I need info about starting a cloth diapering business!! - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 10 Old 05-10-2003, 06:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone, I wish I could post this is the diapering forum since it gets so many hits. But here it is. I live in a town with no diapering services currently. It is also a very alternative town that is pretty enviornmental. Plenty of my friends use cloth and some quit because their homes have no washer or dryer connections. I think I could make a good business out of cloth diapering.
So here's what I need to know:
What does the average business charge per month? per week?
What do I need, washers/dryers/detergent? Are there special kinds necessary to establish a sanitary business? What does the profit come out to be (hard to say I know) when you subtract water bill, electric bill, gas, time?
If there is a link out there, let me know.
Tiffany
hopefull business starter, mom to Kira, wife to Rick
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#2 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 08:51 AM
 
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Funny thing, life!

I've been debating with myself about posting an almost identical post to yours in here and in "diapering"...

Where do you live? If we both go for it, I wouldn't want to be competing. LOL. No, seriously, given your description of where you are I doubt we're anywhere near each other (I'm in Paris, France).

I obviously can't answer any of your questions, though, as I'm asking myself the same questions.
The only one I can guess at is how much to charge: I figure we'd have to be pretty close (maybe a little over but not by much) to the average disposable diaper budget for anyone other than the really dedicated cloth fans (with cash to burn) to buy the service.

Other questions I'm wondering about:
* For a rent-diapers type system (the service owns the diapers): what kinds of dipers and covers should be available? Sizes? Styles? How many "options"? Etc.
* For a we-wash-your-diapers type service: pick up and delivery how many times a week? Is only once enough or does it have to be more often?

Tons more questions... but I've got to get back to my current real job...

Good luck!

Edited to add: Perhaps a kindly moderator could move this to "diapering" if it doesn't get any replies in here in a day or so, eh???
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#3 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 10:27 AM
 
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This IS weird...I really need a new career because my current job provides me with no kind of personal fulfillment which means I'm away from my daughter for 8 hours a day for no real reason except money...so I've been trying to come up with something new, and running a cloth diaper service is on the top of my list. There is no service in our very large metropolitan area--there has to be a need for one...

Unfortunately I don't have any business experience whatsoever, so I don't no where to begin.

But it's odd that two other mothers have been contemplating the same thing!
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#4 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 11:29 AM
 
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We use a local diaper service. It's run by a work-at-home mom. If you want, visit the website of her business to see how much she is charging. There is no competition in our area, all the other diaper services went out of business, and the cost of living is very high here. We found that using the diaper service was about the same as or a little less than the cost of sposies (but we used the special no-gel ones and only for the first few weeks, so maybe not a good indicator?) We have liked the service a lot. It would be very hard for us to wash our own dipes.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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#5 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow great to hear the interest. Yes I agree that it would have to be around the average cost of disposables. I was trying to figure out if I should charge by the diaper per week. I haven't actually sat down to figure it out but I have plenty of business friends and a husband with a great sense. I live in Taos, NM just a bit away from the Mothering headquarters. I know we have to take gas, time, water, detergent, cost of diapers, cost of damage, cost of electric dryers in to consideration. I received info from Fuzzi Bunz about their wholesale prices. I was thinking that I could also offer the diapers for sale.
It seems to me that I use less diapers than a lot of people, just about 4 a day on my toddler. When she was tiny, we went through about 8 a day though. At this rate people would need 56 a week. There doesn't seem to be room enough in a diaper pail for that many and I was thinking pick-up should be on Mondays and Thursdays. Give people half their diapers, and give them a few more in case they need them.
So then my mind reminds me that people could steal diapers and what to do about that. It happens. How would we keep track of them? Numbering them? I think renting them a diaper pail is a good idea too. Two of them maybe to pick one up and drop one off.
As far as sizes, I think all sizes are a good idea. I am not sure how many customers just a single person llike me could handle taking care of. So I wonder if it would be worth it in the long run.
I think there would be a pretty big start-up fee for the diapers and I am not sure what the requirements for washing machines are. The water temp. may have to be really high. I'll look into it. THings will be different in the US though. I know that in NM there are grants for women starting up businesses. That would cover the initial cost. So let's brainstorm!!!
Tiffany
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#6 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 12:10 PM
 
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Captain Optimism, you must be (at least somewhat) nearby! We use Changing Habits (aka The Diaper Lady) too. I'd suggest contacting Donna (the Diaper Lady) by phone and seeing if she'd be willing to help you as an experienced WAHM with a diaper service. She's a real character, but she loves to talk about diapers!

