Baba + Boo Cloth Nappies
Today I’m joined with Eve Bell from Baba + Boo Cloth Nappies in the United Kingdom. This is a fantastic episode about the longevity of the cloth nappy industry, the power of growth, our role as women entrepreneurs, and this incredible brand.
Enjoy this episode and feel inspired to be you and lets’ make waves through collaboration and coming together in the cloth nappy industry.
I’m an accidental businesswoman. But I absolutely love working every day on my mission-led business. I care about our planet. I care about my customers and I care very much about their babies.
Eve, can you give me a brief introduction to your brand and who you are?
I am Eve Bell and run Baba and Boo. It’s a UK brand based in Manchester in the North of England. It’s been going eleven years. Started it with my children who were eighteen months and nine weeks old, and they are now at high school. So they are way out of nappies now. Yeah, that’s how long I have been doing it. But I still have a massive, huge passion for it.
So eleven years ago, why did you decide to start cloth diapering in the first place? Why was that choice that you embarked on?
Well, numerous reasons really. I was a buyer before I had children. I had them in sort of a quick succession. Not planned, but they were really close in age. I didn’t feel like I could go back to work because of nursery fees and I just wanted to be at home with them. But when I was at home with them, I thought I am not really cut out to just be a mom, I needed something for my brain as well to keep me sane. I thought I kind of was thinking I could start a business. Running alongside that, I had a job and then I didn’t, I was looking at ways to save money. With my son, I didn’t really know about cloth nappies. It just wasn’t a thing then. Yeah, eleven years ago, it was a totally different world then it is today. There was no one at baby groups or anything like that. Then I came across them, and I thought I would give them a go. I just loved them. I think like anyone in the cloth nappy world. You start using them and then you become obsessed with them. So I just started thinking maybe I could have a go at getting different prints because they were just plain when I was starting them. It just came from there really. Mini grand plans. What’s going to happen? We can make some with pretty prints.
It kind of snowballed from one idea. And here you are eleven years later with a cloth diaper business. The places that we go! You never know where it starts. Eleven years ago, you are right, the cloth diaper industry looked completely different. Solids were definitely a thing. Conversations were completely different. So much as changed about accessibility and how diapers look in that decade.
Oh totally. It’s completely changed. Like our community is always saying how they see them everywhere now. It’s brilliant. UK moms I see all over the place talking about cloth diapers on the internet. In the UK you have a lot more programs, is my understanding.
Some councils will either give you a voucher or a kit to trial, or you can buy nappies and then get your money back. It was really prevalent a few years ago, but now with all of the courts going on, it’s not so prevalent. But it’s good.
So tell me about your diapers specifically. What is Baba Boo? What is that diaper? What does it look like? Why is it the way it is? What kind of diaper is it if you could describe it to somebody who can’t physically see it?
It’s a pocket diaper, or we call it a nappy in the UK. With the pocket system on the front. We have two different sizes. We have a newborn, which has got the hook and look with a pocket system. We say they are newborn up to about six months, dependent on the size of your baby. We then have a one size size, which we say is from about ten pounds. As you know it depends on your baby’s legs and how they fit. They go right up to potty training. It’s got the pocket system on the front. Inside it’s got a soft microfleece with a double gusset and then it comes with two bamboo mix inserts that you put in the pocket. The reason why I stuck with, and still stick with pocket nappies is I think the absorbency will suit you with other types of inserts if you need to. So that’s why we have always stuck with just a pocket nappy.
It’s such a versatile option. That’s the word I am looking for! Pocket diapers are so incredibly versatile, such as I am not a huge fan. Really at the end of the day, you can put the inserts on top. You can put the inserts inside. You can do whatever you want with it to get the experience that you want.
Yeah, that is why I have always stuck with them. My big mantra with cloth nappies is that they should always be simple and they should be fitting with you and not the other way around. I always think that pockets are the easier way to start somehow. I get they are for people, but that they are not for everybody. But they are easier to get going with. They are easier to dry if you leave the inserts out and everything. So that’s why we have always just stuck with that one type.
