Michelle from Stoffywelt
Anyone who deals with the subject of cloth diapers, has certainly encountered the online store Stoffywelt. Now I was allowed to ask the owner Michelle a few questions about how she came to cloth diapers, how the store was created and much more. Have fun reading!
Dear Michelle, first of all, thank you so much for the interview. I am so excited to hear your answers! On your website Stoffywelt I could already read a lot about the history of the store Stoffywelt, some aspects I would like to pick up here again. Would you like to introduce yourself briefly at the beginning?
Thank you for your questions and your interest in me and StoffyWelt:)
I am originally from Wellington, New Zealand and have been living in Trier for almost 12 years where I feel very comfortable and well integrated. I am the proud wife of Erik and mom to our three wonderful children. I am 39 years old. Besides New Zealand and Germany, I have also lived in Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
What makes you tick? What is important to you?
I want to live in accordance with my faith and values. Being honest and authentic is very important to me, I don't like to hide. I can be quite stubborn and don't give up when I am convinced of something. It makes me happy to know that our work is helping to make the world a little better.
When I'm with my kids, I like to read them English books, we like to go into nature and pick berries. We like to watch Disney musicals together and sing along to the songs.
My desks at the office and at home always look a bit messy because I'm always doing several projects at once. My current hobbies and interests are gardening, self-care, healthy cooking, faith and Bible study, parenting, running, and exercising.
I've already read how you got into cloth diapers with your first daughter. Would you like to describe that again briefly? What were the diapers you bought in New Zealand? Were you happy with them?
After the birth of our first child, we were not happy with the disposable diapers - so much waste, regular breastmilk chair explosions up to the neck, and having to keep re-buying WWW we found very impractical. At the time, we didn't have a car and the shopping was done with the baby in the carrier and the groceries in the stroller. But we didn't know of any real alternative....
When Zoë was a year old, Erik and I had visited my families in New Zealand. In a baby store I had discovered the colorful cloth diapers and was immediately interested! After a few days of experience with the Stoffys and after I had researched the German market on the internet, it was clear "I want to open an online store for cloth diapers!" My husband had immediately agreed and supported me since day one.
Our first Stoffys were pocket diapers made of PUL and Minky(more on Minky cloth) with microfiber inserts (there were no others in the store). Unfortunately, they were not of the best quality and leaked over time. When we were back in Germany, I then immediately ordered many other models and manufacturers to test.
Now the store has been around since 2011, what was it like in the early days? There probably weren't that many other diaper stores back then, were there?
Exactly. I can still remember about 10 online stores and 6 manufacturers from Germany and Austria in 2012 that specialized in cloth diapers.
And there probably wasn't such a wide selection of cloth diapers and systems yet. What were the most popular manufacturers at the time?
TotsBots, BumGenius, Disana, Popolini, Hu-Da and Christine Bendel. There were also many China di apers on eBay. From the manufacturers from Germany and Austria, there were mostly muslin diapers, wool overpants, plain PUL overpants, panty diapers, and tie diapers. The AIOsand Pockets with beautiful patterns came from the American and British manufacturers and excited me the most.
Has the store been well received? What products and manufacturers did you start with?
StoffyWelt started very small, with only four manufacturers that are still with us today: TotsBots, Pop-In, BumGenius and Babyland :) The goods were stored in the kitchen and living room of our 45m2 apartment.
The store was well received and grew steadily. I think a big reason was the cloth diaper chat group on Facebook. There was a really great exchange about all kinds of manufacturers and products, and I was able to respond very well to customer requests and learn from the experiences of other mothers. Back then there were only a few hundred members and 95% of the posts were about cloth diapers. Today, the group has 14K members and most of the posts have nothing to do with clothies anymore, unfortunately.
Did you run the store full time? What else did you do?
I haven't had a job in Germany other than selling Stoffys and being self-employed ;)
But when I started, my daughter was one year old and after the startup, two more kids came soon. My husband was a student at university and he could only really join in after he had written his last exam. That was in 2013 when I was pregnant with Aria :) Of course, he had always helped me behind the scenes from the beginning, for example with taxes, proofreading texts and with technology - but from that point on, he packed all the orders and took over other work from me.
