Exactly six years ago (in May!) we had the pleasure of interviewing Jenn of Cotton Babies. When we decided to bring Behind the Diapers back we thought it would be great to meet with Jenn again to see where she is after all this time!  What a great way to celebrate our 12th birthday too! For this article, I’ve included her answers from six years ago and from a six days ago.  It’s great to see the growth in her family and in her business…

Tell us about your children.

Jenn and Family - 2006

Jenn and Family - 2006

2006

I have two children. Andrew is almost four and was our inspiration for Cotton Babies. We cloth diapered him from birth in prefolds and diaper covers that a friend had very generously given us. Andrew is a ball of energy and would spend all day pretending with his trains if he could!

Oscar, our second child, was born last summer. He is a generally happy little dude. At eight months old, he just likes to do anything his brother is doing.

Jenn and Family - 2012

Jenn and Family - 2012

2012

I have three children.

Andrew is nine and in fourth grade.  He recently launched his own entrepreneurial endeavor selling rocks, seashells and lemonade on the sidewalk.  Without coaching, he’s increased the visibility of his signage and created a brochure to hand out to the neighbors.  It’s been fun watching him explore business.

Oscar is six and in first grade.  Jimmy and I often comment to each other that he will grow up to be a rock star. He loves to be the center of attention, knows how to perform innately, and keeps the entire audience laughing at his antics during choir performances.

Elsie is three and in preschool.  Elsie loves to play with everything other three year girls love: tutus, fairies, princesses, babies, and kitchens. She likes to pretend “store”.  Her favorite color is pink and she has an opinion about everything.  We have to be careful what we talk about when she is around because she is always listening too!

What is a funny or rewarding experience you’ve had as a mama?

2006

Cotton Babies StoreThe funniest thing I think we’ve had happen with Andrew happened when we were selling our house last year… One day, an agent called and said that she would be there in twenty minutes. We rushed around to get things picked up. In the middle of all that, the phone rang with a customer wanting to place an order.

During that call, someone walked in my kitchen and asked, “Where’s Andrew?”. He’d just been playing in the living room so I walked through the house calling his name. I found him in the master bathroom with a permanent marker that we’d been using to mark boxes. The toilet lid was covered with practice A’s. The actual toilet seat had been turned into a fantastic O. The floor had been decorated with squiggles, Os and Ts. He outlined the pink 50s tile too… in the grout… I was big pregnant with Oscar and emotional and, well, all I could do was stand in the door and laugh/cry while I frantically tried to remember what removes permanent marker…

Rubbing alcohol did the job on the hard surface and scouring powder got most of the marker out of the grout. Ten minutes later, the evidence of the Andrew’s artwork was tough to find. I wish now that I’d stopped to take a picture before cleaning up the mess.

2012

Over spring break, we took all three of our kids to the beach in Florida for the first time.  Watching them run and play in the sand was particularly special knowing that this was a day they’d remember the rest of their life.  I treasure every minute that I get with my kids.

What is your husband’s name? How did you meet him?

2006

I am married to Jimmy, my best friend and the love of my life. We met at work where we both worked on building and maintaining internet applications. We have continued to work together in some capacity ever since. Jimmy and I are both very entrepreneurially minded. Cotton Babies grew out of a mutual desire to not work in a cubicle.

You met your husband at work years ago. Is he involved in your business today? How has he supported you?

2012

Jimmy still works beside me. He is essential to many facets of the business.

What inspired you to create your business?

2006

Cotton Babies was opened after a trip to Chicago. I was wearing a Maya Wrap and had lots of moms stopping me on Michigan Avenue asking about where I bought my sling. Back then, the initial order for new Maya Wrap distributors was fairly small, so it wasn’t too difficult to get set up. A few weeks later, I started taking new Maya Wraps with me when I left home. This meant that I always had sling with me if someone was interested. We quickly realized that many of the moms who were looking for slings were also into cloth diapering. So, we began adding cloth diapering products to our inventory. We have always treated the business as a “closed system”… any profits were reinvested into more product. So, we grew very slowly, literally one item at a time.

Please tell us how your business has expanded since our last interview in 2006.

2012

We have over 100 employees, four cloth diaper brands, three retail stores, a dot com presence, and a large distribution center in St. Louis.  Our brands impact the cloth diaper industry on a global basis.

Did you run into any obstacles in starting Cotton Babies?

2006

Our biggest obstacle has been the commitment to avoid business debt. We have millions of ideas and want to do them all ‘right now’, but we have to be patient. While this has slowed our growth somewhat, it also means our foundation is very firm.

What have been your challenges and successes in the past 6 years.

2012

There have been many of both… too many to count.  At the core of it all, I love my job and I refuse to quit.  I love learning and I work to apply what I learn through both challenges and successes to whatever we do next.

What is your advice for others getting started in the cloth diaper business… or any business..

Proceed cautiously and use wisdom as you set out to start any business.  The cloth diaper industry isn’t like it was when we got started.  Research your local opportunities and learn how to capitalize on what you learn.  I believe the industry’s biggest opportunities are through locally driven peer-to-peer networks and brick & mortar retail stores.

While your business has grown, so has your family. How do you balance being a business owner and being a mom?

Work / life balance is a big issue for any family and particularly for a family with a mom who works full-time and travels and speaks extensively. We have a different family life that we’ve learned to make work for us. I treasure bedtime and breakfast.  We talk with our kids about what it means to go to work and why we work.  At nine-years-old, my son has a basic understanding of cash flow and my six-year-old can tell you about cost of goods sold.  My daughter understands that lots of families get to eat and have jobs because of Cotton Babies.   While they do understand, it isn’t easy to be gone.  I have become an avid fan of  Facetime and use it to be involved in bedtime when I’m away.  I might be in a hotel, but I can still pray for my kids before they go to sleep. All that said, they are only little once and, as much as I love Cotton Babies, I’ve been known to walk out of a meeting, regardless of content, to be sure that I’m with my kids for something special. They come first.

If you have time for hobbies, or outside interests, what are they?

My iPad has enabled my love of reading. I also play piano and particularly enjoy composing my own music.

What is one of your guilty pleasures?

I’m not guilty about it… but I really do love coffee. And chocolate.  And shopping alone.  And shoes.  :)

 

 

 

Cotton Babies Business Name: Cotton Babies
Mama: Jenn Labit
Products: Cotton Babies is an environmentally-friendly company that has everything a family needs to care for their baby. With a ton of great natural and organic products for mom and baby, we make parenting easy. Our three lines of reusable cloth diapers, bumGenius, Flip and Econobum, are industry top-sellers, and are sold through thousands of independent and major retailers worldwide. Check us out in person at one of our three U.S. retail stores — two in St. Louis, Mo., one in Vancouver, Wash. — or online
URL: www.cottonbabies.com
Diaper Pin Directory Page: Cotton Babies

 


Creator of the Pin and the Corner. Proud mama of 2!

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