Hey! That’s fine, right? You have some beautiful prints here. I was snooping your Instagram earlier today and your prints are beautiful. What inspires you to use the prints or the solids that you do decide?
That’s the biggest part of what we do. That’s why I think moms or parents really like what we do. We do stories around our prints. We will do three collections a year and each one has a story or a theme and with one nappy print, we will always give ten percent to a particular charity. We support charities that help prevent plastic pollution. Our latest one is ten percent to a charity that prevents homelessness. We try to raise awareness with our prints as well. Designing the prints is my favorite and my least favorite. I get so stressed out.
That’s like podcasts for me. I love podcasting. It’s my favorite thing, but it’s also my least favorite. Like I hate editing, but I love getting to do the creative part and have the conversation. So do you design the prints yourself then? Are you pretty hands on artsy-crafty, is that what I am hearing?
I can’t do the actual designing on the computer but I have got brilliant designers that can go inside my head. So I will give a big mood board of exactly what I want. Luckily they can go right inside and design it for me. I have always wanted to do that, it’s on my list. But I just can’t ever get to learn how to do it.
It’s a big skill right? I definitely will resonate with you. My brain has this great idea, and definitely if I could off load it to a designer, they definitely would come up with it. But I don’t think I could download what’s in my brain.
The night before these big launches, I can’t sleep. I worry, “ Will people like them?” I put my heart and soul into them. So really it’s like will they like them? And they always do.
I feel like I launched these shirts this week and I didn’t sleep. Is it going to work? Are people going to like it? It’s like a fear of people and I can’t imagine what goes into a print. And people keep prints. I am assuming for you, like every brand, you keep secret prints. Like top, top secret until the day that it launches and then like, “ Okay. What’s the public’s reaction going to be?” So did you ever have a print that didn’t go over well?
The funny thing is, we have like super fans who collect prints now. So they want to collect all of our old prints. The ones they want the most is were the ones who weren’t popular when they were live. It’s funny how trends change really. So we always try to do things that will suit most tastes. But we have never really had one that bombed.
You’ve never had a bomb. That’s always what I like to hear. What’s been your biggest challenge, would you say, in the last ten years in the cloth nappy business?
I don’t know about the cloth nappy business, but just the business. Just running it alongside bringing up the children. And you’ve got like this huge passion for what I do and the good that it’s doing for the world and the planet. I am also passionate about being a mom. So it’s like dealing with both of those things without dropping lots of plates. I wouldn’t say it’s a huge challenge. Probably the biggest challenge in the cloth nappy industry is making sure that you are as sustainable as possible. Nothing’s perfect in sustainability. Some of the materials may not be the best for the planet but they do such a good job at the beginning of a baby’s journey. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. You know what I mean? We always challenge ourselves to look for answers and look for differences. And look for different ways to make that change. So it’s just a challenge being in the sustainability industry. I think it’s a good one.
Cloth diapering has so many different layers of sustainability and it’s so incredibly hard to have those conversations with people, yourself, and your business. I can’t even imagine. Yes, on one hand cloth diapering is great for the environment and all these other things that impact how amazing it can be. I can see your challenge. Just like motherhood and running a business.
It’s so hard. But one of my things is that my mom worked hard and she had different little sidelines going when I was growing up. I think children watch by learning. I watched my mom, and I’ve got a really strong work ethic now. I tell myself this when the children want my attention. They are seeing that I have a work ethic. I just have to get this done. It’s just hard to set boundaries.
Is it getting any easier now? Now that they are older?
Definitely. Obviously now we’ve got COVID. So I’ve had this big thing. My daughter started high school in September and I thought, “Yes! This is it!” I was always counting down until that day. Then obviously we are in COVID and a pandemic. So I have not had that big free, ‘wow they are in high school now!’ We are at home homeschooling.
