This week, we meet ANA president and owner of Nature’s Child, Jannine Barron.
Tell us about your background. What did you do in your past life, before children? Before cloth nappies!
In 1994, I completed my honours Thesis in History at Murdoch University in WA and drove across the Nullabor to the East Coast. I had no idea that pregnancy was on the horizon and my life was about to change dramatically. My poliltical activism in the last 10 yrs led me to live all over Australia and Europe. In between the human rights work I had more lighthearted and crazy schedule in the Music Industry working as a Lighting Engineer and busking on the streets of London. There was even a 6 month teaching gig in a rough area of London that made “To Sir with Love” look like a picnic. There was also community radio work that started in Sydney and Ended at a Feminist Radio Station in Norway. There was also the zillion odd jobs with small employers. That’s my 10 years after leaving school in a nutshell! I wanted to change the world, travel the world, meet everyone, learn everything and I could not do it fast enough. Landing in Byron Bay, northern NSW in 1995 was the introduction to a laid back lifestyle as I had never experienced before, wow, what a paradise, I knew I would make this place my home. It was very fertile landscape and I was pregnant 2 weeks later. Nelson was born 1995 and Harper was born in 1997. For the next 2 yrs, I taught at Southern Cross University in the Aboriginal Studies Centre and in the philosophy department which was hilarious because I kept forgetting things due to pregnancy brain which was not great for the students. I wrote courses for the external studies history unit in Indigenous Studies while breastfeeding and then having our second child. In 1997, I finally caved in to the inevitable world of Natural Parenting that my babies drew me into and said goodbye to academia. It was a tough yet natural moment that I trusted completely.
Tell us about your journey into the cloth nappy industry.
At least half of the parents I knew in Byron Bay were using cloth nappies. I had strong memories of using Terry Flats on my little brothers in our huge family so I think those memories had normalised the idea of cloth nappy use for me. In true Byron style, we tie-dyed our flat nappies with beetroot and other natural dyes to get amazing colours. Around this time, bright bots brought out their coloured nappies and I think Byron Bay was their best customer! As a gift for my first baby, I received two Zappy Nappy’s from a local market. I just loved them and I had never heard of fitted nappies before so my world opened up with this discovery and my cloth nappy radar began to grow. I purchased a few more but still loved my terry flats but found myself toggling between the two. Then my squares got a bit old and thin so I found a brand called Canningvale that was superior in quality to any other flats you could buy. They no longer make nappies but I learnt about quality from them and what a difference this makes to the performance of a flat towering nappy which is probably why Nature’s Child settled on a flat nappy for our own key branded nappy product. I stumbled across Cuddlebums in a mail order catalogue in 1998 after seeing an ad in a baby magazine and posted away a cheque to receive a few of them in the mail (pre internet folks!) They closed their company soon afterwards so I could not get any more. Then a friend found Weenees in Target, but again, they stopped selling them soon after I found them so I hunted them down via mail order in Tasmania. So my new love of nappies was getting harder to satiate. As I found things, companies were closing, stores stopped selling them, where could I get them? There were two other nappy companies that existed, one was in WA run by a WAHM but I am embarrassed to say I forget the business name, and BoBabies (which closed in about 2002 I think) did nappy accessories. The Snappi was invented about 1998 I think? Anyway, it was really hard to get all these products so I started a business where you could get all these nappy products in one place. Well…..at least I was about to when this business idea was put on hold for 2 yrs while another baby product emergency emerged and I started another business first.
Once my second son was born in 1997, I was desperately seeking a way to carry around 2 babies without a car. The prams were shocking then, worse than supermarket trolleys. The old fashioned Kanga and Kapoochi carriers were all that was on the market and they were bad for my back so a friend and myself created Hugabub, the worlds first wrap carrier which offered body support that was superior to existing products. That is a whole story in itself.
I was trying to add more products to the Hugabub range 2 years into the business, including nappies, but my business partner Suzanne was not so interested. That was when I realised it was time to revert to my original business idea. Nappies, toys and more. So together with Michelle Meares ,we created a mail order catalogue and called it “Nature’s Pregnancy, Baby and Child” We posted it to a list of 250 people from the Hugabub database ( part of my exit deal ) We had little funds to start the venture and still owed the printers and graphic designers money as they got posted! People posted in cheques and completed order forms and we just could not believe it, it was soon exciting watching the mail come in! I found a new level of excitement, more than I had ever felt with Hugabub and knew I had found my path. After all expenses, I think we need up with $100 each but more importantly, with a massive buzz about this as a viable business idea. One year later, Michelle left the northern rivers so that was the end of our partnership and I shortened the business name to Nature’s Child. It was February 2000, we had just had a huge millennial party and GST was about to be introduced so I set the date of 1 July to start Nature’s Child, the same day as GST. The rest is history.
I only knew 3 people who could build a website in 1999 and they were all in back rooms. Most people we knew still did not have home computers. There was no such thing as SEO, the internet was small enough that we did not need it. Big Dot Coms were crashing around us after billions were invested but like many others, I thought if we do this on a small scale, I still think the Internet might have legs as a way to sell eventually. The internet was a very new thing in 2000 and they were really exciting times when people entered their credit card numbers onto computers and I got orders in my inbox.
We created the first Nature’s child website with about 15 baby and kids products. We only had 2 organic cotton products but I knew that would grow. Discovering organic cotton and chemical use in fabric was a massive eye opener and became the focus of what we did. This took my focus away from nappies a little bit but it was clearly going to be our core business – Organic, chemical free options for ALL baby products, a dream that is still not fulfilled 17 years later. Most of our products were nappies which remained my focus for about 3 years. We were the first Australian shop and internet site to sell multiple nappy brands and make nappies and organic products the focus of our business and it was very exciting.
How has the cloth nappy industry changed since you started your business?
Absolutely! I am so proud to see Nappy Associations in most countries in the world now. Cloth Nappy use was at about 10% when we started, I’m pretty sure it’s close to 20% now. There are Amazing Successful Nappy Companies and Incredible Designs that are outstanding and innovative.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
Not having enough resources or time to do everything you want to do, but you learn to find a flow and it is so important to acknowledge what you DO do instead of worrying about what you don’t.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your business?
Do one thing. Find your strength. Do it really well. Forget all the extra ideas because you can’t do it all.
Okay…Ill say it one more time because this is super important advice.
Do ONE THING really well and your business will be simple and successful.
Who helps you run your business?
Firstly, my customers, they inspire and make it possible. Secondly, my husband with his computer support, love and personal support. My cleaner! My Massuer! My Accountant. My amazing staff, sons, mentors, my friends, my associates, business partners, industry associations.
What do you do to relax?
Bushwalking is my first love and greatest joy. I love Music. Singing. Piano.Yoga. Socialise. Swimming. My Garden. Living in Byron Bay. Living Simply.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Trust your instinct. Trust yourself when advice is coming from too many sectors. You always know your business best.
What’s something you’d like your kids to remember about you?
A Loving Mother, a community advocate, a creative being, an entertainer, an a lover of nature and an entrepreneur that helped change the world.
Tell us your favourite quote or saying.
Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes.
Change the World, One Purchase at a time.
Is there anything else you think our readers would love to know about you or your business?
I am proud to be the current president of the Australian Nappy Association. Nature’s Child was the first Organic Baby Store and multiple brand cloth nappy retailer on the internet in Australia and I am super proud of that.
As for the future, we are about to launch some very exciting products that has been in my dreamland for many years.
Personally, I am about to become a Great Grandmother…but that is another long story!