Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jen Starks of Ecological Babies

If, six years ago, someone had told me that I would be the owner and developer of a retail cloth diaper business, Ecological Babies, I would have laughed hysterically in disbelief. Of course, I would never have guessed that I would be pesca-vegetarian, breastfeeding and cloth diapering my daughter at 2.5 years and son at 4 months, or consciously trying to shop local. My year in service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (like a faith-based Peace Corps) planted this seed.
The idea of developing a cloth diaper business began shortly after Rita Clare’s birth. Becoming a parent brings all new challenges to the JVC core values (simplicity, spirituality, social justice, community). One major stumbling block came in the form of diapers. We were going to need them…A LOT of them! Cloth diapers, however, seemed like a huge jump for us. It seemed too radical and overwhelming and I only knew one other family that used them.
Once we committed to using cloth diapers, I started searching online to learn more about them. I had no idea how much cloth diapers had changed with so many different brands and types (such as fitteds, all-in-ones, doublers, pockets, one-size, etc.) I was overwhelmed and literally had nightmares trying to figure it all out. In the process, I realized how helpful it would be to have someone walk me through the process and empower me in my decisions about how many and what types to use.
After Rita Clare was born, I started to question whether I should return to my social work career full-time, part-time, or not at all. While I recognized my desire to raise our daughter full-time, I also felt that I needed more and that some of my gifts would fail to flower as a full-time mom. One night, I had a dream about starting a home-based cloth diaper business where I would help families make the transition away from disposables. The more I thought about it, the more I knew this is what I needed to do.
For me, the best part of starting up Ecological Babies was being able to design it just the way I wanted, and I wanted it to reflect my JV values. Therefore, I designed a “Giving Back” program where I donate a portion of my profits to organizations I would like to support (one of which is JVC). I attempt to be as paperless in my transactions as possible. I’ve developed business goals designed to help families live simpler and gentler on the earth. My efforts are mainly focused on my local community, providing free educational workshops and consultations to help transition to cloth diapers. Through these efforts, I have connected with hundreds of families with similar values and networked with other local businesses whose ethics I stand by.

Empowering mothers to make decisions that help the environment and their family is very fulfilling for me personally. I have heard from many families that this was one of the best decisions (besides breastfeeding) that they made for their baby and their family. One client desperately wanted to stay home with her child, but was worried about finances. After meeting with me, she decided to take the plunge and she was able to make her choice in part because of the money they are saving using cloth diapers. Customers are excited to donate and learn more about the organizations I’ve chosen. Most importantly, I’m personally more balanced having this business and that allows me to be more present and loving to Rita Clare.
Ecological Babies is truly a reflection of my year in JVC. My mission is to promote a more sustainable environment, closer-knit communities, contribute to a higher quality of life, develop deeper relationships, and encourage personal development. I look forward to learning more about you!


Jen Starks
Ecological Babies
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