How Changing a Diaper Became Changing The Industry: My 4 Lessons Learned

Change is hard. 

Changing the diaper of a rolling 18 month old? Hard. 

Changing the way the industry makes those diapers? “Hard” barely scratches the surface.

As the founder of a new diaper brand, Kudos, I’ve had to be stubborn as a toddler. Mainly, challenging the status quo of our industry and fulfilling our product’s promise to get as much plastic out of disposable diapers as possible. 

When I first started out, most industry partners were unwilling to work with us because our volumes were so small. Now, we’re working hand in hand with our suppliers and manufacturing partners to change the industry for the better. 

How’d we do it? By breaking a lot of ground. To help fellow entrepreneurs building sustainable projects in any industry, here are 4 important lessons learned.

1 - Let one Stubborn vision be your guide. Stubborn with a capital S. Make this vision your company’s mantra. For example, for Kudos it’s getting as much plastic out of disposable diapers as possible, especially when it comes to the material touching baby’s skin. Once you have your vision set, let it guide your decision making and ability to say no. Is this supplier unwilling to try something new that will help us reach our vision? Sorry we can’t make that compromise. Could there be a path to plastic-free with this supplier if we push a little harder? Let’s go all-in.

2 - Don’t outsource your key disruption factor. What do I mean by this? As much as you can, work directly with suppliers. As a material scientist and engineer by training, I knew that the materials that we chose were going to be the biggest differentiation point for Kudos. Sourcing these materials ourselves (especially our cotton which I knew I wanted only from the U.S.) was a non-negotiable for me. Most diaper companies don’t do this because it’s a lot of work for them and the supplier. In fact, most diaper and wipes companies outsource all materials decision making to the manufacturers. I say, if you know what you want, you’ve got to hand-pick it yourself. 

3 - Convince suppliers with consumer facts. We realized we needed to educate suppliers in order to convince them of the market opportunity to make greener and more sustainable changes. We did a ton of consumer research to show the business opportunity, and I even spoke at technical industry events. Offering information and showing up in this way built trust and allowed us to collaborate more deeply on material choices. We were included on pilot runs for their environmental impact initiatives, and ended up building with materials no one else asks for. Now it really feels like we’re in this change together – and in it for the long haul.

4 - Do open-source your successes. Be the rising tide that lifts all boats. Make some headway with suppliers? Even little wins? Share what you know. Creating diapers with 100% cotton liners instead of plastic was a real engineering and supplier challenge! So, we believe that helping create more plant-based ingredients for the industry as a whole will ensure more sustainable products go to market faster. 

Where is Kudos now? The pushing paid off. We’re winning awards and hitting shelves. 

Kudos became the first ever diaper to receive the Hygienix Innovation Award recognizing one company taking a truly innovative approach within disposable absorbent hygiene. We were an honoree in the Fast Company Design by Innovation Sustainability awards. We are venture-backed by some of the best firms out there (shout out to XFund, Oversubscribed Ventures, PJC, Alumni Ventures, to just name a few), and we made a double deal with Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Cuban on Shark Tank! 

So believe me, don’t be afraid to be stubborn for sustainability’s sake. See you in the diaper aisle!

About the author

Our Founder Amrita is all about elegant sustainability (i.e. creating sustainable products that truly work!). Kudos is just that. But, fun fact, she didn’t start with diapers! Amrita’s first company out of MIT turned banana leaves into sanitary pads that helped schoolgirls in India get ahead. Today, her dream of creating a leak-defying yet natural diaper is helping parents everywhere get ahead.

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