In 2008, my husband and I were volunteering in Tanzania and preparing to move to the US for my husband to start graduate school when we found out we were expecting our first baby! We knew money would be tight for those first few years when my husband was in school, so I started googling “how to save money on a baby” and I discovered the world of modern cloth diapers.
In Tanzania, most women would use flat cloth diapers and hand wash them, so I thought how hard can it be to use cloth diapers when we will have a washing machine? I received several diapers as baby gifts and bought several for my daughter and we LOVED them – we loved all the money we were saving, that cloth diapers were natural and better for our daughter, and that we weren’t creating huge piles of waste with disposable diapers.
A few years later, I met a women who had a small business making and selling cloth diapers and she taught me to sew diapers. When my son Nathan was born in 2012, I made his stash of diapers and loved experimenting with different designs.
When my son was 5 months old, we moved to Kampala, Uganda to begin a job as the Country Directors for Mennonite Central Committee, a relief and development organization. I had some extra diaper fabrics and brought them along with me.
I started making diapers for friends as baby gifts, and then their friends saw them and started placing orders for diapers. I realized that there were no modern cloth diapers available in Uganda, but there was a high demand. With a job and two young children I didn’t have time to do the sewing myself, but recognized an opportunity to create jobs and income for Ugandan women.
Our first workshop was a small room in my house
I found a tailor and taught her how to make the diapers, and she started filling the orders for me. We started off very small – we probably sold around 10 diapers a month in 2013. I also started experimenting with different kinds of fabric and designs – my son Nathan was still in diapers, so I would make samples and try them out of him to see which fabrics and which designs worked best. We also got feedback from customers and used their input to continually improve our diapers. In 2014, we officially registered as a Ugandan business.
My son Nathan in our first Kijani photo shoot
Sept 2013 - selling diapers with my daughter Natalie at our first market event
Today, we have a small shop in Kampala, a separate workshop, provide an income for 13 women, and have sold more than 8000 diapers. Though we are still small, we have come quite far from our humble beginnings!