Seven years ago, Jason and Kim Graham-Nye were about to have their first child when they came across an intriguing factoid in the morning paper. They discovered that though only 5 percent of the population uses diapers, they are the third largest landfill contributor.
The only real alternative to disposable diapers was cloth diapers, and since those are water-intensive, they were a no-go in the couple's arid Australia home. Soon they began to see the dearth of biodegradable diapers as a business opportunity and they picked up and moved to Portland, Oregon.
The Graham-Nye's spoke to Inc. reporter Josh Spiro about the company's daycare program, maintaining a healthy work-life balance in a family-run business and connecting with their customers via social media.
Why did the two of you relocate to Portland, Oregon? Why not found the company in Australia?
Jason: Portland seemed the perfect place to recruit a team and build the brand we dreamed of. Portland is a catalyst in the green economy and full of really smart, and creative people. It's also one of the best places to raise a family, so it just made sense.
So what are the statistics on disposable diapers?
Jason: There is only one thing to do with a disposable diaper once it's been soiled: throw it out. That means 50 million diapers go into landfills every day in the U.S. That's a staggering 3.5 million tons of poop and plastic going into the ground each year. Due to the high-grade polypropylene used to make the outer covering and various layers, the materials [in diapers] remain intact in landfills for many years – reports estimate up to 500 years.
gDiapers are the only 100 percent certified biodegradable diapers on the market, and the most eco-friendly diapers available. They're also, more natural and gentle for babies, because they contain no plastic, no chlorine, no perfumes….and no guilt.
What's the rationale behind encouraging employees to bring their kids to work? And why provide daycare to the larger community?
Kim: If there's one thing we understand, as parents ourselves, it's that kids' needs don't fit within the constraints of a typical nine to five workday.
We strongly believe that work and family can go together better. That there shouldn't be such a firm line between work and 'life.' We've found that by creating a flexible work-life balance and offering on-site childcare, we've been able to attract and retain really valuable employees. That retention is really important in a fast-paced, fast-growing environment.
Our commitment to this balance goes beyond just our employees with kids and includes benefits to all employees including generous paid time off, flexible work schedules and job-sharing, in addition to the on-site childcare.
You've had employees say that the interview to work for gDiapers was the most difficult one of their lives. How do you conduct interviews?
Jason: Fair Dinkum is an Australian expression that means being genuine and real with everyone you encounter. That's our philosophy toward our business, our people and the planet. Our interview process really focuses on that.
It's not intended to be difficult per se, but rather insightful as to how potential employees work with other people, how they view the world, what their personal aspirations are, etc. We're looking for people who share our commitment to the environment, who are flexible enough to work in a fast-paced environment, and who we can have great discourse with. We like to say, 'check your ego at the door.'
How do you ensure that you have a good work-life balance not just for your employees but for yourselves?
Kim: We do all sorts of things. We're taking advantage of our own flex-friendly approach and are working from 5:30 a.m. to about 3:00 p.m. This allows us to pick our kids up from school and enjoy some down time with them in the evenings. It also allows us some quiet time at the office to do some strategic thinking before the whole team comes in.
You aim to make your company flex-friendly but how do you adapt your management style to a team that's rarely gathered together in the same place at the same time?
Kim: We do still have a critical mass most days, especially between 9-3. We do huddle each day at 9:30 to share our top three priorities for the day, which is a great mechanism to gauge perspectives, priorities and any need for laser meetings. We also use Skype…a lot. There's just something much more productive when you can see the other individual's facial expressions. It's really amazing what a difference that makes.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about gDiapers, how you treat your employees, or the daycare program?
Kim: Our customers are amazing. We wouldn't be having this conversation if it weren't for them. And with the explosion of social media, we feel like we really know them. Kind of like how you used to know your grocer, your baker, your butcher when towns were smaller. Social media allowed us to have that kind of personal relationship with the people who are buying our products and we get to incorporate that feedback into our decision-making. In a world that in many ways seems increasingly disconnected, we find that our world is really becoming smaller and more intimate. It's amazing.