Even non-parents recognize: In the realm of baby rearing, diapers are an ever-present, multi-faceted concern -- part of a tireless, thankless job, fraught with questions about performance, safety, cost, environmental footprint… We feel for ya, parents, and so does East Nashville-based Smile, Mommy! Diaper Service.
If you're about to tune out because you aren't currently diapering a small human, consider this: Smile, Mommy serves a very specific customer base, sure, but the neighborhood business -- which opens a new commercial space in the back of Spot's Pet Supply on Gallatin on Feb. 20 -- has broader concerns, too: namely, helping our neighborhood and neighbors, and spreading the good green word about cloth diapering.
If you've tuned in because you're currently/about to be babying or looking for a thoughtful new-parent gift, the Smile, Mommy! gist is pretty simple: You sign up for the service and receive clean cloth diapers; once a week, you place your dirty diapers outside for pickup, and get fresh ones, via a magical friend akin to a diaper stork.
We chatted with Smile, Mommy!'s Kelly Bacher ahead of the grand opening to get a little more insight into the what, why and how behind this friend to East Nashville babies and parents:
The East Nashvillian: How did you get into cloth diapering/running a cloth diapering company?
Kelly Bacher: "When I was pregnant with my first baby, we were seeking an alternative to disposable diapers. My husband and I were environmentally responsible in other aspects of our lives and thought, 'There has to be a better way.' We researched cloth diapers and found that using a diaper service was the best fit for us. So, we were first customers of Smile, Mommy!.
"I was working in non-profit fundraising at the time, but I really wanted to be home with my newborn son. I always wanted to own my own business, but nothing really jumped out at me as that perfect fit. When Smile, Mommy! threatened to close, we were so in love with the concept, I looked at my husband and said, 'This is it." We decided to purchase it and I resigned from my job a couple of months later."
Your customer base in East Nashville is huge (some 70 percent of your customers) -- what do you think contributed to that embrace here?
"Being East Nashville residents for over 12 years, we have seen an influx of young couples moving to the neighborhood. East Nashville parents are seeking alternative parenting choices. They want what's best for their babies and for the Earth and they're willing to go against the grain to make a smart choice. They're also very supportive of locally owned small businesses. It's a neighborhood full of forward-thinking people. I'm proud to call it home."
What brought on the move to a new space?
"It was a goal of mine when I first took over Smile, Mommy!. I knew it would happen, I just wasn't sure when. The customer load really demands it. Running everything out of my home just wasn't working anymore. Especially with two small children at home.
"I was always passively looking for a commercial location, and when I contacted the owner of the building I'm in, it seemed like a perfect fit. We're excited about the expansion and the capacity to serve more Middle Tennessee families. It's also great to be able to partner with a fellow East Nashville business owner as a landlord."
Say I'm a new/expecting mom. What's your quick-hit explanation of why I should give some thought to cloth diapering?
"Cloth diapers are better for the Earth and better for your baby. It takes disposable diapers 250-500 years (we think) to decompose. Meaning every disposable diaper ever made is still in a landfill and will be for a long time. Additionally, disposable diapers contain some concerning chemicals that have been linked to causing cancer and even infertility in males.
"As a bonus, babies in cloth diapers typically potty train approximately 6 months earlier than babies in disposables. And if parents choose to launder their own diapers at home, they can save over two thousand dollars by the time their babies potty train. We really just want parents to know that they have choices in diapering. Then parents can make the decision that's best for their families."
Is using cloth diapers a lot more difficult than disposable ones?
"The cloth diapering products on the market now make everything very easy. The blow-outs, leaks, pins (no one uses pins anymore!), and 'rubber pants' are all a thing of the past. Today they're made of great breathable, flexible, cute waterproof fabrics that make it simple, even to travel with cloth diapers.
"To get customers off to the right start, we have online tutorials. We also host quarterly Cloth Diapering 101 Workshops that are free to attend. Making cloth diapering less weird is my goal. The more babies that are in cloth, the better off we'll all be!"
What made you guys feel drawn toward your donations/contributions to local charity organizations?
"I once heard that the number one item of theft at Walmart is diapers. That breaks my heart. Knowing that so many parents want to be able to provide for their children, but can't, is so hard for me to hear. We have donated diapers to local non-profits and even orphanages and villages in third-world countries.
"At Martha O'Bryan Center, we have held workshops to teach parents how to use and wash cloth diapers with limited resources... meaning no washer or dryer. It included how to make your own laundry detergent, which is much cheaper than store-bought. And then, of course, we provide diapers for those families. Our environmental responsibility is to reduce, reuse and recycle. I can do that by gifting diapers to those in need."
For more about Smile, Mommy!, visit www.smilemommy.com.