By: Amanda Bedgood
Tereson Dupuy doesn’t look like a hippie chic. Signature red lipstick. House on the golf course. Founder of a multi-million dollar business. BMW. But she’s certainly doing more than most to make this earth greener.
Just a decade ago, the stay-at-home-mom was sewing together pieces of fleece to make a diaper that would alleviate her son’s incessant diaper rash. She knew then she was on to something huge. Something that would fulfill what she always believed would be her destiny of success — owning her own business — and something that would be environmentally friendly.
Necessity truly is the mother of invention.
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At age 16, Tereson vividly remembers being convinced she possessed the next “big idea.”
“I would jump on the counter and say ‘I have the best idea,’” she says now from her kitchen table.
“I never saw myself working for someone,” she says. “I always knew I would invent something, offer a service. I was always looking.”
That something came along when her second of three children was three months old. Her son Eden had a diaper rash that couldn’t be calmed. Tereson switched to cloth diapers, which lack the chemicals often found in disposable diapers that were further irritating Eden’s rash.
But cloth diapers weren’t cutting it, and Tereson knew there had to be something better. Within six months of trying different fabrics and testing her theories, Tereson found what would be the perfect medium — fleece.
“It was $5 for my first piece of fleece,” she recalls.
She found the piece of lime green fleece she picked up at Wal-Mart absorbent, and it actually left Eden dry. She hit an Internet swap board for cloth diaper users and never looked back.
She named her new diapers FuzziBunz® and named the company Mother of Eden. She made her own logo and Web site at home.
Within two months, unable to keep up with demand, she delegated sewing duties. Admitting quickly she’s not much of a seamstress, Tereson only could complete about 20 FuzziBunz® a week.
As the money came in, Tereson would buy more materials. To this day, she has remained self-funded. And like those first days when she couldn’t keep up with demand, she still can’t keep up, despite manufacturers producing 10,000 a week.
“My major obstacle is that I can never produce to demand,” Tereson says.
She says new partnerships are opening up larger avenues that soon will boost production and put her in stores like Target and Babies R Us.
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Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this success story is where it has landed Tereson — squarely in the natural product industry. Not in baby world. And she likes it there.
“Before green was popular, I knew it was an environmentally-friendly product. It took the world a while to catch up,” she says.
According to the National Association of Diaper Services, which promotes cloth diapers, there are 18 billion single-use diapers thrown into landfills each year. Disposable diapers make up the third-largest source of solid waste in landfills, after newspapers and food and beverage containers. It takes upward of 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp, or a quarter-million trees, to manufacture the disposable diapers that cover the bottoms of 90 percent of the babies born in this country.
And while FuzziBunz® are environmentally friendly now, Tereson said they are on the brink of doing more. Within the year, she plans to have all aspects of the biodegradable portion of the diapers perfected so that when babies are potty-trained the FuzziBunz® are completely biodegradable.
“We’re getting the right materials, and we’ll be the first reusable diaper to do this,” she says of the total biodegradable venture. “We’re committed to being as green as we can be.”
Whether it’s saving on fuel for shipping, recycling in the office or the type of fabric they use, Tereson says everything they do is through a green lens.
“It extends to every facet,” she says. “How we manufacture, the dyes we use, we recycle at work. We seek
companies that are green. Our business cards are green. Everything we do has that focus. It’s our priority, and it is in my personal life.”
Only weeks ago Tereson told her kids no more Vitamin Water and other bottled drinks until they could get recycling in her neighborhood. Recycling soon arrived.
“Eighty-five percent of water bottles are not recycled,” she tells me with conviction over a cup of coffee.
Wearing a T-shirt made from bamboo that reads “Living the Green Life,” Tereson explains anyone can be green — even the fashion conscious.
“You don’t have to be a hippie to be green. You can be very hip and fashionable and still green,” she says. “It’s a common misperception. People think you have to be in Birkenstocks and hippie clothes. You don’t.”
And while Tereson isn’t a hippie chic, she has in the last few years discovered a love of the outdoors.
She’s discovered a lot in a few years following a rough divorce and life as a single mother of three children.
Like her seemingly contrasting interests in beauty and the environment, which pair perfectly, her entrenchment in business and love of mothering also work beautifully together.
So, how does this mother of three who sits at the helm of a multi-million dollar business do it all? It starts with the basics, she explains.
“Exercise, keeping a healthy lifestyle, eating well. It keeps you young and fit. If I don’t do it I’m miserable,” she says. “And I find joy. Find things in life you enjoy and make it a priority. Not getting bogged down and staying young and happy. Make joy a priority.”
Easier said than done at times, especially for a woman who literally sleeps with her Blackberry. But Tereson has learned to delegate, and she finds comfort in her new love of the outdoors. Could it be because there’s not a lot of reception when hiking a mountain or scuba diving the deep sea?
“I have to physically remove myself from an Internet connection,” she says. “I have to force myself to do those things, though. It’s part of my plan of self care.”
Learning to take care of herself is a fairly recent revelation. After her divorce less than five years ago, Tereson realized a lot about doing things by herself.
“I can do anything I want on my own,” she says. “I can be a successful woman by myself and be independent and reach my goals. I can hook up a generator. Not that I don’t need other people. But I can do anything.”
It’s that unstoppable attitude, which probably led to her success.
“I speak in when’s, not ifs. Can’ts and ifs are not in the vocabulary,” she says. “When and can are in the vocabulary.”
It’s an attitude she hopes to impart on Sarah, 13, Eden, 10 and Bennett, 6.
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At the age of 38, Tereson has learned many lessons: Never mix business and personal life. Know whatever you’re going through will eventually be over. Nothing can be perfect. Let it go.
They all are lessons that are hard for a woman to learn while we often intertwine our professional lives and personal ones.
“Keep business business and personal personal,” she says. “To quote Donald Trump, ‘It’s nothing personal, just business.’ As women, we are emotional. To run a business keep things separate.”
Keeping that emotional life separate can be a challenge when you’re struggling through a difficult time, and Tereson knows this. She’s been there.
“Know it will eventually be over, and you can get through it,” she says of challenging times, like divorce. “It’s not the end of the world. It gets better. It’s not the end; sometimes it’s the beginning.”
Learning to let go is perhaps one of Tereson’s greatest lessons learned. It translates to everything. As a woman, you’re wearing enough hats to make your head spin. If you’re going to do it all, accept it can’t all be flawless.
“Some things have to wait,” she says. “To balance, you have to let things go and accept they won’t be perfect.”
Tereson Dupuy, Inventor of FuzziBunz® diapers