Latham woman learns diaper business from the bottom up

A former research scientist at Albany Molecular Research turned Latham “mompreneur” is the owner of

A former research scientist at Albany Molecular Research turned Latham “mompreneur” is the owner of the Capital Region’s Sonrise Diaper Service.

It’s been more than six months since Vikki Casey-Ahmed launched the business, which delivers clean cloth diapers to doorsteps.

She basically rents customers the diapers, and for $25 a week she handles getting the diapers professionally laundered.

She runs the business out of her home in Latham. Her children even help her carry packaged diapers to her car every Friday from the cleaners for Monday delivery, which spans from Niskayuna to Lake Luzerne. Once someone decides they want to stop the service, they give back the cloth diapers.

“My husband helps me count. Nobody gets paid at this point,” she said.

The service also offers a mixed package of disposables and cloth diapers for busier families and those with multiple small children who don’t have as much time to devote to cloth diapering, she said.

Sometimes, cloth diapering can be the one thing that can put a time-strapped mom over the edge, she joked.

“I had someone who cancelled who said she was either ‘divorcing her husband or needed to stop the cloth diapers,’ ” she said. Supportive of keeping the customer’s family intact, Casey-Ahmed obliged the customer’s request to cancel, but said she was going to miss seeing the baby.

“It almost satisfies another craving in me to have another baby because I have all these babies around me but it’s not actually my baby,” Casey-Ahmed said.

The road to entrepreneurship started in April 2009 after Casey-Ahmed got the idea from a friend who had recently given birth to her second child and was interested in cloth diapering. As someone who had cloth diapered a set of twins who are now 41⁄2 years old, Casey-Ahmed had plenty of firsthand knowledge to share. She also has a child around 15 months old.

“I realized I know a lot about cloth diapering. There’s so many types of diapers, and types of covers and all kinds of accessories as you would imagine,” she said.

Friends told her she knew too much not to have her own business. It was something she had never thought of, but once she talked with her husband she knew running her own cloth diaper service business was something she had to do.

By summer, Casey-Ahmed dragged her three children to downtown Albany while she got her business license. It was pouring rain outside and she made it to the office five minutes before it closed — something she still marvels at.

“I persevere but not like that,” she joked.

She freaked out for about 10 minutes before finally submitting an online order for the 100 cloth diapers needed to jump-start her business.

“To me it was a big investment,” she said. Her startup costs were $8,000.

The business has proved to be a fit for her personality, combining her environmentally conscious lifestyle with her knowledge of cloth diapering. “If I have knowledge that other people can benefit from, I’m all about it,” she said. “In the same way, I’m interested in what other people have.”

Sonrise Diaper Service started out without much marketing other than going to local businesses and handing out her card.

“I did a couple of networking nights for female-owned companies,” Casey-Ahmed said. In November, she hired marketer Danielle Palermo as a consultant.

By the end of January she had 20 clients, doubling her first-year goal of 10 people.

Last month she also had brochures printed, which she plans to hand out at local OB/GYN offices and to midwives.

“Those tend to be the type of people who want cloth diapers,” she said.

Casey-Ahmed is a member of the Real Diaper Association, an organization that provides education and support for people interested in learning about the environmental and health benefits of cloth diapers.

The associations says disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills and make up half of the household waste in a house with a child in diapers.

The service continues to gain clients, Casey-Ahmed said, because the costs of cloth diapering versus disposables is nearly the same.

“I would like to see us at some point having 200-plus customers,” Casey-Ahmed said, something that means she’ll have to get a brick and mortar location somewhere.

By the end of this year she plans to have 50 customers — not bad for someone who didn’t put together a business plan before launching the service.

“I didn’t put a lot of business forethought into it,” she said. “I just felt like It was something I was passionate about.”

Not knowing how big the business will become and how fast the growth may happen is exciting, she said, as she meets new people and realizes how much her business crosses several market segments.

But the lessons she’s learned in less than a year haven’t come without cost.

Around Thanksgiving a burst in new business gave her a quick lesson in the importance of being ready for growth.

“In two weeks time I gained eight more customers,” Casey-Ahmed said. “You have to be ready, you have to have stock.”

She didn’t know what a profit margin was when she started running her business, but she learned fast.

Now she’s afraid of paying herself at times because she’s eager to reinvest in the business.

Last month, she purchased Quickbooks accounting management software to watch expenses.

She doesn’t want to become too preoccupied with retailing diapering products to concentrate on the service she provides and customer relationships.

She’s also tapping into free resources for budding businesspeople available on the Small Business Administration’s Web site, which has a small business planner Web portal at, and a list of local offices in the Capital Region.

On March 3 she plans to attend a local presentation by the Service Corps of Retired Executives, otherwise known as SCORE at the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. For more on the local SCORE chapter, go to

Casey-Ahmed likes being the boss, but she thinks a consortium of locally owned mompreneurs with businesses and charitable causes is possible for the Capital Region.

“I just feel like there’s a lot of potential for moms out there and they just don’t realize it,” Casey-Ahmed said, “because having children is overwhelming and you tend to lose your identity.”

Women get so focused on helping others they forget to think of what they can do for themselves even if it’s a business that can be helpful to their children, she added.

“You can take care of your kids and do your business. So it’s kind of like the best of both worlds,” she said.

Categories: Business

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