This week for our Behind the Diapers article I have the pleasure of getting to know Christy of Smart Bottoms. As a daughter of small business owners entrepreneurship is in her blood. Read on and learn about her Smart Bottoms product line , how she balances work and family and how she has built such a successful business.
Please tell us about your family.
My husband, Geoff, and I have been married for nearly 10 years and have two beautiful daughters, Amelia (5) and Ella (4). The girls both go to a Spanish Immersion School and love learning another language. Geoff and I both have a strong history in small business ownership. Both of our parents are small business owners and we were raised to not only understand but appreciate the hard work that goes in to owning your own business. Geoff and I have owned multiple businesses over the last 12 years and sold one of our first businesses last year. Because we have seen firsthand the direct impact that small local businesses can have on communities we are 100% committed to manufacturing all of Smart Bottoms products here in the United States.
What is your favorite parenting memory?
My favorite parenting memory was when our oldest was 3 years old. My husband and I support a local pregnancy crisis center where I used to sit on the Board. Amelia asked us one day what Alpha does and I explained to her very simply that they help moms who have babies and sometimes even little girls and boys her age. They help them learn to be better mommies and daddies and they give them clothes and food. She asked me if the kids had toys and I told her that many of them probably don’t. Later that day she came to me and asked if she could give her toys to the kids that don’t have any. I was so happy that my daughter had learned the gift of generosity at such a young age. Every year before Christmas my girls go through all of their toys and unassisted decide what they would like to give away. We then make the trip together to Alpha to drop everything off.
We started using cloth diapers when our second daughter was born. Both of our girls had super skinny legs and tiny waists (not much has changed!). Trying to find a cloth diaper that fit her was incredibly challenging. We ended up spending hundreds of dollars looking for that perfect diaper that fit and didn’t leave a rash (she ended up being allergic to polyester). We decided to go the organic cotton route but had problems finding an organic diaper that was made in the US. Realizing there was a potential void that could be filled, I decided to design and produce an organic AIO diaper that would fit my skinny baby and be manufactured responsibly here in the US. Smart Bottoms was born about a year later.
How did your business start and evolve to where it is today?
We started Smart Bottoms as a party based company. We wanted to not just offer diapers but also educate moms on how easy cloth diapers are to use. When I started cloth diapering I was clueless! My husband and I weren’t cloth diapered, none of our friends cloth diapered (they all do now though J ), I had no one to turn to for encouragement or for answers. I wanted other moms, especially those who didn’t have a cloth diaper retail store locally, to have an easy source for cloth diaper support. The first year we worked hard at recruiting and training distributors. We flew around the country hosting virtual cloth diaper parties with cloth diaper bloggers. After a year we started getting requests from retailers to carry our products and after much consideration decided to change our business model to accommodate wholesale accounts. We slowly phased out our distributor program and transitioned our distributors over to affiliates. We have been selling retail for just over a year now and just recently began selling in Canada.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
I love taking calls from moms who are cloth diapering for the first time and are looking for encouragement and support. Our choice to cloth diaper our daughter has literally changed our lives, not just because we started a business but because it caused us to examine every aspect of our lives, from what we eat, to the clothes we buy, to how we process our household waste (composting, recycling, etc.). I love listening to other families stories and watch the effects cloth diapering is having on other areas of their lives.
What is unique about Smart Bottoms products?
Smart Bottoms has several products with very unique features! We have worked hard to not just reproduce a cloth diaper but to innovate the industry. Each of our products are thoughtfully designed with the help of cloth diapering mom focus groups. Our Smart One 3.0 is our most popular product so we’ll start there. This AIO is one-size and made of organic cotton (milled in South Carolina). There are 4 snap down rise settings to allow this diaper to fit an 8lb baby all the way up to a 35lb toddler. We have a third snap on each waist tab which prevents wing droop. The most important and unique feature though is the construction of the interior. We designed this diaper with a tongue-style attached insert. There is no stuffing necessary! The insert is attached at the back of the diaper, which allows the parent to fold the insert to fit trimly inside of the diaper. With this construction you don’t have to worry about excessive bulk when the front of the diaper is snapped down to a smaller rise setting and it literally will dry in just one dryer cycle. We also have an AI2 diapering system that offers many unique features. First of all the One Size cover is truly One Size! It will easily fit a 5lb newborn all the way up to 35lbs. The unique adjustable leg elastics are like no others on the market. The leg casings are lined with a gentle fleece so you will never get red marks, even when nice and snug, and they act like an inner gusset preventing leaks. The inside of the cover can easily be wiped clean for repeated use and there is a flap in the front and the back to hold the insert in place. For the AI2 we offer two insert options. You may either choose from our One Size organic cotton insert or our super absorbent, cuddly soft, organic cotton/hemp prefolds. Our prefolds, or as we call them Smartfolds, are sized so you can always get that perfect fit.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the cloth diaper business?
Like any other business venture make sure you know the industry. Have a solid reason for starting the business (unique product, unmet need, etc.). Have a growth plan. If your business takes off quickly, how will you handle it? Make sure you are qualified to start a manufacturing business. I know this might sound harsh, but it’s not easy, there is a lot of competition, and unless you know what you are doing the odds are not in your favor to succeed.
How do you balance work and home?
Geoff and I work very intentionally to make sure that there is a balance between work and home, which is definitely not easy and we definitely don’t always do a perfect job. We have a nanny that helps us with the kids when they are not at school. I work as often as possible from a home office so I can have lunch with the girls or take 15 minutes to play a quick game of hide-and-go-seek. It is also not uncommon for the girls to ask if there is something they can do to help so I put them to work, which at this age often creates more work for me! Geoff and I both worked for our families businesses at a very young age and loved the opportunity to work alongside our parents. This also helps our kids understand the value of hard work. Mommy and Daddy are able to pay for the house we live in and the food we eat because we work hard. It becomes very real to them when they can see us working versus our just leaving at the beginning of the day and coming home in time for dinner. We also are very intentional about putting our work away by 5 or 6pm, having dinner, and spending time with the kids until bedtime. After the kids go to bed it is not uncommon for us to work for another couple of hours. Weekends are family time! No work unless the kids are sleeping!
Where do you most want to travel?
Since my husband and I are both Irish we would love to take our girls to Ireland once they get a little older.
What super power would you like to have?
There are definitely times I wish I was able to make myself invisible. I love my kids very much but sometimes the “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy” whenever I am around can get a little old. Or when all I want to do is use the bathroom or take a shower in peace and they stand in the doorway asking “how much longer until your done?”, the entire time!
|Business Name: Smart Bottoms
Description: Smart Bottoms offers a full line of organic cloth diapers and accessories that are 100% manufactured in the United States. Not only are our products manufactured in the US we also work hard to source all of our quality components from US companies and mills.
Founded: June 2010
Attention Article Writers! Do you have an article to share with us? Send it to Diaper Pin! For more information, read our article submission notes.