An Interview with Green Sprouts Founder Becky Cannon
Pregnancy and early childhood are critical times in a baby’s life. In the early developmental stages, children are vulnerable to elements in their environment, and parents should protect them as much as possible from exposure to potentially harmful substances. The first priority for growing babies is to make sure everything babies put inside their mouth is healthy, safe, and promotes the growth of a robust immune system.
For over two decades, Green Sprouts® has been researching children’s health issues to make safer feeding accessories that come in contact with babies’ mouths and foods. Green Sprouts® focuses on protecting babies from the inside out while promoting healthy development and a connection to nature.
Green Sprouts® provides healthy and practical products for baby’s well-being, along with resources for parenting naturally. Green Sprouts® products have colorful designs in a range of choices with safe and convenient features to help little ones grow up healthy and happy.
It was a pleasure for the Marketplace team to connect with the Founder of Green Sprouts for a one on one interview. In this interview, we learn more about Becky, her personal life and the story behind how she got her start in the industry. We hope that you enjoy and are inspired just as much as we did.
MP: Tell us who you are and about your company!
I am Becky Cannon from Asheville, NC. My background is in child development and I wrote a book on natural baby care, grow healthy. grow happy, the Whole Baby Guide and am also the founder and president of Green Sprouts, Inc. I have 2 daughters, Emi and Mari Kubota, who are now both mothers—Emi has a 2-year old daughter, Naomi, and Mari has a 6-year old son, Zo. I started my company in 1982 in my home in Asheville. Now, we have a staff of 55 people, and we sell our swimwear, sun wear, feeding, toys, and wellness items in 69 countries, worldwide.
MP: What was the process behind the launch of your company?
BC: I was inspired to sell Diaper Covers made for cloth diapers when I started the company from my home. I had Emi, my first daughter, in Japan and used these covers on her there. When I got pregnant with Mari 3 years later in the US, I could not find these diaper covers so started importing them from Japan. At that time, there were not a lot of options in the US to support a natural parenting lifestyle, so I became inspired to provide items for other babies made from healthy and safe materials. My urge to develop products sparked the beginning of the company.
“I did not intend to start a business. I love babies and I wanted to make a contribution to their health and happiness.”
- Becky Cannon
As I developed my business, the first products I sold related to the health, environmental, and economic impacts of cloth diapering. After working for many years with a company that imported diaper covers, I started designing my own products, such as our patented Reusable Swim Diaper, which is made to support safe swimming. I introduced products made from organic cotton and other natural materials that were not very popular at the time. I researched the dangers of plastic additives, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and bisphenol A(BPA), before others in the industry did, and I developed brochures to educate parents about the dangers of these chemicals. The business started to grow, and I hired my first employees to help pack orders in laundry baskets in my garage. I gathered a team of women to sew my swim diapers in their homes. At one point, my team made 10,000 swim diapers a week! I experienced firsthand the demands of working mothers. Emi and Mari learned to take care of themselves, yet I was there if they needed me. They helped pack diapers in our living room while UPS waited at the door.
In 1995, I moved the business to an office park, began in-house manufacturing, and shifted from retail to wholesale channels. Because I did not study business in college, the financial, operational, and management aspects of business have always challenged me. However, through trial and error and with help from dedicated, bright people, I have learned how to run a business and make it grow.
My company, Green Sprouts (first called Woolies, and then Family Clubhouse), has grown from a mail-order operation to an international business that now supplies a range of natural baby products, including swim and sun wear, feeding products, wellness items, and toys.
I started the business as an outgrowth of my commitment to my own children, who inspired me to keep going during challenging times. Even now that my children are adults, we are still working together in my business. Emi, my first daughter, is in a leadership role, and my second daughter, Mari, who is an acupuncturist and natural healer, is a contributor to the wellness section of my book.
MP: What made you passionate to pursue starting a business in this category field?
BC: I was particular with the products that I used on my children—always looking for natural materials—such as cotton or wool for textiles, wood, glass, stainless steel for toys, dishes, bottles, etc. Babies are so sensitive when they are born and they don’t have strong immunities for harmful substances, so I think it is important to take extra care—especially when they are first born and growing so quickly. Chemicals can have a more profound impact on their development in the first 2-3 years.
We try to avoid plastic, but that can be challenging. Babies produce a lot of wetness in many forms, so waterproof material is helpful..and plastic doesn’t break, it is lightweight and low cost. However, some plastics are safer than others because of the chemical composition, and because they have a higher melting point. We are always looking for the best materials and trying to improve our products. In 2019 we will introduce some new bottles and dishes from plant-plastic—made without petroleum, reducing the chance of harmful substances.
MP: What’s your best-selling product?
BC: Our best-selling products are our patented Reusable Swim Diaper and our Sun Protection Hats.
MP: What do you attribute to the current success of the business?
BC: For 36 years, we have been focused on making products made from natural materials. In 1982, most parents did not recognize the value of material quality. Today, parents are more aware of these concerns and they appreciate our care for their baby’s well-being—so the market has finally caught up with our offerings.
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