Last month we went along to the Mumpreneur UK conference and proudly sponsored the 2012 Mumpreneur Awards.
As well as being the headline sponsor we also sponsored the award for Best Green Business, which was won by mum of three and director of The Nappy Lady, Wendy Richards.
The Nappy Lady is an independent cloth nappy company established in 1999 and what Wendy doesn’t know about nappies isn’t worth knowing!
When having her first child Wendy discovered that the world of cloth nappies was a confusing place to be. The magazine recommendations weren’t necessarily the best from the wide range available, and a nappy which performed wonderfully on one child wasn’t guaranteed to have the same result on another.
And so came the birth of The Nappy Lady website, focused on advising new parents or parents-to-be on the world of reusable nappies. Today Wendy personally provides advice to over 3500 parents a year mainly from the UK but also internationally.
Wendy works full time but runs the business around her three young children and doesn’t work normal office hours so that she can be there for the school run, playgroups etc. As her customers are all parents this works well with them too and usually takes most calls in the evening when children have all gone to bed.
We caught up with Wendy and asked her a few questions about why she decided to start her own business and what experiences she’s had since doing so.
What was your inspiration behind setting up the business / Why did you start the business?
“No-one could give independent opinions of the nappy brands available. So it was very hard for parents to find out what was truly best for them and their children. The Nappy Lady assesses parent’s requirement and matches them to what is the closest product out of everything in the market.” Essentially Wendy spotted a gap in the market at decided to address this gap.
What challenges did you face?
“Cash flow is always hard to begin with, as many companies I buy from are small and have long turnaround times. So equally I need to hold a lot of stock to allow for these times as well as for covering all the different options. Aside from this it’s also very hard to balance work and family life.”
How did you overcome these challenges?
“The business grew slowly, and I didn’t take a salary for the first year and just kept ploughing the profits back into the business. I work long hours so I can be with the kids when they need me but this means I can also complete the work I need to.”
Why setup an eco-friendly business?
“I didn’t actually choose a green business on purpose. I knew the products well as I’d used them on my own children. We chose cloth nappies as they are substantially cheaper than disposables (disposables cost at least £800 per child) whereas you can get cloth nappies from £50 – £300 for several children (in our case 3 children).
I couldn’t afford to go back to work due to high child care costs and we both wanted the children raised by us so we had to save money to allow me to stay at home. Cloth nappies and breast feeding saved us enough for me not to work. Ironically it then started the business and I now do work.”
Do you have any advice for anyone considering starting their own business?
“Whatever amount of money you think you’ll need to get started, have an emergency reserve and you’ll be bound to underestimate. Find a great accountant and be prepared for a lot of hard work whilst you build your brand and business.”