This week, we meet ANA Founding Member and owner of Seedling Baby, Eva Van Strijp.
Tell us about your background. What did you do in your past life, before children? Before cloth nappies!
Before welcoming children, I was a secondary school teacher and freelance journalist. My major was English so I’m one of those annoying people who can be heard correcting grammar during a dinner conversation. I admit, it’s a bit anti-social…
Tell us about your journey into the cloth nappy industry.
When our little girl arrived, she had a significant case of hip dysplasia that would see her in a Pavlik harness for 6 months. A generation ago, double cloth nappies were actually recommended for babies with hip dysplasia, so we planned to use the three dozen terry flats with which we had been gifted, but had no idea what to do about a cover. The old style PVC pilchers were useless with a Pavlik harness.
A few hours of Googling and a few days of waiting for “fluffy mail” to arrive, and we were the proud owners of a nappy cover that went on like a disposable, fitting comfortably in between the Pavlik harness and our daughter’s hips. Genius!
I love sewing, and began experimenting with making my own fitted nappies and once happy with the design, started to gift my creations to friends and family.
After six months, we decided to make this nappy thing more than just a hobby and opened an online store as retailers for several different brands of cloth nappies, including our own. Two months in to that and the retail business was gaining speed, so we stopped making nappies to focus on building the store. At the peak of our online retail days, Oz Baby Trends stocked over 40 different brands.
At the end of our second year in business, we took on wholesale distribution for Close – a UK brand of modern cloth nappies and baby carriers – and six months after that, closed our retail store to let the business take what seemed to be a natural turn towards a distribution focus.
Almost nine years since our search began, we proudly distribute three brands of cloth nappies and welcomed our fifth child in 2013.
How has the cloth nappy industry changed since you started your business?
There are a lot more cloth nappy businesses in the game but also a growing number of parents who are questioning the disposable norm.
I believe there is significantly greater awareness of cloth nappying options now than there was nine years ago.
Because we don’t sell directly to parents, it’s exciting to work closely with our retailers and consultants in developing new ways to reach parents and educate them about the goodness of cloth.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business?
Consistently, I’ve found the hardest thing about owning a business is maintaining boundaries between life and work. When you run a business from home, it can be especially difficult to demarcate and the lines can easily blur unless you draw up specific working hours from the start.
I realise this can be hard to achieve with children, but it’s all the more important to implement. If you’re serious about motherhood and serious about owning a business, you’ll create the boundaries you need to manage both in a healthy and balanced way.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your business?
I wish I’d invested more in myself early on.
I went into business with the sweeping assumption that “anyone can run a business”, even if you don’t have a sliver of business experience or education!
It took a long time for me to recognise and admit that I actually needed to invest in myself and my professional development in order to really take my business to the next level. And I continue to realise this each time it feels as though I’ve hit a plateau.
Who helps you run your business?
My husband, James, is an incredible support in my business. He is a sounding board and does a lot of the manual stuff that needs doing – like unloading pallets and building warehouses!
I used to have a great warehouse manager, but since moving towns we’ve yet to find another one just as fabulous.
I have a strong virtual team on whom I rely heavily. People like my amazing graphic designer, my bookkeeper, my content support team and coach – these people lighten the load, make outsourcing a joyful experience and keep me grounded.
What do you do to relax?
I love walking, reading, gardening, sewing, playing my guitar, taking photos, blogging… I have lots of hobbies!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Listen not to respond, but to understand.
What’s something you’d like your kids to remember about you?
I’d love my kids to remember that I didn’t get caught up in trivial first-world “problems”. I’m very protective of myself and my family and try not to let anything disturb my peace of soul, because life is far too short for petty disturbances.
I’d love for them to remember the little things we did together – like baking and making cards and riding bikes. So often we become overwhelmed with the weight of parenting that we forget it’s the simple things that kids really need.
Tell us your favourite quote or saying.
“Everything depends on how we love one another at home.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Is there anything else you think our readers would love to know about you or your business?
Nine years of raising children and building a business has given me lots of opportunities to make mistakes and make magic happen… all a bit too much to share through Oz Baby Trends! So I recently started a new website where I share all of my parenting and business resources. Never a dull moment!
Eva Van Strijp is a mother of six, founding member of the Australian Nappy Association and creator of Seedling Baby. When Eva isn’t hanging out with her family or running a business, she’s eating chocolate, listening to podcasts or tending her veggie patch.