A visit to California gave Steef Fleur the idea to do something with reusable diapers. The environmental benefits are great. Billie Wonder is now striving for the rapid growth of his hemp-made diapers.
Steef Fleur is the founder and creative director of Billie Wonder, which makes premium cloth diapers. We talk to her about her company and product and the subsequent growth steps.
A Dutch version of this article can be read on the website of our partner: Emerce.
Diapers are not the first thing you think of when you think of a startup. What’s the story behind it?
“As a documentary photographer, I traveled a lot. While in California on an assignment for the hemp plant, I came across a reusable diaper for the first time. I thought: if I ever have children, I would like that for them too.”
The first question that – let’s be honest – immediately comes to mind is: aren’t reusable diapers dirty?
“I’m glad you asked! And the answer is no. There is a disposable insert that collects all the excrement, and you throw it away before the diaper goes into the washing machine.”
OK, that makes sense. How did you start your business with that idea?
“We started as a reseller of several brands of reusable diapers, but my own dissatisfaction with the aesthetics and materials motivated me to come up with something better to fill a gap in the market: the premium market. We raised 100,000 euros in January 2021, I hired a business coach, started R&D, branding, testing, and went live in February 2022.”
And where does the name come from?
“The name comes from the Dutch word ‘buttocks,’ and Billie Wonder as a whole stands for a great experience for baby buttocks. When I came up with the name myself, I consulted with various creative agencies, and luckily they approved it.”
What impact can Billie Wonder have?
“A child uses a lot of diapers, about 22 kilograms per month. In the Netherlands, 180,000 children are born every year. They are in diapers for up to 3.5 years; we can save about 95 percent on that waste. In addition, 95 percent of raw materials are saved, and a CO2 reduction of 50% is achieved with washing and drying and 75 percent without drying.
In addition, we use hemp, the regenerative alternative to bamboo fibers, which require chemicals in the process. Compared to cotton, hemp uses only 25 percent of the water and only 33 percent of the land to grow, requiring a cycle of only three months. It also nourishes the soil in which it grows and absorbs more CO2 than trees, so this is really the right choice.”
What are you currently looking for in terms of investments? What kind of “angel”?
“Our minimum ticket size is €10,000, and we have reached our minimum of €100,000. Ideally, we are still looking for 550,000 euros. In terms of person, I am looking for an investor who puts impact before profit so I can continue to operate in line with my vision.
Of course, I have to run a good business. Still, suppose I can earn a million euros from bamboo materials that contain many chemicals. In that case, it strays from my vision, and I’d rather not do that. An investor with internationalization experience would be great.”
Where will this funding take you in the coming years?
“We will roll out our unique daycare system in daycares in EU, and presence in retail throughout Europe, starting with Germany and France. We want to achieve a turnover of 7.5 million euros by the end of 2026.”
What advice do you have for aspiring startup founders?
“Be bold and crazy enough to just do it. Ask everyone around you for advice and help. Even if the advice is annoying, it will help you get a thick skin.
I also recommend a startup coach: at the beginning of Corona, we checked in daily for fifteen minutes, with one strategic session per week, for three months. Now we do weekly and quarterly strategy sessions with the whole team. Even though I’ve been an entrepreneur for ten years, getting an investment is something entirely new for which I needed help. It is a top sport, so you need a coach: even with seventeen people in our team, three of them full-time.”