The Colgate Scene
March 1999
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Change

by John D. Hubbard
[IMAGE] Karen Matyas Amidon '88's life is changing.

     First Karen left the corporate world to be with her two small children, and now she is creating an at-home-business selling diapers -- not just any diapers, of course, but comfortable, well-crafted, environmentally friendly all-in-one diapers.

     There are elements of a crusade about Karen's efforts, from the exhaustive quest for the ideal diaper to the exhausting competition with giant conglomerates right on through to the exhaustion of arguing against heaping ever-more disposables on dumps. Of windmills and landfills, but Amidon tilts on.

     It isn't all frustrations. First, there is Katherine, 3, and Drew, who was born in March, and Karen's connection with her children is a source of joy. There is also the challenge of starting Green Mountain Diapers with issues as small as setting up a home office and as vast as marketing. The business is located in Vernon, Vt., not far from the local electrical utility plant where Karen's husband Doug works as an electrical engineer.

     In the course of retooling her lifestyle Karen has also discovered she is not alone, that even though she no longer is "doing the corporate thing," settling estates and keeping clients happy as a trust officer with Vermont National Bank, she is connected.

     There is a cyber-community just a few keystrokes away on the Internet and Karen has found those she communicates with have been helpful and encouraging.

     "I don't have co-workers but I have these compatriots all facing the same challenges at the same time in our lives. I'm not really alone here because I have my e-mail people."

     A web site (www.greenmountaindiapers.com) has also been invaluable.

[IMAGE]
Karen, with Katherine and Drew, has started an at-home business that will contribute to the family's bottom line.
Staying home

     At home is where Karen finally decided she belonged, but it was not a choice easily, or quickly, made.

     "I should have figured it out when Katherine was born, that babies need their mommies. I didn't know that the first time." Even after Drew was born, it was a difficult decision to stay home.

     "I just expected I'd be able to be Super Mom," says Amidon, who had gone to work for Vermont National shortly after graduation.

     "I had never quit anything before. You have to figure out what's important. It took me two years too long. Whatever I do, I want to do well, and I knew I couldn't raise my kids and work, too."

     What is important now is life at home, and that involves diapers, lots of them. Amidon researched the subject fully. Disposables were uncomfortable and expensive, Velcro closures scratch tummies and many all-in-ones are poorly made. Easy washing is important and quick drying essential. When Karen came upon the Industrial Laundry Re-Uz'm(TM) All In-One Karen called the manufacturer and sold herself as a marketer.

     "I'm applying everything I learned at Colgate trying to sell cloth diapers," says the economics major. "Supply and demand, niche marketing. I guess I learned I can figure out how to do anything."

     Karen's pitch is simple, really. Next to bare bottoms, cloth diapers are best -- less expensive, less environmental impact, less diaper rash and for anyone who wants to argue convenience she has an answer: "use cloth at home and disposables when you go out."

     Cloth diapers aren't just for earth mothers, insists Amidon, who says even part-time use makes sense. She has even created her own diaper, an improvement on the fitted models that never washed well.

     "I know cloth diapers seem so crunchy, but they are really hi-tech." And, by the way, a baby will typically go through a ton of disposables while children who wear cloth diapers tend to potty train earlier.

     Even a good product and marketing zeal don't make it easy, though. "It's tough competing with Procter and Gamble," says Karen, as her kids play. "Fascinating," she whispers, distracted for a moment from her mission.

     "You have to want to," says Karen Matyas Amidon, "and I would like to change the world." One diaper at a time.

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