When it comes to hunting for purchases that are kind to people, animals and the planet – don’t forget the kids! Cynthia Cheong, founder of My Fair Baby, certainly hasn’t.
If you’re looking to change the world, where should you begin?
Cynthia asked herself this very question after a trip to India four years ago. The answer for her was the beginning – the start of life itself. Babies!
An entrepreneur at heart, Cynthia always wanted to find the right business venture to pursue alongside her daytime job as a corporate consultant. She wasn’t looking to start a business for the sake of driving profit; she simply wanted to find her own, unique way of helping the world.
An eye-opening presentation at her church about fast fashion factory conditions led Cynthia to visit India in 2012.
“It was a shock to my system that I was actually consuming products that still had slaves involved,” Cynthia says. “I’m pretty strong in my faith; how can I live my faith without practicing it?”
Cynthia delivering solar lights to the Restore India project
Cynthia signed up to participate in a mission trip to do outreach work through Restore India, an organisation that empowers local communities by offering vocational training. “To see the practical help firsthand was so surreal,” Cynthia says. “I thought, ‘There’s so much I could do to help Restore India grow even further.’”
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After asking Restore India what they needed, Cynthia found out there was a new program in the works. They wanted to set up a model to generate income for the women graduating from their training program, so that some of them could stay with Restore India and find work through the organisation itself. Cynthia decided the best way for her to help would be to start a business and use the profit to kick off Restore India’s latest project.
“I came home and said, ‘I have to do this. I have to invest the money I’ve saved.’” Cynthia began buying fair-trade stock and brainstorming what she could sell online, finally landing on the concept of ethical baby clothing.
Green Stripes Forever Dress | 2 – 5 yrs
“As a mother of two,” she says, “I couldn’t think of supporting brands that involve child slavery. I didn’t even know about this message until someone cared enough to organise a session about it through my church. The lack of awareness in the wider market is really prevalent and I thought if I could promote the fair-trade, ethical message starting from purchasing for babies and kids, it would send a good message from the new generation onward.”
And so, Cynthia’s third child, an ethical, fair-trade online store for babies and children, was born July 14, 2013. The shop sells items made by fair-trade companies, like Little Green Radicals and QToys, and all of the proceeds from My Fair Baby’s sales (yes, ALL) go to Restore India to support them in their expansion of income generation and literacy programs.
Cynthia knows this model isn’t for everyone, but she’s thankful she’s been able to make it work. “I’m able to do it because I don’t live off the business. I keep the costs down by doing everything I can myself, and any form of profit goes back into the company.”
Organic Baby Monkey Top | 12 – 24 months
As with mothering any child, the first year was especially tough. Cynthia spent each night learning how to build a website and contacting suppliers, and plugged hours on the weekends promoting My Fair Baby at local markets.
“I look back and I think, where did I find the time? On Mother’s Day that year, my son drew a picture of a computer on the front of his card. ‘Why is this on the front of the card?’ I asked.
He replied, ‘It’s because I know you like to spend a lot of time on the computer!’
That was a wake-up call. I still haven’t got the rhythm yet, but I’m trying to pace myself because health and family are important for making this successful.”
Cynthia’s advice for those starting a business is to prepare to invest a lot of time in it upfront.
“You have to learn to work with the ups and downs of starting a business, but after awhile you can spend less time babysitting it. Whenever I have those extra pockets of time, I try to steal them. Keep reviewing your passion and reflecting so self-doubt can’t creep in.”
Baby Bodysuit – Float My Balloon | 6 – 12 months
Future plans for My Fair Baby include branded items (a nappy bag made of upcycled fabric is in the works!) and a venture into the world of maternity clothing. Right now, Cynthia’s main focus is spreading awareness of the My Fair Baby brand and cause so she can expand her offerings later down the road.
With My Fair Baby recently turning 3 years old, Cynthia reflects on the hard work and all that she’s achieved so far. “I have met so many amazing people out there who want to do good. So many brave, courageous individuals. I invested a lot of money and time, but I have no regrets at all.”
She adds, “If anyone out there feels like they are stuck in a Groundhog Day sort of lifestyle, I want them to know there’s actually so much they can do if they give themselves the time to do it. I’ve grown so much more as a person since I started this journey, and that’s something that money can’t buy.”
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Images via My Fair Baby