Was the business model flawed?

I started Nappy Ever After because I wanted more people to be able to see and buy reusable nappies.  In particular I wanted people who lived in small London flats with no drying space to have an affordable nappy laundry service.   I wrote a business plan.  It showed that we couldn’t make a profit.  But I started it anyway.

So much has come out of it.  Nappy Ever After

  • piloted the precursor of the Real Nappies for London voucher, the NLWA laundry service £35 cashback
  • ran a subsidised nappy laundry service, charging £6 per week for local households and proved there was a market for an affordable nappy laundry service in London
  • brought together the Hackney parents who set up the Hackney Real Nappy Network.

We always knew that the company would need public service contracts or some kind of subsidy because we are basically in competition with huge multi-nationals like P&G. That’s why we set up Nappy Ever After (NEA) as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and made it a social and environmental enterprise. With a lot of volunteer input and support from our customers we’ve kept going for 11 years.

If the purpose had been to make money we have failed. However if the purpose was to increase the uptake of washable nappies and reduce disposable nappy waste NEA has been a success.

Over that time we have employed many staff, mostly parents of young children with tricky lives needing flexible employment. We have also paid LB Camden over £100k in rent and occupied a shop that has brought people to Chalton Street, often for the first time.

We hope Nappy Ever After will continue in a new borough with a few changes – perhaps hive off the laundry to other premises and make the space more of a social space than a shop.

The market place has changed radically since we started.  It was difficult to make the business model work 11 years ago when there was very little on-line shopping.  It’s even harder now.  Nappy Ever After has to adapt or die.

Anyone who knows of a suitable premises, possibly in Hackney, Islington or Tower Hamlets, please let us know.   If you’d like to be involved in running it or just volunteering for a few hours get in touch. We’re looking for new ideas and new partners.  Our goal remains to help other parents love reusable nappies as much as we do:  for our children, for their future, for the planet.

 

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