Why?

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated National Small Business Week. The majority of our members are either small or micro-businesses.

I am sure you can imagine the challenge we have of serving the various type and size of businesses. Not only that, but the businesses also vary in their lifecycle stage. These two challenges have been on my mind and that of the board for some time. In late March, Lori Taylor of 3Stream and I met and created a customer journey map. Here is the picture of that work in progress.

Journ

 

The process was insightful and energizing. I want to share more about the process and our findings in future blogs. Today, I want to talk about “why”.

One of the reasons I love what we did is that we returned to the “why”.

“Why?” is a powerful question that can bring out the best in us by rekindling our passion and commitment. I try and revisit this often to be sure I am right tasking and that my priorities are in line with my goals. If I find myself stuck or frustrated for any length of time, I know that I need to go back to the “why”.  This process reminds me I have the power to choose my conduct, my perspective, my actions to create positive change or react in defeat and fear. It is the well from which I draw my optimism.

If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, I highly suggest you do so. This is a link to his Ted Talk that got over 22 million views:

http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Real Diaper Industry Association (RDIA), is dedicated to making reusable cloth diapers the primary choice for families.   Why? Because we know that they are the healthier choice for our babies and our environment.   We believe that by providing services and opportunities through business education, industry research, and collaboration, we create a sustainable future for cloth diapering.

Our strength lies in our ability to work together to create positive changes in the industry. By strengthening one another, we find ourselves better equipped to greet the challenges that are thrown our way.   Working together requires cooperation, honesty, trust, transparency, but most of all positive action.

There is so much negativity thrown around. It is used as a weapon, to activate fear and mistrust; to find fault and lay blame. There will always be those who disagree and believe there is a better way. Heck, I believe there is always a better way, it just takes work to get to it. It is constant work. What was best at one time, doesn’t always continue to work in the long term.

What I don’t believe in is giving up – taking your marbles home or changing friends because they don’t agree with you or things aren’t happening when and how you think they should. While the immediate result of this behavior can appear positive and energizing, it is short lived. This approach to problem solving is wasteful, divisive and results in confusing messages.   Already thin resources are wasted. I hate waste.

I love community. I love the work involved in creating smart solutions to challenges, especially when those who disagree work together. I love the process as much as the solutions themselves. The key is agreeing to work together.

You are important. Your needs, wants and priorities for your business are important. I don’t have all the answers, none of us individually do. Together however, I know that we can raise each other up, provide struggling businesses the resources they desperately need and together create a sustainable future for cloth diapers.

Joining in the work is simple. It starts by completing a short survey. Your answers to these questions will not only help us capture industry data, but will help us better understand the current issues, challenges and opportunities cloth diaper businesses face while informing our advocacy and planning process. Share the survey with other cloth diaper businesses (Facebook, Twitter, Newsletters). The more responses received, the more useful the results will be!  Please note, that this is an industry survey, not a consumer survey.  RDA (our sister organization) is doing a consumer survey.

Complete the Cloth Diaper Industry Survey

You can also contact me directly or talk with, Michelle Dominguez, RDIA Program Director or any of the RDIA board members.

 

Why Does RDIA Emphasize Diaper Services?

Diaper Service discussion

Jennifer Moore Temple (Clean Bee Laundry) and other diaper service owners at 2010 RDIA Cloth Diaper Business Conference

Yesterday someone asked why the association puts so much emphasis on diaper services. I love this question, because the answer gets to the core of how we get things done.

In September 2009, after one year of operation, RDIA had 26 diaper service members. Most of those members joined after a heroic spring/summer effort by Jennifer Moore Temple (Clean Bee Laundry). She was a board member who took it upon herself to recruit diaper services and tell them why they needed a trade association. Jennifer wrote personal notes to diaper services all over North America. Some of you may have joined because you received one of Jennifer’s postcards. We went from 6 diaper services at 6 months to 26 diaper services at 12 months. Now, 36 months after starting, we have 76 diaper services. They are our largest category by far. We are voting on a bylaw change this year to acknowledge their numbers and need for representation.

Back to the question posed, why do we emphasize diaper services? We value diaper services, certainly, but we don’t emphasize them over any other category. Diaper service members themselves make the difference. The board representatives and many volunteers have determined that they are going to improve business conditions. They use their meeting time at the RDIA conference well. They discuss needs and plan projects around those needs.

Two years ago, they established a diaper service business group—completely on their own—to plan projects and get them started. They took project proposals to the board to get support, and they made those projects happen. They saw that our #1 inquiry over the first year was  (and still is) how to locate a diaper service, so they created a directory of diaper services and a diaper service mini website to host it. They found that potential new business owners had a lot of questions about how to start a diaper service, so they created a kit with essential information for a diaper service start-up. The kit is well worth its price tag, and the income helps support the work they and other volunteers do. Diaper service volunteers were also active on the cloth diapers in daycare project because they heard from their customers that parents need cloth diaper resources to take to childcare providers. They created a tip sheet and guide for parents.

