Like many first-time parents, Dave and I researched every purchase for our first-born. From strollers to bottles to cribs to monitors and everything in between. We were mostly on the same page and just went with what the other person thought was the best option… except when it came to diapers. Having read some of the scary stats about how long diapers take to breakdown in landfills, I really wanted to use reusable diapers. Dave was not on board. For a self proclaimed germaphobe who almost threw up changing his first blow out, the thought of reusable diapers was just too much. I mean, we’re talking about a guy who used to wear rubber gloves for all diaper changes! If only Liz had launched Esembly a few years ago, I may have had a chance. But like many things in life and parenting we compromised and settled on the most environmentally friendly disposable diapers we could find.
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Throughout her pregnancy, Liz didn’t think twice about her return to work plans. She’d take the 3 month maternity leave, and return to an advertising job that she loved. Baby came, 3-month maternity leave came and went, but Liz wasn’t ready. She also wasn’t ready to stay home full time either. Looking at her baby girl, she felt compelled to do something that would leave a positive impact in the world. At the suggestion of a friend, Liz made a major career move with a baby at home, from the world of advertising to the world of diapers. She was buried in them at home, and she knew there had to be a better, more sustainable way.
Did you always know that you wanted to have kids?
No, I didn’t always know that I wanted to have kids and also to be totally honest there was a phase right before getting pregnant with my daughter that my husband and I made a decision to not have children. We had taken this amazing trekking trip down in Patagonia. We both loved our jobs and our careers. I was in my late twenties and my husband was in his early thirties and we thought- you know, maybe we don’t have to do this kid thing.
Flash forward 3 months and I unexpectedly found out that I was pregnant with my daughter.
How did that unexpected news shift your mindset?
It was very unexpected. My husband got on board rather quickly. I think he did a complete 180 and thought it was amazing. He quickly became really excited to become a parent. We got married very young in our early twenties, so at that point we had been married eight years and he was psyched. I think it took me really until about the 20 week ultrasound to be fully get on board. We discussed all of our options and what we would do and we didn’t tell anybody for several months because I was still processing this shift. But once I had that twenty week ultrasound which coincidentally was on Election Day in 2008, my mindset shifted. It was this really exciting day when we went and we voted and we had the ultrasound and found out that everything was good and that it was a girl. She would be the first girl in his side of the family for like two generations. So I think that day really changed things for me and I started to come around and warm to the idea and get more excited.
So you not only had a big life shift from a parenting standpoint, but you also had quite a career shift as well. Can you tell me about the transition from the world of advertising to the world of diapers?
I am a planner. I am somebody who loves security and stability. I was working at an advertising agency called Wieden & Kennedy. I was an art producer and I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with and I loved the creativity. I loved the travel and throughout the course of my pregnancy I didn’t think that things would change. After my daughter was born I figured I would just take my twelve week maternity leave and then I’d go back and I’d continue loving my job.
I just really just glossed over the realities of what having a baby would do for both myself and our family. After she was born, I spent the first ten weeks of my maternity leave with my head in the sand. I think I just thought that it was never going to end. And then in those two weeks leading up to my return to work, we had a little accident. I had all this breast milk saved in the freezer. We went away for the weekend and my husband left the freezer door open and it all melted. That was 10 days before I had to go back to work.
That was the breaking point. I lost it. I thought- I can’t go back to my job. How am I going to do this? Who’s going to take care of my daughter? She doesn’t sleep- ever. This is just not going to work. There’s just no way. But I was the one with the stable job. My husband is a sound designer and I was the one that had health insurance. So I went back to work and I cried on the subway everyday. I really struggled with the transition. I just didn’t know who I was. I knew who I was prior to having this baby. I loved my job, but after I had my daughter, my priorities shifted. I didn’t necessarily want to stay home. I just wanted more time home than my current job was going to give me. But I also wanted my job to feel very important and very impactful.
When did you start Esembly?
We started the development process for Esembly in 2013 when I got pregnant with my son. The internal joke is that basically I got pregnant with him because we needed a tester. So he tested our diaper line and he tested our skincare. His poor little bum tested everything for the two years that he was in diapers. It was perfectly timed, I was able to spend my maternity leave with him, test our products, and work with our technical designer on the fit of our diapers.
The whole time that we were doing this we had a built-in group of families from our first company, diaperkind that were cheering us on. They were so excited about what we were doing. They would test product for us and give us great feedback. When it came time to actually launch Esembly, we opened it up to a crowdfunding equity round and a lot of our diaperkind families invested in the business. So now their owners and Esembly as well so off diaper kind really was, you know, we didn’t know it when we were building it but it ended up being a fantastic foundation for a future business a decade later.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.
Read more from Bridget, follow her on IG, and check out her new series, Work Like a Mother.