Creating a Nappy Hire Service

So you are thinking about running a nappy hire service? I can honestly say you are about to make an amazing, significant positive impact on your community, the environment and the cloth family. Running a cloth nappy hire service is really very rewarding, you get the privilege of working with families from all walks of life, first time mums to those on their 6th child, first time to cloth or experienced users. It is important to be fully prepared, this guide is to help you navigate this new territory.

General information

Creating a name: The fun bit! This is going to be completely personal to you, my only advice is make sure you do a google search of your name idea to make sure it is not being used anywhere else. More information on choosing a business name here.

Your purpose: Do you want to offer newborn, infant, toddler nappies or all of them? Full time kits or mini trial kits? Postal or pick up only? Hire only or retail as well? You will need to have a clear idea of what your goals are and ensure any ongoing decisions made reflect this.

Logo/graphic design: You may wish to start with something simple or create yourself using apps such as Canva. There is no need to rush out to a graphic designer, however you may eventually want to utilise one to help create your bespoke brand.

Working alone or with others? If you have other local nappy hirers in your area or other families also interested in setting up a hire service near you then it is worth getting in contact to see if you can work together. This will help share the financial outlay, ongoing responsibilities and allow you to help more cloth users in the area.

Legal matters

By setting up a nappy hire you are in affect setting up your own small business so there are a few legal matters to consider. Take your time to review the provided links, and try to decide early on what kind of service you want to provide. There is no right or wrong here, it is simply a matter of what you want to achieve.

 Setting up a business :

  • Will you be For profit, Not for profit or charity
  • Tax implications
  • Public liability insurance is essential and covers physical damage caused by your work, insurance companies may also offer extra's such as product insurance and employee insurance, have a read of the options to see if they apply to your hire service.
  • Professional indemnity insurance, this is not essential but for those in businesses that provide advice it covers you in case of claims for injury, damage or loss caused by your service.
  • Home insurance considerations

Terms and conditions: These come in two formats:

One is the terms and conditions of your business website and/or social media platform, this is to protect both your business and your hirers, see here for more information and will need to include GDPR requirements. There are lots of free templates around that a quick google will find.

The second are the terms and conditions of your hire agreement, which clearly lays out what families should expect from hiring from you and the hire kit, these include matters such as choosing the nappies/kit, duration of hire, how they are washed and sanitised, turn around time, postage or collection, refunds, damage to nappies etc.

    Banking and accounting

    Business bank accounts are not essential but are a handy way to keep track of income and expenditure, same goes for accounting, you can keep your own spread sheets, utilise online software or pay for an accountant. It is worth considering that many business bank accounts include free accountancy software for you to use and offer a wealth of advice as to running a business.

    Gathering resources and spreading awareness

    To start with it is worth contacting your local community groups such as the local maternity unit, doulas, pregnancy yoga teachers, children's centre, baby massage teachers, lactation consultants, health centres etc. Some may like to financially support you to set up the hire service, others may be happy for you to do talks and demonstrations on their premises or would like to promote your business. Other resources include:

    Local council: Many councils will have cloth nappy schemes, partnering with them can help get your library get known by your community, they may also help with funding and setting up local cloth nappy demonstrations. If they have a voucher scheme then you may be able to arrange to accept these vouchers making cloth hire even more affordable for the local families.

    Cloth nappy groups:

    Clean Cloth Nappies (CCN) are developing an endorsement program which means those companies have proven to align with their ethos. A great selling point for potential hirers to see that the nappies will come to them in a great, sanitary condition.

    Cloth Nappy Nerds are creating a collection of recommended nappy libraries who align with their ethos as well as provide advice and support for hirers. 

    General nappy groups: Buy/sell nappy groups are perfect for picking up second hand bargains and you may be able to gain donations and spread awareness of your library by advertising within these groups. Make sure you read the group rules though as not all will allow advertisement of outside businesses or they may have set threads or days for wahm posts.

    Retailers: Developing a good relationship with retailers is important, they may be willing to give a discount to help support a library and in turn means you have reputable businesses to recommend when hirers ask where to buy products from.

    Manufacturers: Most manufacturers are willing to work with and support libraries by allowing access to discounts or wholesale prices of their products. You may still have minimum orders to meet, though many will waive that for those starting up. 

    Social Media: This day and age social media is the most common platform for advertising and running small businesses. It is important to set up pages that clearly explains who you are and what you do and are a great way to show off your services. I would start with both Facebook and Instagram and go from there. 

    Website: While not imperative, certainly not from the very beginning, creating a website can give you the professional edge which become more important if you wish to sell goods or develop a for-profit business.

    Caring for your nappy kits

    It is important to remember that because you are washing items heavily soiled with urine and faeces for multiple families you are not washing domestic laundry (domestic referring to washing for those within your own household only). The more people that use the nappies the higher the risk of spreading infections and ammonia build up and therefore the highest level of hygiene standards should he followed.

    Sanitising: In order to fulfil guidance from both HSE, PHE and your insurance you will need to both wash AND sanitise between hirers. This will ensure nappies are both visibly clean and hygienically clean, free from stains, pathogens and ammonia.

    To do this you will need to heat them to 65⁰c for 10 minutes or 71⁰c for 3 minutes. Heat sanitisation is best achieved with a small commercial washing machine to ensure one of these temperature requirements are reached. In a domestic washing machine you will need to use an 80⁰c or 90⁰c wash cycle on items that can withstand those high temperatures. For everything else you will need to bleach sanitise using a minimum concentration of 150ppm of sodium hypochlorite. 

    Benzalkonium chloride (eg. Dettol laundry cleaner) can be used but it is the least environmentally friendly option, there is uncertainty about the concentration needed to treat fungal infections, it is residual therefore more prone to causing skin irritation and does not breakdown ammonia. If you opt for this for items with PUL or elastics then make sure you pair with two long 60⁰c washes with a full dose of detergent after and a 80+ degree wash of anything without PUL or elastics to combat ammonia.

    Whichever method you choose I recommend validating your washing machine to assess the temperatures reached and whether they meet the above minimum requirements, as domestic washing machines are known to prioritise efficiency over ensuring set temperatures are met.

    Wash guidance: Using a good, robust wash routine will help maintain the nappies in a great condition and minimise risk of ammonia damage and stains. There are a variety of methods out there, these are what I have found successful both with my sons nappies and hirers.

    As you go along you may well think of other matters you need to deal with, this is a rough guide to the different aspects you will need to consider when setting up a nappy hire service. The links provided are not recommendations but simply there to help start your research. 

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