This past year, diaper services were more ambitious. They set a goal to investigate an accreditation program for diaper services. They didn’t just investigate, though. They have created the program, and it will be launched at the conference in two weeks. They saw that customers want reassurance of safe, clean diapers, so they set standards businesses can follow to be sure their processing results in safe, clean diapers. Members have to pay to be part of the program, but they save money on testing through a group discount. Again, they saw the need, and they focused on how to meet it. They were ambitious, and their volunteers gave a lot of hours to create a professional program.

Cloth diaper industry members graphic

In two and a half years, we have seen diaper services go from a minor part of the trade association to 46% of our membership. The board of directors didn’t make a plan for this specifically. When volunteers came forward to say that they were prepared to grow their category and meet their needs, the board of directors supported them, paid for the minor expenses of the projects, and provided our administrator for support.

Members made this change. Members became volunteers, and volunteers became leaders.

If you want to witness how far diaper services have come, please attend the Diaper Service Accreditation presentation Tuesday afternoon. If you look closely, you will notice that the chair of this project was not even a diaper service member, but a very active Associate member, Kim Webb of Rockin’ Green. We don’t have to stay within boundaries on our projects. We follow our interests and skills. We are all pulling in the same direction.

If you want to see a change in emphasis within the association, make it happen! The RDIA board would love to support a transformation like this in every member category. Be the change you want to see. Step up to plan and execute projects. On Tuesday, September 28, after the annual meeting of members, members in each category will meet separately to discuss their needs as a group and their plans for the upcoming year. Do you want to talk about specific needs within your category or a project you are ready to make happen? If you want to put the focus within RDIA on your category, your project, or just on recruiting more members, you can.

Just step up and lead the change.

Where Are RDIA Members?

Cloth diaper industry trade members by country

As we prepare the meeting packet for the annual RDIA cloth diaper business conference, we’ve been looking at membership numbers and thought you might find them interesting. Of 175 members on September 1st, we had 158 in the U.S., 16 in Canada, and 1 in Chile. The RDIA membership in the U.S. and Canada tracks closely to the relative populations of the two countries. We’re well balanced in members from each side of the border. Our one member in Chile is Pañales Verdes Chile diaper service. ¡Así se hace!

In states and provinces, this is how the cloth diaper trade association spreads out:

  • 18 in California
  • 10 in New York
  • 9 in each Ontario & Colorado
  • 7 in each Pennsylvania & Minnesota
  • 6 in each Utah & Illinois
  • 5 in each Washington, Texas, Michigan, Maryland, Maine, Florida, & Arizona
  • 4 in each Wisconsin, Virginia, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Georgia, Connecticut, & British Columbia
  • 3 in each Quebec, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, & Kansas
  • 2 in each Vermont, South Carolina, Oregon, Louisiana, & Iowa
  • 1 in each Wyoming, Tennessee, Oklahoma, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Indiana, Idaho, Hawaii, Delaware, & Alaska

 

Top 10 Reasons to Come to the RDIA Conference

Attendees at cloth diaper business conference

 

If you need a reason to register for the RDIA annual cloth diaper business conference in Louisville September 27-28, start here.


1. Take the mystery out of cloth diaper laundry.

Steven Tinker is the President of the American Reusable Textile Association (ARTA), and he has been in the professional laundry industry for 35 years as a product development scientist and marketing professional. Steve Tinker knows laundry, and he knows it better than anyone else. He understands what it takes to get diapers clean, and he is going to tell you. Whether you run a diaper service or you are advising your customers on their home laundry, understanding the science will make a difference. So come to the conference, and stay to the end. Steven Tinker is our final speaker on Wednesday morning of the conference.


2. Change the world.

Our industry is often about change—changing consumer behavior, changing societal attitudes toward diapers, and changing those support systems that externalize the costs of throwaways. We have an inspiring example of change in our larger community with the Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA). Dan Marshall and Mary Newell of HTA are giving the keynote. If you come to their presentation, you will KNOW change is possible and YOU can (and must) make it happen yourself.


3. Vote on RDIA bylaw changes.

RDIA is a member organization. Board members and officers run the day-to-day operations and make sure goals and projects run, but underneath all of that we are governed by bylaws. Only members can change those rules of governance. If we have a quorum in Louisville, members will vote on bylaws in person. Your vote is crucial in shaping the direction of the association.


4. Get your motivational boost for the year.

We are all at different stages in our business growth and we need different catalysts to improvement. For some, new products bring exciting changes. Others are looking for new ways to reach out to potential customers. A lot of us are inspired by the cool things our colleagues are doing. Many are just looking for ways to work together toward our common goal of putting more babies in reusable cloth diapers. Whatever gets you through the year, two days together in Louisville gives you concentrated inspiration.


