If you’re a cloth diaper mama then you’re familiar with the AppleCheeks brand and the incredible design and functionality of their reusable diaper line.
The rest of the world is about to meet AppleCheeks live and in person tonight, on CBC’s Dragon Den, as the dynamo pair of founding owners, Amy Appleton Venu and Ilana Grostern pitch to the investor dragons.
I’m beyond excited for the mom entrepreneur company on many levels. Regardless if the company seals a deal with the dragons, the national exposure to the broad traditional audience is simply PR magic. As a mom entrepreneur, I love to see other moms in business excel, and proud that small businesses with good ideas and solid brands are finally getting recognised at a national level.
On a personal level, I’m thrilled for my friend Amy Appleton. My pride in Amy is based on a lifetime of knowing that Amy does everything with a whole heart, with her truest of intentions, and pursues things that really matter to her. Ultimately, she’s the same relentless and passionate girl that used to knock at my front door to play outside.
AppleCheeks Amy is in the middle, momstown on the right at Ann-Marie's 3rd Birthday
I’ve also seen her negotiate and banter with her dad and if she can wear Bruce Appleton down, I’m telling you, this Dragon thing will be a piece of cake!
Born in the same year, to families across the street in an Anglophone suburb of Montreal, Amy and I grew up together. She was my first friend and playmate. Some of my earliest memories include Amy and her family. Amy visited our house so much that a few times she was mistaken as my mom’s third child!
Amy was environmentally conscious before being ‘green’ was cool. I recall as a teenager, when it was super cool to carry a shiny new Roots or Gap plastic shopping bag, Amy made me refuse a bag and put my brand new purchase into a crinkled grocery bag she had brought tucked into her pocket. Amy was determined to save the Earth and ahead of her time.
Passionate about women and community, after we graduated from university while I was heading to tour Europe, Amy went on a mission connected to her International Relations degree to help in poor, underdeveloped countries. Amy returned home from her travels with stories of being invited by poverty stricken women to help deliver their babies. BABIES. I was drinking beer in Germany while she delivered babies. She told me the horrors of the situations with no medical care, of women with no support, no respect, no anything, birthing in rough conditions. She was both inspired and made more determined by this experience. I was in awe of her commitment.
Soon after, Amy traveled to New Zealand, met her soulmate, married and decided to stay. Next came news of a baby. My parents were coincidentally out for dinner with her parents when the birth announcement call was made and they celebrated their first communal grandchild together.
Next came news of a second baby on the way and a permanent return to Canada to her childhood home. My parents called to tell me the Appleton’s were installing a birthing pool in the basement. It was 2004, birthing pools and homebirths weren’t as common as they are now. I knew I didn’t have the guts to do what she was planning. Inspired by her mission Amy was focused on following her body and the baby. Amy is one strong woman, determined, focused and committed. I’ve seen pictures to prove it too!
News came via my mom that Amy and her friend Ilana were into babywearing and decided to make baby wraps. I had to google what a “baby wrap” was. My mom’s old sewing machine made it over to the Appleton’s basement so more wraps could be sewn. The company was christened “Azure Wraps” after Ilana’s firstborn.
What was with this basement? First babies being birthed there and now a sewing business? The word ‘mompreneur’ was not in existence. They were sewers in a basement with an idea for something that wasn’t mainstream or popular – yet.
When my baby was born, an AzureWrap arrived in the mail. One long stretchy piece of fabric. It freaked me out and I tucked the wrap away. It wasn’t until I met another mom wearing a similar wrap who gave me a lesson on how to tie it did I find the confidence. And then I fell in love. Such a comfortable and natural way to carry a child, I became a full convert defining myself as a “babywearer” too.
Suddenly, Amy looked different to me. As a fellow mother, I totally got her point of view.
Fast forward to the launch of AppleCheeks, an incredible, innovative and charming diaper line that’s been developed and created by these brilliant entrepreneurs.
Living their passion, being green, impacting mom’s lives, creating an entity that was once niche and is now the ‘norm’ are incredible achievements. These partners are forward thinkers, brand creators and proud Canadians.
What I love the most, is the kid who Amy was, is who she STILL is. The reality is all her life experiences - education, travel, family – has netted into this blossoming business. Amy (and Ilana) I am so freakin’ proud of you!
6 Mom Entrepreneur Lessons I’ve learned from the AppleCheeks rockstars:
1. Be Who You Are
Find something you have always been passionate about, in this case Green Living, Motherhood & Community, and develop a concept or work in an industry that meets those passions and values.
2. Find a Void and be Unique
Were there cloth diapers out there? Yes. But Ilana and Amy created their own spin on the cloth diaper and users rave how it’s better and different than competitors.
3. Start Again
The preliminary Azure Wraps business provided learning curves which allowed AppleCheeks to excel at a greater pace with the gifts of lessons learned. Make room for action in your business plans and don't be afraid to move off the path to explore a new opportunity.
4. Think Big
Thinking Big and Beyond allowed the company to take the stab at the AppleCheeks expansion and aren’t we glad? Keep planning and dreaming by keeping both stretch and smart goals.
5. Small Actions Matter
Act with humility, represent locally, excel at customer service and deliver what you promise. Small actions mean a lot to the overall service and brand impression. Leading by example as AppleCheeks grows will establish a consistent culture based around the same values that are core drivers for the pair..
6. Be a proud Mom
Both Ilana and Amy have continued to grow their families while their business has boomed. Don’t let your business stop you from growing your family if that’s one of your goals.
Good Luck tonight AppleCheeks! WATCH Wednesday, January 17, 2012 on CBC Dragon's Den at 8pm EST
Photo Credits: The Montreal Gazette, Dragon's Den