Emily McCay had an idea that took flight, and she magically transformed into The Diaper Fairy with a simple business plan. Her idea was to launch a cloth diapering service that not only delivered diapers, but also cleaned the dirty diapers, and all for less than the cost of disposable diapers. This Louisville native started her business in 2009, and she now has a bricks-and-mortar retail store on Bardstown Road called The Diaper Fairy Cottage. It is a hub of retail activity, mothering classes and, of course, cloth diapering. While this effervescent redhead could talk diapers all day, her secret talent is hair … curly hair to be exact.
Tell us how you went from being in medical sales to being the Diaper Fairy of Louisville.
Our daughter was already potty trained when my family moved back to Louisville in 2009, but I was surrounded by pregnant friends. When they told me there wasn’t a service and that home-washing diapers wasn’t something they were interested in, I immediately saw an opportunity to fill a niche that was on the verge of becoming very mainstream.
What are the greatest benefits to cloth diapering and the diapering service?
Modern cloth diapers feature stylish patterns and don’t use safety pins. Cloth diapering is better for the environment, better for baby’s skin and better for your budget. Families also usually benefit from earlier potty training. Our diapering service gives families the opportunity to choose reusable diapers with no investment (we provide the diapers you need) and no dirty work (we pick up the dirties and leave clean ones for you, while we handle the dirty work). We work with families from preemies up to potty trainers. Families can start at any time.
When did you move from doing the diaper service to having a full-fledged bricks-and-mortar retail store?
We opened our retail store, The Diaper Fairy Cottage, in December 2013, to expand into full retail for Louisville families. We offer so much more than diapers. Our boutique offers baby carriers, amber necklaces, baby gifts, mama care items, toys, books, maternity and nursing wear, all under one glittery roof. We offer gift registries for baby showers, birthdays and holidays, as well.
What is the greatest misconception about your business?
The greatest misconception about my business is that we just do diapers. I challenge you to stop in and visit the cottage. You will be shocked how much more we offer families. First-time visitors say two things: “I had no idea you had all of this!” or “You literally have everything I need.”
What is the hardest thing about your job? And what is the easiest?
The hardest thing is being willing to turn my work-brain off at the end of the day. The easiest thing is getting to be a baby holder to give new moms a break. We are often a parent’s very first trip out of the house, and I regularly get to welcome babies who are sometimes just a few days old into Afterglow, our new mom support group.
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
A positive mindset and abundance mentality will do wonders for your life. (Can you tell I’m a not-so-secret optimist?)
Who is your mentor?
A few years back, I started doing a better job surrounding myself with successful people I wanted to be like and whom I admire. I now have a small, trusted group of other women business owners with whom I regularly meet. We act as a sounding board for each other and seek each other’s advice and support on nearly a daily basis.
What is the best advice you have received in business?
Outsource what you can to others, and make your job only the things that others cannot do. Once I did this, my business exploded with growth. It’s so hard as a small business owner to face this reality, when so little money is coming in at the beginning. If you don’t, you’ll never get above being your own daily employee because you’ll have no time to grow your business to the next level.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I don’t really like cake. I’m not truly anti-cake, but my mom ran a wedding cake business for 35 years in our home with two kitchens. There was so much cake around all the time that we weren’t allowed to eat, so I just kind of stopped eating cake.
I have to ask: what is the secret to your hair? Your curls are perfectly perfect.
I highly recommend the book Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey with Michele Bender to all girls with curly hair. I had an epiphany when I discovered there were different curl types, and each of them should be managed differently. Now that I understand my curl type, my hair is now a combo of choosing the right products and applying them at the right time. I choose sulfate-free shampoos, and silicone-free conditioners and styling products. My personal favorites are the DevaCurl line paired with Be Curly products by Aveda. I “wash” my hair by wetting and conditioning it daily but many people are surprised to know I only use a cleanser about twice a week, so I won’t dry out my curls. I don’t comb my hair after a shower, and I don’t wrap it up in a towel. As soon as I get out of the shower, I squeeze the excess water out, I apply a curl defining product and I use a diffuser to dry. Voila: Frizz-free curls. Curly-headed girls, get the book. You’ll become a believer, I promise.
What is your favorite place to go eat?
I will drag anyone willing to go to Queen of Sheba. Or I’ll go by myself if I can’t find anyone to join. It’s my comfort food.
Where do you like to shop?
I’m fortunate to live within walking distance from some amazing and funky local boutiques. My closet is filled with pieces I love from Dot Fox, Urban Attic, and I have a few treasured one-of-a-kind pieces from Old Souls Vintage. The majority of my accessories come from Noonday Collection. I’m also excellent at shopping my friends’ closets and borrowing things I need.
What is your weakness?
Sequins. I physically had to stop myself from wearing them for this photo shoot.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Forecastle Festival. My husband and I go every year with the weekend pass, and we take our daughter.
What are you reading right now?
Everything I can get my hands on about surviving the holiday season as a retailer. It’s my first true and full holiday season in our boutique and my flock of fairies and I are excited for the kickoff on “Glitter Friday”… because glitter is the new black!
What are three of your favorite things right now?
- My grown-up-sized Aden & Anais Daydream Blanket
- Beekeeper lattés from Heine Brothers
- Leaving surprise love notes in lunchboxes
Thank you to Emily McCay for showing us all the new-fangled tricks of cloth diapering. It made us actually miss diapering for about half a second. To learn more about the Diaper Fairy, click here.
As always, much gratitude to our FACES photographer Adele Reding for her fantastic work. Learn more on her Facebook page.
Want to read about more inspiring women in the community? Click here to check out more FACES.