Today, on The Leaky Boob’s Twitter page, she said, “The truth is I’m not interested in talking about what needs to change, I’m interested in empowering people to make change.” YES! YES! A thousand times, yes! Truly, this was my vision for the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance.
You know that scene in Game of Thrones where Melisandre gives birth to Stannis’s demon childthing? Yeah. Thankfully, birthing the BCIA was nothing like that. However, it WAS just like giving birth to an unstoppable spirit of AWESOME. Your voice, whether you are a business owner or a consumer of baby products, can easily be joined with others to effect continual change, either by donating your money or donating your time.
Preparing for giving birth on an airplane — to a baby, a baby carrier industry alliance, or possibly both.
4 years ago found me swollen with child, making contingency plans in case I gave birth to a child in addition to the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance while I was in Rigby, Idaho (or en route, for that matter). After all, I’d be 37.5 weeks pregnant when I stepped onto the plane in Boston — could have happened.
Who on earth travels that pregnant? Well, me. Our industry was awash with brilliant advocates running themselves into burnout trying to speak for our industry. We need a voice. We needed the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance. And I had decided to start it. Besides, none of my other babies had come early; I didn’t believe this one would, either. (And she didn’t. Thank you, sweet Alice!)
My friend Kimber promised to leave me alone should I have my baby on her mint green living room rug. Others attending the babywearing conference offered their services as midwives should the need arise, and I assured them that as a two time unassisted birther, I preferred to just be left the hell alone if it happened.
Many incredible men and women agreed to meet me for fried biscuits that masqueraded as scones at Me ‘N’ Stan’s restaurant. Susan Gmeiner of Maya Wrap and Kristen DeRocha (then of Hotslings, but now of Little Day Dresses) helped me choose 14 industry leaders who agreed to put their money in lawyer pot and serve as our founding members, acting midwives to the baby carrier industry’s first truly international trade organization. (Curious? Click here to see the list of the BCIA’s Founding Members.)
The Road to Burnout
Those first years, there were a small handful of us who shouldered the enormous work of saving our industry from overzealous regulation and even written threats from the CPSC of outlawing baby slings/wraps/etc. altogether. I, myself, put in 20 UNPAID hours/week in addition to raising 4 kids, one homeschooled, one newborn, and running my own business in addition. And all of us were parents, already tapped out juggling families and businesses, but we knew it needed to be done, so we did it.
I met with senators. I spoke with people all over the nation. I wrapped on my tiny baby and traveled to ASTM meetings in Pennsylvania and demonstrated a Catbird Baby; nursed Alice discretely in our Wrapsody in beautiful nursing attire Britt Pegan, current Chairwoman, brought me from MilkFace so I could at least pretend to be something other than a country bumpkin from a 2-stoplight town in Maine. Alice, for her part, was impeccably behaved and quite charming.
Vesta Garcia (founder of EllaRoo and Peppermint.com, currently co-owner of Little Day Dresses,) our first executive director, was volunteering as many hours as she was getting paid for. Many other board members shouldered heavy workloads. Some retired because they couldn’t maintain sane families, businesses, and the craziness of building a trade organization. I, myself, eventually stepped down as chairwoman when I got pregnant with baby number 5, and recently, stepped down as a board member altogether as my family’s needs increased. I tell you what. That was a HUGE step. And do you know what happened? The BCIA continued marching on without me — because the men and women on the board are incredible. The volunteers we have are magnificent. Linnea Catalan, our current executive director, continues to do beautiful things with our current board.
20 hours a week of unpaid labor on the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance? Were you CRAZY?
I would have been crazy NOT to put the effort into building this incredible trade organization. Aside from some small volunteer tasks, I can now relax as the regulations close in — BCIA is doing the hard work of keeping up with the news, meeting with the CPSC and consumer advocacy groups, having a voice at ASTM standards meetings and in similar meetings in other countries.
The BCIA has on retainer the most well-respected compliance attorney in the US. The BCIA works with PR firms and media to lend our industry a voice. They keep me up to date on issues I need to speak up about. They are doing their utmost to negotiate the best testing discounts available so I can comply with new regulations and not go bankrupt.
Essentially, the BCIA acts as Wrapsody’s Chief Compliance Officer, but at a salary of only my membership cost.
Why on earth does the Baby Carrier Industry matter to ME? (Or you. Or anyone!)
I actually hear this a lot. “I can’t afford it.” “They don’t really do anything.” “I can take care of that stuff myself.”
Things I should ABSOLUTELY be doing as a business that the BCIA does for me:
- Attend (or send a representative to) ASTM meetings biannually at a cost of $1000 plus lost time at work.
- Consult with legal advisors to ensure I have not missed critical laws or regulations at a cost of $500-$1000/year minimum.
- Keep apprised of any publicity relating to baby carriers, including lawsuits re: prop. 8, adverse incidents, positive outcomes, public health issues, etc., which really would require several hours weekly of my time or a staff person’s time.
- Source and negotiate with testing companies, rather than having BCIA do it at a savings to me of approximately $1200/annually, at least.
- Remain up-to-date on political and regulatory issues that may require my action or attention, which would require at least several hours a week or an outside agency.
- Connecting with other businesses at industry events — which would take lots of time and coordination, except BCIA makes it easy with our annual meeting and other similar events!
Seriously? I’m a 2-person show — it’s just me and my right-hand BFF, Colleen. My family would NEVER see me if I tried to do all the things to which a larger company would have entire departments devoted! Not to mention, my income would take a big hit as I incurred the above and other expenses.
Heck. If the CPSC had had their way, I might not have a business at all!
So. Was it worth it? Hell, yeah. Every minute.
Did it hurt? In some ways, as much as giving birth to babies IRL … and it took up at least as much time as a newborn infant does! Luckily, my Alice didn’t mind snuggling up in a Wrapsody while crusaded.
But, like any labor of love, I confess that I’d do it again.