I can see that right. Like, “Yeah. I am so close”. And then it’s taken away. You almost got there. My son entered Kindergarten this year. Luckily we still have schooling going, and I am still sending him to school. But I was in a little bit of a panic there too. I was like, “ What am I going to do now?” I can see why. But at least she is in high school and doesn’t throw a tantrum when you are on a call for a podcast.
No the tantrums are over, thank goodness. I might have another couple of years and then the teenage tantrums will start. That’s good. I still throw a solid tantrum for my husband every now and then. So what do you love the absolute most about being in the cloth nappy industry?
One hundred percent the community. I think it’s in the UK cloth nappy community is so supportive and our community especially is just ridiculously kind. Everyone is just so supportive of each other. They send each other these hard to find prints out of the goodness of their hearts to cheer people up. It spurs you on to see. You aren’t just in it to save the planet but you are building a community as well. You’re giving these mom’s something, especially in today’s time. You’re giving them a community, which is priceless really. Mom’s often say to us, “it’s not just about the nappies. It’s also about the community that you build.” Also it’s one less guilt that they have to feel because they are doing something good for the planet. And there’s enough mom guilt as it is.
Yeah, mom guilt is awful. If you’re running a business there is mom guilt. If you’re diapering there is mom guilt. Oh yeah, it’s strong. It’s definitely been one of my favorite takeaways about this entire space. There is something cloth diapering that is different and you have to reach out and find support. You find community, friends and people who can help you out. That’s just awesome right?
Totally. The friendships that you make through this. I’ve made friends for life on my cloth nappy journey.
Does Baba and Boo have a Facebook group? Or where are you building your community? In person?
We’ve got a Facebook group. We’ve got the nicest community in the hangout. We send a newsletter out I’d like to say every week. But it doesn’t end up like that because it’s always so busy. I’d probably say that in all of those areas that we have built a lovely little community.
So you have talked a lot about sustainability in your business. Let’s talk a little bit about sustainability in your diaper. What were a few key features that really worked hard to make it a more sustainable product? Like have you done any additional research? Or sought out different suppliers in a quest for more sustainability? How does that look for you?
We did a big thing just as we went into lockdown in the UK. We are in the midst of changing factories. We were always happy with the factory we were using before. But we just found someone who was more in our way. In the middle of all of that, we were in the middle of a pandemic, and we had just gone into lockdown, everyone had gone home, and in the middle of changing the factories. In all of our work, nappies are now the Eco Tex Standard which was something that we really wanted to achieve.
What is Eco Tex Standard?
It must be European directive that ensures that the fabrics that you are using are 100% safe for babies with no chemicals. It’s kind of everything you strive for if you are making anything with a baby in mind you want to have this Eco Tex Standard. So that was a fiver in making sure that we use it. And it’s all sustainable. It’s making sure your dyes and all of your fabrics are from point of contact and point of source through to the very end is all sustainable. That was a big reason for us changing factories. It’s a scary thing to do that with a nappy that everyone loved. I mean it worked, but we just always strived to always challenge it.
And changing a factory during the middle of a COVID lockdown, when everything just changed manufacturing wise. Not all brands have been lucky enough to continue on with that. I definitely know of one brand whose factory kind of, you know, that was it. Then with COVID hit, and they are not making nappies anymore. Oh how sad. It can definitely be a struggle.
You have chosen an Eco Tex fabric. Eco Tex with an X right? I have seen it here in North America as well. I think Bum Genius products are Eco Tex Certified as well, so it is an international standard. People may just not be familiar with it.
It must be international because it’s over in many countries.
That’s really cool, and a great move to make. To think about all that the entire process from sewing to dyeing, to the completion of the product needs to be reviewed. Then the product ends up with you in the UK. I have this question on here that we briefly chatted about. Do you observe any key differences? How is the cloth nappy community in the UK? What does that look like and feel like to you? Do you ever meet an American and be like, “That’s such a weird thing that you guys do”? Or are there things in the Uk that you just absolutely love that you wish the rest of the world knew?
