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This success story recipient got funding because they took the first step and contacted our Centre to learn about their funding options. Although we cannot guarantee you will get funding, the more you know about others experiences the better your chances.

$4,000 Government Grant helps with Starting a Small Business for Improved Cloth Diapers

Grant to import diaper covers for cloth diaper company
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Starting a small business avoids birth pains with government grant money

Starting a small business avoids birth pains with government grant money

When Penny Gibson gave birth to her daughter, Peyton, in 2008, she had no idea the event would lead to the birth of a new business a few short months later.

A native of Winnipeg, Gibson worked in advertising sales for a radio station in Calgary before moving back to Manitoba. While pregnant Gibson saw an opportunity in a challenge that faced her as a new mother.

Penny's mother, Norine, had used cloth diapers on her three children, and Penny planned to do the same with her new baby. But, after searching across Winnipeg for an affordable and convenient diaper system, she discovered there was little to be found.

"I didn't really find anything that I liked, or else everything was just way too expensive," she says. So she turned to the Internet, and learned that the average cost was about $20 a diaper. "And then you need 36 of them," says Penny. "And they come in different sizes, so you need 36 in each size, so it can get expensive pretty quickly."

With her due date fast approaching, she opted for the most inexpensive diaper -- the traditional rectangular, flat design used for decades before disposables came along. Her kit consisted of 48 flat diapers, eight diaper pins, and eight diaper covers.

When she brought Peyton home, Penny was eager to try out the diapers. She nearly poked Peyton with a pin on her first attempt, and quickly abandoned the antiquated system. But maybe there was hope. Together with her mother, Penny decided to redesign the flat diapers into something she could use.

A furious space of pattern-making, cutting, and sewing resulted in an easy-to-use, hourglass-shaped diaper with Velcro tabs instead of pins. By the time Peyton was four weeks old, she was wearing her new mom-and-grandma-designed diapers every day.

"It just kind of went from there," says Penny. "We started to joke about starting a diaper company," and the idea stuck. When Penny's maternity leave finished, she wasn't keen on heading back to her old job. Her mom and dad ran their own business -- a trucking company -- and she'd grown up in an entrepreneurial household, so starting a small business of her own was an attractive idea.

The following March, Penny and Norine started to get things rolling -- and Canada's Diaper Ladies was born. They began by fine-tuning the design based on their initial prototypes, and they purchased industrial sewing equipment in order to produce the diapers at home. Then they began developing their website and other marketing materials.

Penny was able to get a line of credit to finance starting a small business, but she says she couldn't have done it without Norine's help. "The bank would not have given us the line of credit as a new businesss and it had to be co-signed through my parents' business."

Finding a government grant for starting a small business makes entrepreneurship easier

The new partners also contacted the Centre for Small Business Financing (CSBF) to access business resources regarding government funding sources. They learned of the Manitoba Young Entrepreneur Program (YEP) and applied. The program came through with a welcome government grant that has improved the product line. With the $4,000 government grant, Penny was able to order custom-designed nylon pants exclusive to Canada's Diaper Ladies.

"Right now we have PVC covers," says Penny. "They're good, but you have to hand wash them, and they don't last. The existing nylon covers that are out there either use the wrong material at the legs, so they leak, or they're too bulky, or way too expensive. We finally hooked up with this factory in China, and they are making us some custom nylon covers. The grant money is being used to purchase couple of thousand pairs and our kits will finally come with the nylon pants."

Government support helps with business plan and making sense of things

In order to get the funding grant for small business, Penny was required to take part in a three-day business start up workshop in Winnipeg and prepare a business plan. She met with a consultant from the YEP, who reviewed her business plan and suggested changes. Following this, she was eligible for the government funding, which was granted after she had spent the business financing on the business and reviewed the receipts with a YEP representative.

Penny says that initially sales were slow. The website was just getting off the ground, and their marketing consisted primarily of offering gifts through Thyme Maternity, a local shop, and through prenatal classes in Winnipeg. Recently, after realizing people who attend prenatal yoga classes or hire dulas are more likely to buy cloth diapers, they restructured their target marketing strategies.

They also began using Google Adwords to drive traffic to their company's website, offering a free DVD on how to use the cloth diapers. And they're looking to target buyers in specific provinces.

Penny advises "newborn" entrepreneurs to expect expenses to be a lot more than anticipated. "And expect not to be paid for a while."

She says that while she hoped the business would take off instantly, her mom had more realistic expectations. And Norine's experience has been a big help. "She doesn't get stressed out about things that might bother people who don't have experience," says Penny.

Despite the growing pains, Canada's Diaper Ladies is headed for big things and finding the Centre for Small Business Financing has helped.


If you are an entrepreneur interested in starting your own small business, consider looking into the CSBF website to find out about the financing options that are available to you, you can also call toll free at 1-866-682-2402 for further assistance.

CFSBF has no affiliation with any program, and no claim is made that funding is guaranteed.

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