By Starrla Cray
CARVER COUNTY, MN Even before she became a mother, Emily Duevel of Mayer liked the idea of cloth diapers.
“There’s the environmental aspect, and they’re better for your baby,” Duevel said, explaining that she’s not comfortable with the chemicals in disposable diapers.
The benefit that really sold Duevel and her husband, Mark, however, was cost.
“It’s a significant savings,” Duevel said. “Upfront costs for cloth diapers can be anywhere from $200 to $500, but then you’re done.”
Plus, cloth diapers can be reused later if more children are born.
When Duevel became pregnant with her son, Hayden, who is now a year old, she began researching cloth diapers for her own family.
“Like all mothers, you want the best for your baby,” Duevel said.
Hayden got diaper rash when he was a few months old, so Duevel and her mother, Kathryn (who is an OB/GYN in Willmar) came up with a special fan that increases airflow. Duevel also began developing a simple, vegetable-based diaper rash cream.
Both of these products won’t be launched until later this year, but they sparked Duevel’s desire to start her own baby products company.
Ambition for business
Duevel had always known she wanted to start a business of some kind, but she hadn’t settled on what industry.
During her research, it became clear that selling baby products would be the perfect opportunity to help other families in her situation.
“I started investigating, and realized there’s a big market available,” Duevel said.
She named her company Minnehaha Diaper Company because the word Minnehaha means “laughing waters,” which reminded her of children.
In the future, Duevel might expand her business to include Minnehaha Mama (featuring nursing and maternity clothes).
Customers who shop at Duevel’s online store can choose from a wide selection of cloth diapers, as well as natural baby toys, clothes, nursing supplies, sun protection, and more.
“I only carry products I’ve tried and tested and that I know are of high quality,” Duevel said. “There have been a handful I’ve tested that I wouldn’t recommend to anybody.”
Much of it comes down to personal preference, however.
“You have to do what’s right for your family,” Duevel said. “They come in everything from your traditional square with a cover, to all-in-one.”
The “all-in-one” is sometimes called the “Cadillac of cloth diapers,” according to Duevel.
“It goes on like a disposable,” she said, explaining that it’s also the most expensive option.
Some diapers have snaps or Velcro, with a pocket that can be stuffed to various absorbencies. Another benefit of this type is that it can adjust to fit babies of all ages.
“It’s not like the pins of years ago,” Duevel said.
Is cloth more work?
Many people think that cloth diapers are particularly cumbersome, but Duevel hasn’t found that to be true.
“There’s time invested in maintaining your disposable supply, too,” she said.
Duevel said she usually washes her diapers every two to four days, and will sometimes hang them to dry in front of the fireplace.
“In the summer, I always hang them on the clothesline outside,” she said. “The sun has an antibacterial effect.”
Home daycares are also becoming more receptive to cloth diapers, Duevel said.
When she’s out and about, Duevel uses a brightly patterned “wet bag” for storage.
“You don’t have to worry about odor or wetness in your diaper bag. Plus, it’s cute,” she said.
Diapers coast to coast
Duevel’s online business is streamlined to handle a large volume of orders. Customers get an immediate confirmation e-mail, and their order is shipped within 24 hours.
Duevel’s inventory is organized by color and style, and she has an efficient system for weighing, packaging, and labeling each order.
“It’s amazing the orders we get literally from coast to coast,” she said.
In order for a product to be featured in Duevel’s store, it has to pass stringent guidelines.
“Some companies approach me and send samples,” she said. “I research their manufacturing process to see if it meets our standards.”
Even if a product claims to be “natural” or “organic,” it might not make the cut.
“Organic is such a vague label,” Duevel said. “It only has to be a certain percentage organic. It’s kind of misleading.”
Duevel, who has a degree in organizational behavior from the College of St. Scholastica, isn’t one to settle for mediocrity.
“My parents are both self-starters,” she said. “I grew up in a family where no one was telling you that you couldn’t do something.”
Duevel’s husband is also a creative thinker. Since he was laid off from his job as an architect this summer, he has been working on stained glass and assisting with Duevel’s business.
“We’re never bored,” Duevel said.
To learn more about Minnehaha Diaper Company, go to www.minnehahadiaperco.com.