We do have customers overseas. We do get asked do you ship to Qatar? Do you ship to the US? We get kind of a lot of questions like that. And the answer is yes. But it’s not something that we built upon yet. And I still say yet. We have plans when everything gets back to some sort of normality. I’ve not really had time to kind of really look into it too far because we have just been so busy. During the pandemic, I don’t know whether it was the same over there, but at the beginning of the lockdown all of the shelves were empty because people were stockpiling. We saw a huge surge of customers around April time, because everyone wanted to get into using reusables because it was actually convenient. For the first time, they needed reusables because there was no disposables on the shelf and everyone was at home. It’s just been really like, head down, not being able to look up at the world around. But we have been building a team and it was up until October last year it was just me and my husband. Now we are a team of seven so that’s going to allow me to look out and look up.
So you grew from two to seven in a year?
Yeah. That’s amazing. It’s been amazing. We’ve all been at home while we’ve been doing it because we have not been able to get together much because of the lockdown. It’s been a great year. Stressful, but really exciting because we can start looking at plans.
Growing even more. Which, in itself, is an absolutely terrifying thought too. Growth is amazing. What an amazing opportunity. This is one of my favorite things about small businesses. At the end of the day you just provided five jobs. Cloth diapering is such an incredible way to support economies of scale and get people working.
Yeah, that’s one thing that is a learning curve for me. That we do that now and it is a great feeling. Stressful at times. Then you are building a community at work. We have a great set of moms. We tend to work with moms because they know. Working with parents, you need to be a parent to understand what they’re going through. That’s what we really wanted to support our team with how we work. They can go and pick the children up from school. We don’t run the standard nine to five where you must be at your desk at nine. We’ve got a really nice place to work.
By day, I am a communications strategist, and my main boss is also a mom. She’s got kids who are about your age it sounds like. So we end at two o’clock so we can go pick up our kids. Then we kind of reconvene around 7 P.M. once they have gone to bed. Working with women in that environment, as a mom myself, has been one of my favorite things as a business owner. It really helped me and my confidence to know that I am not drowning. Like there is some normality in that fact that she has to stop doing things some days to take care of her kids. And that’s ok. So she gives me the grace when that happens and it has just been an amazing learning experience. I look forward to how the world is going to change to support women in jobs while managing our households.
Yes totally. We’ve borne the brunt a little bit, haven’t we in this that we have been doing homeschooling and being at home? I can only imagine that we aren’t going to, as a collective, go back to the way that it was run before.
And that’s ok sometimes, right? That’s ok. So do you have a warehouse then? I am trying to fill in the picture. Do you have a warehouse in the UK that you are shipping to your resellers and your customers so you hired help to do a bunch of different tasks including that and probably your customer service support as well?
We have a full warehouse. Which is really exciting because I started from my kitchen table literally. With nappies under my bed, and going to the post office. Then going with my children in a double buggy with sacks full of postage. Being the post office ladies’ worst customer because I am doing all this posting.
Then I have to ask Eve. You have been in this industry for ten years and there are so many starting up cloth nappy businesses today, which is awesome for our community. What would be your one piece of advice as a business owner in this industry for ten years to new brands starting this year?
I would probably say, reach out. I find that in the UK., I don’t know what it’s like internationally, but in the UK it doesn’t feel competitive with the bigger brands. What we have all found is the Nappy Alliance, and we all work together to make cloth nappies on the government agenda. It’s really friendly and it’s nice. Everyone has got their own kind of niche within the industry. I think it’s just like reach out. It doesn’t need to be a competition. I have heard about The Cloth Nappy Alliance before and I should touch base with them, and learn more about them. That’s a good thing to bring up today. This idea of reaching out and connecting, I think.
And just go for it. The more of us that are doing it, the bigger the industry is going to get. So just reach out and ask people’s advice, you know. We have, I think it’s called Shark Tank in America, but we have Dragon’s Den in the U.K. We have Dragon’s Den in Canada. It’s like a really bad impression of what business is really like. For me, it’s really welcoming. Especially women. They are there to lift you up, not put you down.
