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Meet Laura - Founder of Mama Bamboo

5-minute read
Meet Laura - Founder of Mama Bamboo
It was her own frustration at the lack of quality eco-brands on the market that prompted Laura to launch Mama Bamboo. She set out to create sustainable, disposable nappies using natural materials that would be gentle on the most sensitive of skin, and would  support a sustainable lifestyle without compromising on quality.
Here Laura talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind Mama Bamboo and her business journey so far.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?  

In the UK, 8 million nappies and 11 million wet wipes are used and thrown away every day. Most of these are made of plastic.  

I wanted to choose a good eco option for my own children but I couldn’t find what I was looking for – I tried and failed at washables, and I found the available eco-brands to be papery and leaky. Resigning myself to normal disposables and the guilt of the eco-impact, I found my children suffering nappy rash more frequently because of the plastic. In sheer frustration, I decided to start my own brand combining the natural materials I knew would help reduce nappy rash and be more sustainable, with the absorption and performance to prevent leaks, and the convenience I needed to suit my lifestyle.  

I believe sustainable alternatives should aim to offer a no compromise option. You don’t have to give up on quality to go green.  

I also really wanted to do something that would fit in with my children’s lives. I had previously been a consultant in the city and I simply couldn’t imagine going back to the 60-80 hours a week and travel away from my little ones. I met so many incredible women at parenting and toddler classes who were in a similar situation: amazing experience and a wealth of knowledge being sidelined by the job market because they wanted flexible working styles. I designed Mama Bamboo to offer myself and other return-to-work parents a more flexible and worthwhile working option.  

The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?  

I started researching sustainable materials and alternatives to standard chemicals found in nappies and wipes. I created a nappy which would perform like a standard disposable, but which contained 80% biobased materials, and a baby wipe which would be 100% compostable and contain a more natural, plant-based cleansing formula.  

I worked with a global sourcing expert to carefully select manufacturing partners, who could produce my products to a high quality and consistency, and who passed the BSI (British Standards Institute) audit for ethical and environmental principles. 

I then took a deep breath and commissioned my first range of products. It was a heart-in-mouth moment. My first order was for +100k worth of products and I genuinely had no real experience of marketing or web development or ecommerce sales. It was a leap of faith.  

The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?  

For me, the breakthrough really came in the development of a nappy that balanced the needs of modern parents with the desire to be more sustainable. I hadn’t realised at the time just how many parents were stuck in the same compromising wheel as I had been. They want to balance the needs of their baby, themselves and the planet.  

Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family? 

This can be tricky at times, but we have actively sought to fill the team with return-to-work parents seeking flexibility. No one works full time in the company, and everyone has generous holiday allowance. We all work from home +60% of the time and we ensure everyone feels supported in planning their workload flexibly around their family commitments. For instance, I am the CEO and I work 30 hours a week. I do every drop off and pick up for my children and I move my days around whenever there is a school play or parents’ meeting. It can mean I work some odd hours on certain days. It’s not unusual for me to play with the kids in the day and work till midnight in the school holidays! It’s not always easy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  

The drive: What challenges have you overcome? 

The first 3 years were fairly plain sailing to be honest; our audience grew exponentially and we reached our £1 million turnover reasonably quickly. This last year however, has been very tough indeed. The aftermath of Covid on international freighting has been almost crippling – a shipment which once cost £2000 was costing £18000 at the height of the crisis – and the cost of living and the inflation crisis has made the UK a particularly difficult area to do business. Our products are a similar price to the leading brands but during recession we see more clients turning towards the cheaper less eco products due to reduced household expenditure. It’s a sad fact that the environment will be less of a priority for households and governments for however long the recession lasts.  

For better or worse: What are the pros and cons of running your own business? 

Setting up my own business allowed me to create the exact product and service I wanted to without compromise. I didn’t have to answer shareholders or committees when I agreed to additional costs to make the nappies even more sustainable or I wanted to put wellbeing schemes in place for my staff. I had the flexibility to make the choices I knew were right for the planet and my people without the pressure to drive for more profit all the time.  

I find great worth in the work I’m doing now – for every nappy sold, I know that we saved 1 plastic nappy being manufactured and thrown away. We’ve sold millions of nappies and wipes in our 4 years of business and saved 1000s of litres of crude oil.  

It’s not all rainbows however. As one great superhero once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. I often worry myself awake at night thinking about big decisions and fretting over the bank balance and job security for my team. I know ultimately the responsibility to get it right rests with me and that can sometimes be a very lonely headspace.  

Hopes and dreams: What next? 

I hope Mama Bamboo will continue to grow and allow more parents to move away from plastic nappies and wipes, and many more babies will be happy in their bamboo nappies with a nappy rash free botty 😊 

I’m also actively working with the University College London’s Plastic Waste Innovation hub and the Sustainability Accelerator programme at the University of Hertfordshire to establish the UK’s first collection and composting service for nappies and wipes. My utopia would see all nappies and wipes being made using bio-based materials and returning to the soil as nutrient-rich compost.  

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