I had the amazing honor to sit down over coffee with Betsy Thomas, cloth diaper maven now moved onto the next chapter of her life, creator of Bummis brand with her friend Shirley in 1988. We sat down earlier this month, the two of us and my 17 month old Fallon who of course sported a Bummis cover during the interview. She was a joy to sit down with, very personable and down to earth. I would like to share that interview with you now! Enjoy!
First off thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. It's really an honour to meet someone who has been in the industry for as long as you have, one of the spearheads of an amazing movement, someone known in the business worldwide. As a customer and user of your products, a seller of the brand you helped create, as a fellow business women, and as a real diaper circle leader, it has been great to come to know you over the years and I thank you as all these things for everything you've done.
- Thank you that's very kind.
For those who don't know you, tell us who you are and what you helped create.
- I'm Betsy Thomas and I created Bummis in 1988. I launched Bummis in my home. I owned and operated it for 27 years, and last year I transitioned it to new owners.
What was your biggest inspiration to start using cloth diapers, and then turn it into a business?
- My biggest inspiration was, of course my babies! But the first time I actually saw someone using cloth diapers was my sister. I knew right away I would use them. It's just so logical, and affordable, and smart. My children were the inspiration for starting the business because I was using cloth diapers, but there were no products that I loved, and nothing made in Canada at the time. So I started manufacturing them in Montreal. I ran the business out of my home. As is the story with many women, I needed to work, but wanted something I could do in my home. It grew quickly and I moved it out of my home in 1991.
What is your biggest motivation to keep it keep it local, and made here?
- I wanted my business to be part of my community, part of the local economy. It was important to me that the people who made Bummis could afford to buy Bummis.
What would you say to those who aren't sure if cloth diapering is for them?
- I'd say try it! It's so easy, and such a lovely thing for people to do. I think they just need to try it. Once people try it they see HOW easy it really is. Flushable liners make it easier for many people to actually try cloth diapering, and I think that encouraging them to incorporate it into their lives slowly makes it easier too. If you push people too hard, it sends them into the opposite direction, but if you show them how fun and attractive they are, then young parents are more likely to want to use cloth diapers.
What is your take on the current, on-going discussion of washing routines for cloth diapers... As a user of cloth diapers when your children were younger, compared to the routines of today?
- I think people just need to keep it simple! It shouldn't be complicated. I was always totally shocked by how divisive the issue of washing diapers was in the industry! I think that everyone should stress how EASY it is to wash them.... We always directed people toward our Laundry Science blog so that they could learn the basics of successful washing. Information about fabric type, water type and machine type is really crucial to guiding parents toward a particular diaper type or fabric. So being well informed about the real SCIENCE of washing should be important to those who advise new parents about cloth diapers! (Blog she is referencing to: http://blog.bummis.com/2011/10/laundry-science.html)
What would you say is the most efficient absorbency materiel?
- I love cotton. I think organic cotton is just a really great, sane thing to use. That being said, there are some really exciting new combinations of fabrics that are very absorbent. The fabrics that Bummis uses now are amazing. They don't hold stink and they wash out clean. I think that's important, because it makes cloth diapering easy for people if they use something that does not absorb stink or take a lot of expertise to wash.
What was your favourite product in your lineup if you could pick one thing?
- Prefolds and the super whisper wrap. I use those now on my grandchildren.
What are your favourite parts about working in the cloth diaper and sustainable living industries?
- It's such a feel good industry! You feel such a sense of accomplishment and joy in passing on these products to consumers. And I really LOVED working with the retailers.
Do you still have communication with the current Bummis team?
- I worked with them for about a year, but have left now and moved on to other things. I do check in with what Bummis is doing from time to time though, on social media.
Any comments you wish to share about the new partnership with MiniKiwi?
- I think it's really great. I think they have what it takes to bring the company to the next level. They have a good team, and they'll do really well.
Now that you've ventured into a life after Bummis, what are you doing with your time?
- I'm working with a Francophone center in Toronto that focuses on the prevention of violence and child abuse. They develop programming and resources for schools and communities. Right now they're working on a new resource for teachers to help them indigenize their classrooms and create safe spaces for indigenous students. It's fantastic, I love it! I always have other plans percolating too… I’m working on a new website for my husband, who is a musician. And I have a couple other projects on the go as well, involving training and strategizing and babies, of course….
You've done so many interviews with people from all over. Do you have any memorable experiences you've taken from those interviews?
- I can't really remember one specific experience but I can tell you, I usually learn more from the interviewers then they learn from me. I learn about the industry, the business, myself and them, and that's what I really love. It's always the people aspect that does it for me! People and ideas.
If you could share one thing you hoped would inspire future business women, mothers or cloth diaper users, to help ensure cloth diapers continue to be used, what would it be?
- That's a really good question let me think about that... To maintain your passion for using cloth diapers, and your passion for the products themselves. I also I think it's really important to work more together, worry less about competing with each other, and more about expanding the population of cloth diaper users.
In : Educational
Tags: interview betsy thomas bummis cloth diapers minikiwi prefolds