BIO-BABA FOUNDER VICTORIA PENFOLD
How did the birth of your first child lead to the establishment of Bio-Baba?
When my son, Hugo, was born I knew that I didn’t want to go back to the corporate world but wanted to spend as much time with him so that I wouldn’t miss anything. A couple of months later, I had to start planning to contribute to the family’s income again. I was torn between being with Hugo and going back to work. As I went through this dilemma, I started experimenting with different sorts of nappies. The shaped cloth nappies were so much nicer to use than the disposables. They were re-usable, environmentally-friendly, 100% cotton and much cooler than the disposable. That is how project Bio-Baba started in 2004.
How big is it now?
It’s still relatively small. I didn’t want to have something that was so successful that I wouldn’t have time for my children. That would have been defeating the object. On the upside, this has allowed us to refine our product into something world-class, using medical grade waterproofing and the highest quality natural fabrics such as hemp. The demand is growing incredibly fast, we’ve had to double production monthly. None of the large baby stores and retail outlets is keen on Bio-Baba at present but I predict this will change. Our nappies are currently stocked at select outlets such as Wellness Warehouse, but most of our business is still done through agents and online.
What is Bio-Baba’s impact on the economy?
Part of the ethos of my company was to be able to provide employment for as many local small businesses as possible; rather than ‘own’ the whole process, I found small local companies who already had the skills that I needed. For example, my embroidery, cutting and CMT are all done by people around Cape Town.
How does the product benefit consumers?
When we did the first big Bio-Baba production run, the concept of re-usable fitted eco-friendly nappies was unheard of in SA. People are now more aware of the environmental aspect of throwing away more than one tonne of landfill in disposables, the effects that having chemicals against their babies’ skin 24/7 may have and the impact of spending between R15,000 and R18,000 on disposables per baby.
Was it hard to start up?
Working for yourself is not easy, especially in a field that you have no previous knowledge. However, the amount of time and work I had put into my project meant that, above all, I had to take myself seriously. That is why I sought out the guidance of the folk at the Umsobomvu Youth Fund. This was an essential part of getting my business off the ground.
Visit www.biobaba.co.za for more information.
To read the full version of this story go to page 104 of the June issue of DESTINY