It takes 300-500 years for a single disposable nappy to break down, meaning that almost every disposable nappy ever used is still sitting in landfill at this very moment. It is horrifying stats like this that prompted Michelle Leach to want to lessen the environmental impact of having a baby. Making the switch to reusable cloth nappies and wipes when her daughter was 7 days old, she struggled to find a good fit, so set out to design and make her own. After being inundated with orders from friends and family, she launched Ella & Maeve to encourage fellow mums to give Australian-made cloth a go. Their beautiful modern cloth nappies are handmade in Western Australia and they are committed to lessening their impact on the planet for future generations to inherit.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Ella & Maeve reusable cloth nappies evolved from a desire to make the planet a better place for our tiny humans. Whilst pregnant with my first child, I became concerned about what the future would hold and what opportunities they’d have to explore the natural wonders around them. Having been fortunate enough to have travelled to some of the most pristine places our beautiful planet has to offer, I was troubled by the impact humans, and particularly the choices they make as consumers, was having on our environment. After I was horrified to learn that every baby requires around 6,000 nappy changes, with each disposable nappy taking 300-500 years to breakdown in landfill (meaning almost every disposable nappy ever used is still sitting in landfill today), one of the easiest and most tangible ways I saw of being able to lessen the environmental impact of having a baby was to use reusable cloth nappies and wipes from the very beginning.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
After my daughter arrived, my husband and I made the switch to using reusable cloth nappies and wipes when our little one was only 7 days old. After a few months of struggling to find a good fit for my chunky baby, I decided to dust off the sewing machine, enroll in a private sewing class to refresh my skills, and the adventure began. Before long, I had replaced the majority of my cloth stash with my own handmade nappies and was inundated with orders from friends and family who loved the trim fit and absorbency. With a desire to encourage others to give Australian-made cloth a go, and to give me some much-needed purpose during maternity leave, Ella & Maeve was born with countless hours spent at the sewing machine, often into the wee hours of the night.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
A supportive family of like-minded customers – It’s amazing how much you can achieve with a beautiful group of returning customers cheering you on every step of the way. Throughout the trials and tribulations of starting a new business, returning to work full-time in a new workplace with a 6 month old baby, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to consistently have a beautiful family of customers supporting me – as well as a husband who doesn’t care that half the house looks like it’s permanently overrun with fabric, elastic and half-finished nappies. Aside from a beautiful family of customers, the biggest breakthrough has been finding professional support for reducing production times whilst supporting fellow Australian small businesses for some of the grand plans I have for Ella & Maeve.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
Balance – I’m not quite sure I even know what that means anymore. Between sourcing prints, ordering and cutting fabric, snapping, sewing, marketing and everything in between whilst caring for my family and working full-time, life is pretty hectic at Ella & Maeve HQ! But, with a drive and passion to make our planet a better place one Australian-made reusable nappy at a time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Learning to juggle my love for Ella & Maeve amongst many other responsibilities hasn’t been easy, but I find being organised, prioritising precious family time, asking for help when I need it and learning that I don’t possess magical superpowers that mean I can work endlessly, have been game changers.