Startup Creates Smart Bottoms, Locally Made Diapers

By Jane Whitttington on October 10th, 2016 / Comments

Welcoming a baby into the family is a joyful experience, but even the most doting moms and dads have to admit that diaper duty is not their favorite part of parenting. When Christy Malone and her husband welcomed their second daughter, they couldn’t know that her diapers would lead to a new career path.

The entrepreneur was using disposable diapers with their first child and didn’t think anything of it. At the same time, their family was practicing organic products and living responsibly.

“We never stopped to consider that the diapers we were putting on our daughter were filled with chemicals. But when our second baby was six-days old, I was changing her diaper and found those clear, little beads from the inside of the disposable diaper on her skin,” Malone said. “I started doing research and found that disposables were filled with unhealthy materials. In fact, some of the materials are the same as were used in tampons which were produced in the 80’s that were connected with toxic shock syndrome.”

So, Malone decided to look into cloth diapers but found that most were still made from materials like polyester. Many babies using top brand cloth diapers were still experiencing rashes and blisters.

“Polyester is primarily made in China, and its production is not regulated. Finishing chemicals are used on this material—just not something I wanted to use on my baby,” she said.

Malone realized that what she wanted just wasn’t out there. So she decided to design her own, now called Smart Bottoms.

“Though I’m no seamstress, I started trying to come up with a prototype. Eventually I hired a professional, and we just kept making new versions until we came up with the perfect product,” she said.

“A parent only needs to buy about 24. The initial investment might be up to $600, but will probably save about $1,500 to $2,000 over the time the parents use them. And, of course, they can be used for subsequent children,” she said.

All the materials used to make the diapers are of U.S. origin with the exception of the snaps which are made in China. Malone said, “We tried, but we couldn’t find an American source for the snaps. We have a few different textile mills with whom we work closely.”

“We have four manufacturing facilities, three in Michigan and one in Arkansas. We will bring another one in Wisconsin into production soon,” she said.

They also make a few other products like swim diapers, nursing shawls, doll carriers and other items. The diapers are adjustable, which means they can fit a child from birth to the age of two or three. They come in a wide variety of patterns, and Smart Bottoms is always introducing new designs. Malone says that they are working with a tattoo artist on designing a retro/tattoo pattern. Just right for the hipster baby!

While the company has done some marketing, they rely on word-of-mouth and social media to grow their business—a method that has proven successful.

Currently, Smart Bottoms has a staff of four full-time employees and five who work part-time.

Smart Bottoms are sold only through retail outlets. And Malone and her staff have racked up an impressive number of retailers—over 45 in an amazing 29 countries. They recently hired an employee in Ireland to head up the European sales and distribution.

“We have outlets all over Europe as well as in India and the Middle East. American made products are extremely popular there,” Malone said. “They know that Smart Bottoms are safe, sustainable and of the highest quality.”

Both Malone and her husband have entrepreneurial experience; Smart Bottoms is self-funded, partially by the sale of Malone’s previous business. She says, “We are cautious in our business decisions. We want to grow, but we want to do that mindfully, and we concentrate on controlled growth.

Malone feels that giving something back is an essential part of her business. Through the Haiti Foundation, Smart Bottoms provides all the diapers needed at an orphanage in Haiti. When they became aware that staff there had to wash everything by hand, a laborious task that also meant that the diapers wore out far more quickly, Smart Bottoms donated a washer and dryer to the orphanage.

Smart Bottoms also donates diapers to Giving Diapers-Giving Hope, a foundation which provides free cloth diapers to low-income families.

Malone’s advice to other entrepreneurs is to “enjoy the moment!” She says, “Try new things. Don’t have expectations; set reasonable goals and work hard. Anything is possible!”

Learn more about this startup, Smart Bottoms.

About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.