Five years ago, Kristen Mead began working as a doula, or labor coach, supporting women before, during and after childbirth in natural and practical ways.
She found herself giving lots of advice in cloth diapering, researching and reviewing the quality and cost efficiency of brands and methods. Her product expertise translated to other types of baby gear, such as carriers.
“I learned more about good carriers and how they should be worn and cloth diapering and how much cheaper that can be,” Mead said.
Her online store grew organically out of that expertise and her built-in customer base of doula clients. BabyTimeia.com launched in February, and — quicker than expected — Mead opened a physical Baby Time store in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 24.
“I wanted to start a brick-and-mortar store eventually, but a space opened up that I couldn’t pass up,” she said. “So I opened.”
The store is tucked into the Glenbrook Centre on First Avene SE, near an insurance provider and a hair stylist. Mead said business has been up and down since its storefront debut.
“You never really know,” she said. “I have some days when no one comes in, and I think, ‘Oh, my gosh, what have I done?’ And there are some days when I don’t eat because it’s so busy or I’m open an hour later because someone comes in right at closing.”
The online store catches business during its off-hours, Mead said. And, she said, online shoppers can pick up their orders for free in the store.
“I had that available before at my house,” she said. “I had the showroom in my basement.”
The majority of Baby Time’s stock is cloth diapers and carriers, but she also sells other natural products such as teethers, pacifiers and wooden toys. She promotes her doula services through Baby Time and offers classes, including music, yoga and craft courses for mothers.
Mead earned a music education degree from the University of Iowa. But, with her three children as inspiration, she can’t bring herself to give up her work as a doula, and now as a baby-centered entrepreneur.
“If I got a real job, I wouldn’t be able to do the doula work,” she said. “And I can’t do that. The thought of that made me so sad. So I have to follow this through. I can make this work.”
And even as committed as she is to her store, Mead said her work as a doula — and what that means for the need to be at births — comes first.
“The store for me is secondary if a birth is happening,” she said, adding that the store so far has only helped her doula practice. “It has been a nice way to meet new potential clients and talk about support during birth.”
And, Mead said, the one good thing about the industry she chose is the constant demand.
“We have new babies born every day,” she said. “It’s a never ending turnover and cycling through of new clients.”
Owner: Kristen Mead
Company: Baby Time
Address: 4341 First Ave. SE, Suite 123, Cedar Rapids
Phone: (319) 531-6401
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday and Saturday.Favorite product: The Boba 3G carrier. She said she used it at Disney World, and "it was fabulous."