I'll tell you how it worked for us (we used a service for the first year, now we wash our own). It cost about $0.25 per diaper per week, which is what you pay for Huggies or Pampers if you buy them in bulk. She uses gerber DSQ prefolds. I actually prefer CPFs because they get softer, but I bet the DSQs are more durable. You get your own new diapers when you sign up (so she buys twice the number you get per week because there are two sets rotating) and you only get your own diapers back. You buy a diaper pail from her, and she provides plastic bags with your name written on them. The pail we got was big, so it would have fit a week's worth for a singleton, however, with twins we had to take a bag out halfway through the week and it sat in the garage until pickup day. They only picked up and dropped off once a week. I suspect the cost of extra diapers was lower than the cost of gas and labor for pickup and dropoff, but you'd have to analyze that yourself.

She does not use bleach unless there's a mildew problem, which was a common issue for us. There were quite a few rules, which was sometimes annoying but understandable. First, you are not supposed to use the diapers as burp cloths because the spitup mildews and poop/pee doesn't. We had a mildew problem even without that, but I think it's a common problem that people use them as burp cloths. I mean, sometimes, you've got to take what's handy. She also forbids any diaper rash cream containing zinc oxide. I think she's misplacing a problem with the fish oil in desitin onto zinc oxide, but I'm not going to be the person to tell her that, LOL! She would only bleach our diapers if there was mildew, which makes a big difference enviornmentally. You should think about how "green" you want to be--there are some diaper services who are totally not green and use tons of bleach and phosphates. OTOH, we would sometimes get stained diapers back, and I wonder how many high-maintenance customers would have a problem with that.

You also have to buy your own diaper covers, though she does sell proraps and diaperaps at average prices.

I have forgotten to put our diapers out a few times, and have had to drop them off. She has a big garage/outbuilding full of industrial sized washing machines and dryers. I wonder if you can find these used? If someone calls her that would be a question to ask.

She does not wash other people's diapers, only her own. I can imagine that it could be a problem if snaps fell off, etc., though you might find a service that does that and see if there are problems. We totally would have gone that route if it had been an option. I would also have loved to have gotten fuzzi bunz from her, though I'd worry that the cost would be prohibitive.

Anyway, I hope this is helpful! Good luck with your entrepreneurial plans. BTW, you might want to contact the SBDC (small business development council) in your area for technical support with developing a business plan. They provide great information and assistance in many cases, including low interest loans.

Cate
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#7 of 10 Old 05-13-2003, 12:13 PM
 
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Well you're not the only mamas thinking about this. When I switched to cloth my father and I discussed starting a diaper service.

As far as the water temp being so high, I'd just get a second water heater that is for laundry or diaper service machines only.

You can start with a second washer and dryer (I don't want other people's poo in with my dishtowels...our poo is enough poo, thank you) and that water heater...and if business booms, you get more machines as needed.

Then there are the diapers...advertise at first for washing people's own diapers. Then you can either sell or rent diapers. That might help you ease into it a bit.

Talk to your ped about posting an ad. Also visit your health food stores and ask about advertising there. Also, kooky little coffee shops with ad boards...other places where "crunchy" folks might hang out.

I thought charging every two weeks was probably easiest. I'd also require a credit card number at first (in case of non-payment). Check with your bank about information on automatic transfers into your account.

Don't forget that portions of your utilities and even house will be write-offs. If you already have an accountant, ask about those things.

Offer prefolds and one or two kinds of covers, for simplicity and ease of washing that much stuff. I also like the idea of selling Fuzzi Bunz for nighttime diapers.

I have a great plan in my head. I just don't have the fire under my bum to get to it. WHY was I born in October?!

Ooh. That site captain suggested is a great resource. If you're not in their area, contact them. They'd probably be very helpful.
Edited: Or maybe not. Looks like they're branching out. They might not be as helpful if they want to be a chain, kwim? Dunno...
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#8 of 10 Old 05-14-2003, 11:11 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, That web page was basically what I was thinking. I do not see however driving 800 miles a week and serving 160 families. I don't have it in me to buy industrial washers. Feeling discourages about this. Selling diapers may be a better idea.
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#9 of 10 Old 05-15-2003, 12:22 PM
 
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Don't be discouraged. That company started in the basement of their parents' home. They certainly weren't servicing 160 families or driving 800 miles. Chin up, mama.
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#10 of 10 Old 05-15-2003, 02:14 PM
 
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Tiffany-

Quick suggestion. Can you check with your local community college for a starting your own business class? Maybe they can help you with that? Or check with your local chamber of commerce. They should be able to direct you to resources on owning your own business.

Call the electric, water, gas companies and ASK what sort of rebates they are doing.

Call Mothering and ask if they have any assistance programs for people like you.

Look for help locally and you might be able to get started with some grant money to help pay the initial costs!

Good luck! I hope you can do this!
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