Awesome. That’s reassuring that you have had such a positive experience connecting with other brands, and that other brands could probably have similar experiences connecting. I know that I have had a few small brands in Canada and the U.S. reach out and have been like, “I never thought you would respond to my email.” But sometimes we do. We respond to your email and we want to support everybody. Ensuring the same level. We all win when the cloth diaper community grows.
There are thousands of babies being born everyday. Landfills are only going to get so big. We have a place here in this community. I have absolutely loved where this conversation has gone Eve, and some of the great topics we have talked about such as women in business and community. So where can we find Baba and Boo Diapers? I do have ten percent of my audience from the UK. So where can the stop in and shop Baba and Boo? Where can we find your products? And what’s on the radar for 2021 that we should look out for?
We are at our website, which is www.Babaandboo.com. We are on Instagram, and Facebook. We are on Twitter, but we don’t really use that so much as others. We don’t attempt to do much else other than those places. Coming up, we just have a goal, until lockdown finishes, of staying sane because it’s just too much. Our duty when this happened again, which was a Christmas time, we just told our team, “Just stay sane. That’s your only goal from now until we can get back to work. That’s your only goal.”
That’s what we need right now. Just survive. We don’t need to thrive. We can survive, then we can talk about it again.
Absolutely. I mean I would like to launch a new website and I have a few new products in mind. If they happen, they happen. If they don’t, they don’t.
So we will find you on social media and see what happens. It was great talking to you and I hope you survive, so that you can thrive at the end of the year. I know that lockdown has been such a challenge around the world.
Thanks for having me. It’s really exciting. Thank you! I keep things short. Moms are busy people. So half an hour is all I really think all of us have time for. Thank you so much, it was absolutely wonderful. I will see you around the web.
Alright, Thank you Eve from Baba and Boo for joining and sharing your story with us on The Cloth Diaper Podcast. This episode and this conversation particularly is one that really inspired me to really make some of the next changes that I made. The day that I am editing this show, is the day that I also announced that I am hiring a Social Media Assistant. Listening to Eve talk about how her business grew and hiring women and supporting women, and this kind of conversation that we had today reminded me of what I already knew. Supporting women and growing this community is super important to me. Right now, I kind of feel like I am drowning with all of the things that I want to do and I need to do. I have had some great partnerships and sponsorships from other cloth diaper brands this year. I decided to spend that money to hire other women to support me in this business. That included hiring someone to transcribe the notes for today’s show. And that has made editing and recording these episodes so much easier. And it means hiring a Social Media Assistant so that I can continue to thrive on Instagram and support you guys. Now it will be somebody else. I am going to pay somebody to support you. To answer your comments. To answer your DMs. Because it overwhelms me and I don’t want to stop doing it, but I can’t do it all.
So thank you Eve for being that final conversation from somebody that is saying, “Hey. It’s ok to grow your business, and it’s ok to ask for help.” I know that’s not really what we talked about, but it was an inspirational episode for me and I am super excited for it.
If you’re listening to today’s episode and you love it, leave a review, leave a comment, and subscribe where you listen to. If you are somebody who wants to be on The Cloth Diaper Podcast, I don’t really have any rules. Anybody can be on The Cloth Diaper Podcast to share your story, whatever your story is. How do you get on The Cloth Diaper Podcast? You send me an email. So sometimes when I don’t have any guests, I will put out a social media post and be like, “Hey, who should I talk to?” based on the recommendations from you guys. Most people email me. I get pretty busy enough that way. If you are wondering, “When is Bailey going to email me and ask me to be on the show.” Girl, send me an email and I will have you on the show. I think all stories are important. I think everybody’s brand is worthy of being on this show and there is no cost to share your story. I have also been offering to pay what you can advertising opportunities for brands looking for more exposure. This is a great way we can work together as two small businesses to ensure that our time is valued. So thank you for listening, and I am looking forward to the next podcast.
Shout out to Samantha Anderson – she is now my transcription for the the Cloth Diaper Podcast and writes these fantastic notes for y’all to enjoy.
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