It is hard to believe Lil Helper has been around for 10 years! We are so proud that many of our customers have used our diapers across multiple siblings, and that we have been able to launch so many other products since to empower more families to be waste free with super high functioning designs.
As we celebrate Lil Helper’s birthday (and the launch of new prints!!), we thought it would be fun to look back on where we started, and give you some idea of where we are going. Uncle Mo, aka Captain Poopypants, aka one of the most soothing and supportive voices on Tik Tok, aka our CEO sat down to share his thoughts, and some fun facts about himself!
On How Lil Helper Began...
When Did Lil Helper start?
The idea of Lil Helper started in 2009. We spent the next year and a half developing our first cloth diaper, looking for manufacturers and setting up the core of what you see now as Lil Helper. We launched Lil helper formally in 2011.
How and why did you make the leap from ‘rocket scientist’ to ‘Captain Poopypants’?
Nader (my best friend and I) were interested in starting a business but didn’t know what to do. We tried selling tablecloths, granite from Syria and considered a myriad of other ventures. We quickly figured out that we had to do something that we liked and got us excited and that actually had a net positive impact on society. When Sophia (my wife) and I got pregnant, we started looking at diapering options just like first-time new parents would. We were surprised how modern cloth diapers functioned and were used.
2009 was also when the recession was in full swing. Through reading, I discovered that only 2 markets were able to come unscathed from this slump - fast food and the baby industry.
Then I came across DiaperSwappers.com, an online community to sell/swap used cloth diapers. This community was in response to eBay not allowing the sale of used diapers for sanitary reasons.
Coming from India, where a group of people would drink tea from the same cup, and comparing it to the west, where folks would see that same practice as unhygienic- it came as a surprise that people would trade their used diapers.
This peaked my interest and made me explore cloth diapers a bit more keenly.
We walked into Diaper-eez (now closed) and spent a Sunday afternoon looking at cloth diapers and learning about the difference between them. We bought a few for Sophia to touch and feel.
Sophia and I, unfortunately lost that pregnancy.
But the cloth diapers, stayed with Nader and me for a bit. Tinkerers by nature, we started taking the cloth diapers apart and for arguments sake started thinking what would make a great cloth diaper. A year and half later, we launched Lil Helper.
Can you tell us the evolution of the Lil Helper Cloth Diaper to what it is now.
The first thing we designed was our cloth diaper.
We had originally introduced our cloth diaper in the same design (functionality wise) - in 3 different options. Cotton, Bamboo and Charcoal.
It caused customers to ask us which one is better and since we were so new to it ourselves- we just told them that it’s a preference thing and maybe you need to try out all 3 diapers to know what works for them the best.
Most people would come back and buy the charcoal diaper. Most customers loved a charcoal diaper because it was stay dry, did not show stains and according to various customers it would magically heal diaper rash.
So the next batch of diapers we introduced just the charcoal diaper and had the bamboo inserts along with that. Because we are constantly communicating with our customers and talking to them about what they like and don't like, we found out that people were using a large bamboo insert with a small charcoal insert because that gave them the best of both worlds - stay dry off the charcoal and the absorbency of bamboo. We also heard from customers that they love our diapers because they don't show stains.
The current version of our diaper has all the inside of the diapers in dark colors with a hybrid insert that has charcoal on top of bamboo at the bottom with a PUL backing.
There have been tons of other small improvements in the diaper as well, like our center snaps and labels, but that is the main functional changes.
On Lil Helper Today...
What is the biggest thing you’ve learned so far?
How complicated it is to run a small business.
When we started the business, we were naïve. We had no idea what we were getting into.
We thought we would make a product and sell it and treat our customers well.
We actually didn’t know what it meant to treat our customers well. We had to actually learn how to provide “good” customer service.
No idea how to manage people or build a team.
We are still trying to figure out how to market our business to a larger audience.
Websites, logistics, warehousing, packaging, copy - we didn’t know any of it.
If I knew the steps it would take to build a successful business, I would have never quit my full-time job to take on the responsibility of building Lil Helper. Not because its not worth it. It totally is. I wouldn’t have done it because it would have been too daunting of a task.
In this case, ignorance was bliss because it allowed me to take the first step without too much thought.
I am not a good manager of people. And at my core, I am a people pleaser - which is not a good quality to have in a business leader. I will say yes to almost anything because it takes a lot of energy out of me to say no. There are times when I should have put my foot down or let go of someone and I didn’t because I didn’t want the other person to be disappointed in me. Eventually either the person would leave disappointed in me or I would have to let them go, which was hard on both of us. I sometimes wish that I was more emotionless in operating certain parts of the business. Just as LH is growing, I am also growing and learning from my countless mistakes.
Everything that is not right at LH is because of me. And this is not me being a martyr - it is just the plain truth.
What is your favorite Lil Helper print of all time?
I love all the prints that we make. Sophia, my wife, would design prints for us in the start and she used to hate it because I was so picky about the prints that I put on LH products. We would always end up fighting because I would ask her for more revisions.
I shouldn’t have put Caber-neigh on baby products - just because what is the need of putting unicorns drinking wine on a diaper, as if we have run out of print ideas.
What product are you most proud of?
Breast pads, menstrual pads, crib sheets, tank inserts and lifesaver mats - in that order.
On the Future of Lil Helper...
What part of Lil Helper are you most proud of?
Lil Helper exists as a whole. All of the seemingly disparate parts of LH make it a whole. I have always seen LH as a person, as an entity.
All of what we do is essential and make it what it is - God Forbid Guarantee, Delight, Baby Do Better, Unsnapped and all the people who work for Lil Helper.
Take one thing away and it won’t be the same.
But the thing that kept us in business till the time we got to build all of these parts of the business was our customer service. From Day 1, we were talking to customers and never once saw them as the other. We have always treated our customers in exactly the same way we treat our own family. That is a business culture and that is what I am most proud of. All of the things you see from the outside is because of this serving attitude that all of us at Lil Helper have.
What do you hope Lil Helper looks like 10 years from now?
We have spent the first decade of LH building a foundation for the business. Taller buildings require a strong foundation. I see LH as being a champion for folks who want to lead a waste free life. I can see a LH product in each and every home in the world.
But I will truly think of LH as a success when there are other businesses who do what we’ve done. Where they take the time to build a fantastic product. Listen and talk to their customers. And they do it all with empathy for the people they are serving. It saddens me to see businesses force feeding products down people’s throats, knowing very well that they are not serving the customer’s interest.
I want LH to be a place where people come to get what they need, not what they want. Needs can be met, wants are endless.
I hope that LH doesn’t become one of these businesses that I loathe.
Just for fun...
What’s something most people like, but you don’t understand?
Peanut butter. My daughter and wife will eat jars of it. I don’t care for it.
What’s something you think everyone should try at least once?
Complimenting strangers on the street on something particular. Like their shoes, or their clothes, or their smile. I compliment people all the time and I do it as a selfish act because it gives me more joy than it probably gives the other person.
Ready to join the Lil Helper family? Find us on Facebook by joining the Unsnapped community for parents full of advice, support, and also awesome chances to win! Check out our Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube - and check out more from Uncle Mo himself on our Tik Tok!