From One Idea, Big Things Sprout
November 13, 2009 by The Dove
A new generation of eco-commerce is arising out of the dust of Amazon.com’s explosive growth – online shoppers, particularly parents, are more concerned than ever about product certification, safety and customer feedback. Enter Sproubaby.com, the brainchild of eco-preneur Jody Sherman. To cater to this more discerning market, his online baby products shop features only items vetted through expert, family and personal reviews.
In honor of busy parents everywhere, The Green Dove tracked down this businessman (pictured left) with a conscience to give us the lowdown on Sproutbaby’s mission, success to date and to also share some green words of wisdom.
How and when did sprout baby sprout?
The idea for Sproutbaby was conceived in my living room in may of 2008. We started building the site and testing in December of 2008 (which is why we are having our birthday celebration and giving away $2500 to one of our customers). The idea began as an exploration of how the social behavior of moms influenced purchasing behavior.
I started seeing moms talking to moms everywhere I went — once I started paying attention. I saw pregnant women talking to moms. I saw moms of all ages engaged in conversation with each other. And very often, what they were talking about was “What product do you use,” “When are you due?” “Who is your doctor?, “You should try this food,” and more. I began to see how much of a “club” these moms were a part of, and that they were in it for life. I started picking through their shopping carts and asking them questions about what they buy, why they buy it, how the do research, etc. And what I found was that the more eco-conscious they were, the more challenged they were in finding comprehensive resources where they could learn about products that were good to put in, on, and around their babies and families — and where to purchase them.
They went to a wide variety of sites, had “over the fence” discussions, read magazines, and networked with their mommy peers in the real world. So I thought “what if you could create a space where moms could locate, learn about, and purchase authentically great products that were good for their babies and good for the planet?” And thus sproutbaby was born.
What feedback have you received regarding the company’s mission and products?
Our customers love us. They tell us that our vision and promise matches to their concerns. They love our proactive approach to customer service. They are overwhelmingly positive about the products they have purchased from us. And this is both coming to me anecdotally, in the form of phone calls and emails, as well as quantifiably in the form of increased month over month sales and very high repeat customer purchases.
What do you say to people who use plastic disposable diapers, and are unaware of the detrimental effect these products have on the environment?
I say “you have to start somewhere”. I don’t think it is our place to preach to people about how they treat the planet. No one likes that approach, least of all me. And that approach is what has, for some people, made the idea of becoming “green” or “eco” seem daunting, exclusive, elusive, and expensive.
We know that some people are going to begin their approach to living with a smaller negative impact on the planet by feeding their babies an organic high-quality baby food. And on that front, I think we’ve nailed it by partnering with sprout baby food, an amazing new organic baby food, created by the food network’s Tyler Florence. It is organic and comes in environmentally-friendly non-bpa plastic pouches instead of glass or plastic jars. But most importantly, it tastes delicious.
For some people, they may not go any further than that, because of lifestyle, economic, or other choices that are unique to their situation. For others, adding high quality skin care products to their routine may be as far as they go. We can’t punish people for trying to do better. Naturally, we’d like to see our customers make the best and lowest impact choices possible, but it takes time, education, and advocacy. We try to influence this as much as possible by only offering what we believe are the best possible options in any category into which we enter.
We further try to educate and influence by providing helpful content to aid the decision making process, as well as sending what we hope our customers find to be useful emails that provide both information about and discounts on new products that help move new parents along in reducing their environmental footprint.
How optimistic are you about the world’s population achieving a sustainable future?
I am much more so than I was before I started Sproutbaby. I know that when I was growing up, my parents made what they thought were good choices and these choices were based on information that was state of the art at the time. As it turns out, with better information, we’ve learned that many of the decisions parents made had a detrimental impact that was previously not well understood.
Only with time and education did we come to learn that we have a finite set of resources on our planet. Every day we see a new customer come to our site and make a purchase for something that is a better option for their baby, family, and the planet, I feel more encouraged that the word is spreading. We don’t have the luxury to get it wrong with this generation and the next, and i think that message is loud and clear with new parents so I feel very positive that we will get it together.
Your favorite sprout baby product and why?
I have a few. When we launched, we started with just sprout baby food and I ate a lot of it. There were days that I was living on roasted banana and brown rice. As we’ve grown to add a wide variety of products, most of which are for moms and babies so they don’t have a use in my every day life, one product stands out and that is my Thinksport stainless steel water bottle. I love the way it feels in my hand. I like the design. I love that it keeps my water cold all day, and i love that it forces me to drink more water because I keep it with me all the time. I also like that it can take a beating. I’ve “bounce tested” it many times at the gym and it hasn’t taken more than just a scratch.
Any green words of wisdom you’d like to share?
The effort it “seems” to take to make your life more green is far more of an illusion than it is a reality. I used to think that it would take longer to sort my trash, turn off lights, make more mindful purchases, etc., turned out to be (for me) an excuse to not change my patterns. Once i made the commitment to change, and had a picture in my mind of for whom I was doing it (my nephews, who will be on this planet long after i’m gone) it became second nature. But I am also mindful that i am far from perfect in my stewardship of the planet. It is impractical for example, to ride a bike or walk everywhere, so I still have to use a car. I don’t have solar on my home. I try each day to do things that have less of an impact on the planet but I don’t beat myself up for being less than 100% because there are times when you just can’t be. I think that’s a long winded way of saying “commit to positive change one step at a time and feel good about that. once this new change becomes habit, add another, and so on.”