5. See new diapering and baby products.

New this year is a product showcase including both manufacturers of cloth diapers and diapering products plus other baby products. Time is tight for a lot of our members. If you don’t have time to attend both the ABC Kids Expo and the RDIA conference, the product showcase at the RDIA conference will be like a diaper-concentrated ABC show for you to see and choose new products for your store or service.


6. Relax and hang out at the hospitality suite.

Relationships that we build face to face with other RDIA members can lead to friendly support through the year, working together on industry projects, and do business together. Passing by one another, saying hello at meeting, or sitting next to one another at sessions is a start, but it’s difficult to have a substantial conversation. Hang out in the Hospitality Suite for that prolonged contact that lets you really get to know others in the cloth diaper industry.


7. Belong to a welcoming community.

There is a real sense among attendees at any industry meeting of being the hardcore, of belonging to a community. Real Diaper Industry Association is an open community, and YOU can belong. Just show up, say hello, and you are in.


8. Reassure your customers with accreditation.

For diaper services, accreditation has been discussed and desired to set standards that will reassure parents that the diapers delivered to their door are clean and safe. The Diaper Service Accreditation program will be launched at the conference. Participating services share a group discount on lab testing, and they follow strict guidelines. This is a leap forward for the industry. Be there to understand the opportunity for diaper services to advance their own businesses.


9. Learn how you can have a local impact.

Many, many RDIA members have put local incentives and subsidies high on their list of changes needed to increase cloth diaper use. We have heard of programs working elsewhere. The Real Diaper Association, the grassroots charity, has been encouraging local diaper aid programs and supporting the volunteers who make them happen. If you really want the scoop on cloth diaper incentives and subsidies as RDIA launches its own program, you need to hear what RDA is doing.


10. Be social with your customers.

Considering our target demographic as an industry, since parents buying diapers generally stay young as we all grow old, you had better know how young parents buy diapers. They are social and mobile, and if you aren’t there with them on social media, they will buy from someone who is. Scared? You should be. Come to the presentation “Don’t DO Social, BE Social” to get ideas on the direction you need to go as your customers change.


Bonus. Take a break.

People in our industry work ridiculous hours. Getting away for two days to think about the big business questions is one thing, but we need some fun, too. Forty of your new best friends will be on the Belle of Louisville, a National Historic Landmark, for dinner and a cruise up the Ohio River. It’s just a three-hour tour, but you can call it a mini vacation. (Was that a “three-hour tour”? Hmm. Just in case, you had better get your house in order. We could be stranded together for the next three seasons with a hilarious cast of characters.)

Bamboo gets hot

Bamboo has been, for awhile now, a very hot fabric. Seemingly new, altogether different, and full of remarkable qualities. Turns out bamboo textiles are also hot in terms of being sought after by the FTC for being falsely labeled and a fabric commonly misrepresented to the consumer.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently charged four companies with deceptive labeling and advertising because the bamboo used in their textiles was actually rayon but not disclosed as such. (And getting on the FTC’s radar also landed 3 of the 4 companies with additional charges for violating other labeling/advertising regulations, including failure to note country of origin.)

The rulings are an effort at enforcement but also one of education. The Federal Trade Commission, in working to protect the consumer, wants the general public to know that

“the soft ‘bamboo’ fabrics on the market today are rayon. They are made using toxic chemicals in a process that releases pollutants into the air. Extracting bamboo fibers is expensive and time-consuming, and textiles made just from bamboo fiber don’t feel silky smooth. There is also no evidence that rayon made from bamboo retains the antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant …”

(See the FTC’s recent consumer alert: Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?)

The Real Diaper Industry Association has been following these developments for over a year and working hard to educate its members on compliance with federal regulations. Member meetings in Las Vegas last year included a talk on greenwashing, labeling and the use of the term “organic.” This year there will be another session on regulations including CPSIA and more on labeling. (Non-members welcome at this year’s cloth diaper business meetings Sept 14-15 in Las Vegas. Register here.)

So what do you need to know to avoid being Bamboozled by labeling claims on what many thought to be a trendy and totally environmentally friendly fabric?

The Federal Trade Commission has been remarkably clear this time and have published a series of documents which are easy to read, informative and straight to the point.

“If you sell clothing, linens, or other textile products, you’re responsible for making truthful disclosures about the fiber content. If your product isn’t made directly of bamboo fiber – but is a manufactured fiber for which bamboo was the plant source – it should be labeled and advertised using a generic name for the fiber, such as rayon, or ‘rayon made from bamboo.'”

Consumers are urged to educate themselves and know what to look for, what to ask and how to shop for their green goodies with a clean conscience.

Manufactures need to keep themselves educated and seek to help their own customers understand the fabrics used in their products.

Retailers need to understand what they are selling and be clear with customers about products.

The RDIA website is one place to find information and news on cloth diaper industry related topics like fabric, labeling, and laundering. Members can also post questions or news bits to the forum and seek assistance from peers, committee members, and board members. We all have a great deal of information to share and together we can help make sure we are neither Bamboozled nor Bamboozling.