and better than disposables. The innovation that surrounds us is exciting.