As always, I am long overdue for an update on Papoose. I haven’t said much about it since World Breastfeeding Week, largely because World Breastfeeding Week felt like my last-ditch effort to garner some additional support and interest in my goals for supporting Nantucket families. I put my heart and soul into planning and executing the week’s events, and managed to accomplish some major things, including La Leche League’s biggest support walk yet and bringing a world-renowned speaker to the island. I taught another Breastfeeding Basics class to a great group of moms and dads. On those fronts, the week was a great success, but in others it was also a great failure.
I reached out to over 50 island businesses (all of whom serve mothers and/or families) as a means of promoting World Breastfeeding Week’s events, as well as a fundraising activity for LLL; I offered to provide them with free “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” stickers for their store fronts and sent fliers for them to put up. I only heard back from three businesses and not a single one was willing to put a sticker in their window – not even the one shop that sells maternity and baby clothes. I spent time and money putting up color fliers around town, only to have them taken down days later. And, though our featured speaker was well received by hospital staff, we had an abysmal turn out at the talk for parents and families.
On top of the World Breastfeeding Week disappointments, in the fall I lost the space that I was using to teach Tiny Tumblers because the owner decided to rent half of it out to another fitness instructor for storage, which made it unsafe and insufficient for teaching curious and rambunctious young children. I started looking around for another space, but knowing that I was only going to teach one more session before going on “maternity leave,” it didn’t seem worth it to have to find and promote a new location, plus purchase all new equipment (what I had been using was owned by the studio where I was teaching).
Out of everything that I have done, Tiny Tumblers was the most well-received and the only thing from which I actually made a small amount of money. The other classes that I have run or tried to run so far, have had little to no registrations and never enough to cover the cost of advertising. It seems I have no problem filling up a breastfeeding class when I am doing it for free (as I do during World Breastfeeding Week for good karma), but no one is interested when there is a fee (even with my sliding scale and low-cost options). Other classes were just as poorly attended. But, I knew going into this that I wouldn’t make money off of classes.
I spent a lot of time researching Papoose and visiting stores similar in concept prior to getting things up and running. Money isn’t made off of the classes; it is made off of the retail. Classes are an additional way to bring people in the door and a way to make a difference beyond just being another retail store. Knowing that, I started the classes anyway because I wanted to do what I could while trying to look into options for a retail store and I thought the classes were sorely needed here on island. Now I’m not so sure. By July, a year’s worth of low registrations combined with the constant struggle to find a place to teach (the hospital is only willing to let me use their space when I do it for free, which obviously I can’t do all year-round) was starting to wear on me. Though I was hopeful leading up to World Breastfeeding Week that I could garner enough excitement to jump start things again and possibly find a partner for the retail store.
Unfortunately, World Breastfeeding Week only showed me how little support there is for this venture in our island community, both among families and other related organizations. Even the hospital’s limited interest in partnering to make breastfeeding and other classes available to new and expectant parents is disheartening, and if the doctors aren’t telling expectant moms how important it is for them to take these classes before their babies are born, it’s even harder to get them in the door. The most troubling aspect of this lack of support and education is that it is not without fall out: I cannot tell you how many moms I speak with as a LLL Leader or a lactation consultant who are having problems that would have been avoided by education beforehand — which is why I so very much want to make Papoose a reality.
It’s been a long tough road these past two years as I have tried to start this business and offer support to Nantucket families. I have learned a lot along the way, both about starting a business and about our island community. I have seen great successes and also great failure. And I have spent literally thousands of dollars trying to get Papoose off the ground. In early November, my LLC registration was up for renewal and after much discussion and looking at our finances, I made the tough decision not to renew it. We just couldn’t see putting another $500 into something that doesn’t have the support here on island. I also made the decision to take a break from trying to schedule, promote, and advertise classes until some undetermined time — possibly after Peach’s birth, possibly much longer. I was very sad about these decisions, but I also needed to face the reality of whether or not a business like this is feasible on Nantucket without the retail component to support it.
For now, all this means that Papoose, the business, is closed. I’m disappointed that this is what it came to after such an exciting and optimistic start, but it is the best decision for our family — a decision that was only cemented a week or two later by Chris’ news that his job was ending January 1st. Maybe someday I’ll be able to return to this idea as a business, but for now I take comfort in the fact that I will still be able to support new mothers through La Leche League as well as through private lactation consultation. I am thankful for all that I have learned during this time and for all of you who have supported me through this venture, without which I would have never gotten this far.