Like many people without children, I live in a world of blissful ignorance about the often-messy logistics that go along with caring for a tiny proto-human. Jason Graham-Nye, the CEO and co-founder of gDiapers, a GOOD Company finalist, was in a similar place when he and his wife, Kim, had their first child and came face-to-face with the diaper situation.
Gross? Sure. But worse, synthetic plastics aren’t the best thing to put on a baby’s bottom, and once they’ve been used, diapers end up haunting landfills for hundreds of years, contributing enormously to our waste problem.
Before the Graham-Nyes started their business, parents in the United States could get either disposables or cloth diapers that they would wash and reuse (a hassle factory), but little else was available in the $5 billion diaper market.
Kim and Jason are from Australia, where they discovered a kind of hybrid diaper—cloth with disposable, biodegradable inserts—and bought the intellectual property rights outside of Oceana. They decided to set up shop in Portland, Oregon because of its green-friendly reputation and the United States’ friendliness to entrepreneurs.
Their company, gDiaper, was born. Among their first problems? Dealing with their other children.
“When we got here, we were pregnant, we had a two-year-old, and we really needed a nanny to look after our two-year-old—I’m the CEO and my wife is the president,” Jason explains. “As we started hiring people, we thought, we’ll share a nanny with our coworkers, and then the nanny became on-site daycare.”
The company now offers on-site daycare to all of its employees, and other benefits like a three-month maternity leave, paid family time off for illness, and flex time “like you wouldn’t believe,” Graham-Nye says.
The company’s human resources policies started off in part because of the two founders’ backgrounds.
“Being from Australia and my wife’s from Canada, I just put in four weeks paid time off, it’s four weeks, that’s what they’re getting,” Graham-Nye says, a move that initially surprised some of their employees. “That was the beginning of oh, America’s not like Australia! We did some Australia-y, Canada-y, socialist-y things, but the result was virtually 100 percent retention.”
That was important to Graham-Nye, who saw his company as a venue to make both money and meaning, things he’d achieved separately in earlier careers as a stockbroker and high school teacher (his wife did the same, working for the United Nations and then at a startup).
“So many startups are sweatshops, virtually,” he says. “My wife and I were young parents and we couldn’t do it, and we created an environment that’s really sustainable.”
The strategy has succeeded: gDiapers has seen a steady increase in sales and received numerous awards for its products, marketing and social responsibility practices. It probably helps that some of the research and development happens so close to home.