Before my husband helped with the daily work, I did the customer emails and orders while our daughter was at daycare, while she was taking naps, or late at night and early in the morning. Sometimes it was very exhausting to be a mom and self-sufficient. Additionally, German is not my first language and I often needed support (proofreading) from my husband before I could publish something.
Before I started StoffyWelt, I took German as a foreign language courses. Before coming to Germany, I studied journalism in Brisbane and then worked for a publishing house in Dubai.
How has the store developed over time? What did you learn during these 10 years?
StoffyWelt has changed tremendously and I'm very grateful that our customers and team have made it possible for us to still be here today doing what we love!
Besides Erik and me, we have 20 employees on the team. Five of them - Steffen, Christina, Stephan, Robert B. and Saskia - have been with us for more than five years! They have helped us a lot to develop StoffyWelt further and further - as it is today!
I've learned that you should never say never:P What you can't imagine today could be reality in two years - there are always unpredictable opportunities and obstacles, as well as constantly changing economic circumstances. I could never imagine having a team, a warehouse or a store back in 2012! Every year a new project or product area has been added and we are very happy that we never get bored with our work :)
For example, in the last two years we have moved, joined the Child Seating Professionals Association and we have added new manufacturers to the range such as Magabi, Mother Ease and Doodush. We also continue to be a wholesaler of Smart Bottoms and Close Parent (Pop-In) products and work with many cloth diaper stores.
What products have been added? What's doing best?
In addition to cloth diapers and accessories, we have added reusable feminine hygiene items, books and water bottles to our product line. Since taking over the Natürlich Familie online store in 2016, we have taken the opportunity to significantly expand our sustainable assortment. Baby carriers, ecological clothing, wooden toys and child seats have been added.
However, cloth diapers remain at the heart of the company. Fortunately, Stoffys and most other products in our assortment are sold year-round. From September to January, wool clothing also does well (e.g. the popular Disana overalls and ManyMonths longies) and from October to January, the wooden toys from Grimm's and Goki are very popular :)
I have ordered from you guys several times and also written when I had questions. How do you guys manage to actually ship and respond within a few hours? I have hardly experienced any other store so far that this works so uncomplicated and fast.
Thank you very much, that's great to hear! Actually, we've always made an effort to send out or reply to orders and messages as soon as possible.
For me this goes back to my home country of New Zealand, customer service has a very high value there. Unfortunately I had some very unpleasant experiences as a customer here in Germany before I opened my online store and these experiences have shaped me. It was and is my wish that our customers are served like in New Zealand.
Nowadays I personally don't send out orders and I don't handle daily mails because I have other tasks, but I am very happy that we have a very competent and fast team that we can rely on. In addition, I have to praise my husband and our colleagues here because they have always optimized our systems and processes.
For example, 9 years ago I was packing orders at my kitchen table, manually typing in DHL labels and printing them one by one, and then taking everything to the post office in my stroller! Luckily, we've made a lot of technological advances over the years. ;)
How exactly are StoffyWelt and Natürlich Familie connected? What makes Natürlich Familie tick?
In 2016, the Natürlich Familie online store was up for sale. Since we wanted to expand, we accepted and soon after opened a store of the same name in Trier. It had become clear to us that, in addition to cloth diapers, there are many great sustainable alternatives to conventional disposables that we also wanted to sell, but that don't necessarily have anything to do with babies or diapering.
Additionally, we wanted to offer sensible products like slings and carriers with advice because this was sorely lacking in our area. In short, at Natürlich Familie we have the flexibility to offer anything we like. So StoffyWelt remains specialized in cloth diapers and accessories.
Because everything is under one roof, it is possible to send a StoffyWelt order together with a NF order without any problems. Likewise, you can find everything from both online stores in our store.
What do you see as the biggest advantages of cloth diapers?
With every diaper change, parents make a decision for the environment, for their wallet, and for their child's health!
Thanks so much for the great and informative interview, Michelle! I wish you all the best in the future as well.
In the following anniversary video of Stoffywelt you can get some more impressions of the company: