This mom's business 'all started with a cloth diaper'
By SHARI PUTERMAN
Feb. 18, 2018
LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Holly Walker, 33, has great things to say about growing up in the South.
"I really like how everybody is just super welcoming," says the Lafayette native. "Between the festivals and the family-oriented nature . it's like you never meet a stranger."
On paper, Holly's life seems pretty traditional. She met her husband, T.J., in high school and they started dating while she was attending Louisiana Technical College. After graduating with an associate's degree in accounting, Holly worked a few bookkeeping jobs.
But then, she stepped outside the box - and life's been a pretty amazing roller coaster ride ever since.
"My dad was always an entrepreneur," Holly says. "My brother and I are very much like him. We wanted to do what we liked and make a business out of it."
So that's what they did.
In 2008, Holly's brother opened a health club, which she managed for five years.
Shortly after delving into that venture, Holly and T.J. got married, and it wasn't long before the couple decided to expand their family.
Their first child, Lauren, was born on Dec. 21, 2011.
"And that's when I went into super-mom mode," Holly says. "We did everything together. I brought her into work every day, I set up a play room in the office. Everyone in the gym knew Lauren. When I got pregnant, I told my brother that I was going to bring her to work with me. I had no intention of putting her in day care - my world revolved around her . that's what led me to this business.
And that's how Lafayette Moms and Babies was born.
According to Holly, it all started with a cloth diaper.
"A few months after Lauren was born," she explains, "one of the gym members, who was working as a sales rep, told me about (cloth diapers), gave me a couple, and I was like, 'I need these - how can I buy them?' I set up a wholesale account, and I was going to buy them and sell them to other moms."
Holly started having "diaper parties" and would travel to people's houses, set up tables and teach them about cloth diapering.
"I would have snacks, games, giveaways," she says. "I made it all up myself."
That's when Holly met her former business partner, Callie Willis.
"We were at a mommy-and-me class together," she recalls. "Callie started buying diapers from me, and we became great friends. We started talking about how, just like the cloth diapers, there was so much stuff we wanted for our kids, and we couldn't find it in Lafayette. We started thinking about nifty gadgets - like things that you wish you would have invented - but none of them could be found in town."
Basically, Holly wanted to take her diaper parties to the next level - so the ladies decided to open up a shop filled with all the items they wished they could buy locally.
On Sept. 27, 2013, Lafayette Moms and Babies came to life at 924 Kaliste Saloom Road. Upon opening, the store was "practically empty," Holly says. They carried a few brands of cloth diapers, wraps, carriers, swaddle blankets, stylish labor and delivery gowns, breastfeeding supplies and other items that were hard to find in Lafayette.
"We started stocking up with everything we heard people talking about, and everything we read about," she explains. "We wanted to be a one-stop shop for all 'mom' needs."
As time passed, the ladies were able to carry more products that appealed to their growing client base.
It was a whirlwind - and less than a year after jumping into this new venture, Holly got the surprise of a lifetime: she was pregnant with twins.
On Dec. 7, 2014, Michael and Thomas were born. By this time, Lafayette Moms and Babies was growing steadily, but Callie had decided to leave the business. The split was amicable, and the ladies remain good friends to this day - but it was a lot for Holly to shoulder with two new babies of her own in tow.
"I had some moments where I thought, 'there is no way I am gonna be able to do this,' " she says. "But I had a lot of support. We actually have a postpartum support group right at the store, which is something that's really important to us. I have two great counselors who are very motivated to make sure it's successful."
Years later, that dedication remains at the heart of Lafayette Moms and Babies. The store has expanded its merchandise to include educational toys, designer diaper bags, costume jewelry and other unique gifts.
"We're trying hard to branch out to be more than moms and babies," Holly explains. "I hate when people think that they don't need to come here because they don't have a baby . basically, if it was your friend's birthday, you could pick up a gift here."
The toy selection is also expanding to attract an older audience.
"I would say we cater to kids up to about 8 years old," Holly says. "We have puzzles, craft-type stuff . hair bows for bigger girls. There are little things all over the store that can be for any age group."
For this working mother of three, there's never a dull moment - but the reward is definitely worth the risk and inevitable "chaos" that comes with the territory.
"My favorite part about the store is meeting moms, helping moms . whenever a mom comes in and she needs help, I teach her how to use the carriers or make suggestions about products," Holly explains. "I am a well-experienced breastfeeding mom, so I help other moms through their breastfeeding troubles . with the support we offer, it's great when moms realize that (everything they're going through) is totally normal."
So how does this multi-talking mama maintain normalcy as she navigates parenthood outside the store?
"You have to remember that the bad moments are short-lived," Holly says. "When it's really difficult, there are good times right around the corner. You forget that in the moment . but, they will stop crying, and things will be fine."