Ben Franklin famously said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. He’s mostly right, but he forgot one other thing –– dirty diapers. But just because they’re a necessary evil doesn’t mean that they can’t also be fun, cute and even trendy.
Tereson Dupuy, founder and chief executive officer of Lafayette-based Mother of Eden and the inventor of Fuzzi Bunz reusable pocket diapers, has based an empire around this concept.
“I knew they’d be big,” she says of her diapers. “I knew that eventually the green boom would hit, and it’s only just starting. It’s going up from here.”
Dupuy invented the diapers in January 1999 when her then-4-month-old son, Eden, for whom the company is named, developed a chronic diaper rash. The chemicals in disposable diapers worsened the rash, as did traditional cotton cloth diapers, which got soggy and held wetness next to his skin. After playing around with fabrics and styles, Dupuy came up with the now-popular pocket-style diaper that kept her son dry and comfortable, didn’t leak and was easy to launder at home. She began sewing diapers at home and selling them on the Internet.
As word of mouth grew, Dupuy decided to patent her invention in 2003. Five years later, Dupuy and her invention have won numerous awards –– including a 2007 Outstanding Product award from iParenting Media and the prestigious 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year award given by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business –– and annual sales in 2007 exceeded $3 million. Fuzzi Bunz has received media attention from Parents, American Baby and Time magazines, among others, and amassed a celebrity following that includes Tori Spelling and Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams.
Even as her business took off, Dupuy never considered moving headquarters out of Louisiana. “I live here,” she says simply. “I grew up in New Orleans, came to school in southwest Louisiana, fell in love with the area and stayed. We have the best people in the world, best food in the world, best culture in the world. It’s a culture-rich area. I don’t plan on moving.”
Keeping her business in Louisiana has had some challenges, however. “It’s not the greenest place in the world,” she acknowledges. “When I was starting out, I went into an ad agency, and they said, ‘You mean you have to wash it at home? We can’t market this!’ So I just moved on. It can be a struggle to find people who understand a green industry, who understand a reusable product.”
But Sydney French of Opelousas, mother of 19-month-old Carson, fully understands the benefits of cloth diapering. “When my baby was 10 months old, I decided to switch from disposables to cloth,” she says. “I felt horrible every time I threw a sack full of disposables away. All I could think of was the chemicals that would be sitting in a landfill for 500 years. I am thrilled with cloth. I really wish I would have started from the beginning.”
Some have argued that cloth diapers aren’t any better for the environment because of the water needed to wash them. Dupuy scoffs at that idea, at least where her diapers are concerned: “These aren’t traditional cloth diapers. They’re pocket diapers and made of materials that wash quickly and dry quickly. You only need to use one-fourth on the normal amount of detergent, and because they wash and dry so quickly, you save water and energy. We didn’t really make them that way on purpose; it was lagniappe.”
And Dupuy is constantly striving to make the diapers themselves greener. “We’re using companies that are more environmentally sound,” she says. “We’re looking into using recycled eco-fleece, and we’re now manufacturing some of our diapers in Boston, Arkansas and Los Angeles because that way it requires less fuel to get to the end user. We’re making a green product in that you reuse it, but on a grander scale, we are a green company, too.”
Dupuy says a large part of her customer base is on the West Coast, but she would love to see more Louisianians using her product and thinks that might happen soon. “It’s all changing,” she says. “We’re realizing that we have to be more responsible.”
She urges anyone curious to give Fuzzi Bunz a chance. “Just buy one or two,” she says. “Try them out. See how your baby feels. See how they wash. See the rash reduction –– because you’ll see a reduction even with just two. And of the people I know who’ve opened their mind and given them a chance, no one has said, ‘Oh, this just isn’t for me.’ They all say, ‘I was skeptical, but I fell in love. There’s no reason to go back to disposables.’”
French certainly counts herself as a convert. “I encourage everyone to try it out,” she says. “I like it because it’s not wasteful. And I feel it’s healthier for my child to put cloth next to his skin instead of chemicals. We’re bombarded enough with chemicals. This is one thing I can do to protect him a little more.”