Make Your Child's Lunchbox Eco-Friendly with Fabkins

August 4, 2008

Fabkins cloth napkins for kidsA desire for a more eco-friendly lunchtime led Marin mompreneurs Joyce Raffo and Paige Rodgers to create Fabkins, a fun line of unique cloth napkins just for kids. Fabkins are kid-sized napkins that sport different child-friendly themes like “Sports Fan,” “African Safari,” “Prima Ballerina,” “Fruit Salad,” “Beach Bound,” and “Garden Friends.” Useful as both napkins and placemats, Fabkins encourage good table manners and help make school lunches and meals at home waste-free.

We asked Joyce and Paige a few questions about their Fabkins and how they started their business. Joyce and Paige are also offering Marin Mommies readers a 10% discount on online Fabkins purchases through August 31 by using the coupon code mom10 at checkout.

Joyce Raffo and Paige RogersPlease tell us about yourselves. What are your backgrounds?

Joyce and I both came to Fabkins with a background in marketing. She spent more time on the technical, product and project management side, while I focused on sales and promotions. Joyce started her career in consulting and I first worked in the non-profit world. Our varied professional experiences have been helpful in starting a business, and we each gravitated to the areas we were most comfortable with and skilled at. Joyce handles a lot of the operations and financials and I handle most of the sales and marketing. Of course, our experience being moms has also helped us a great deal in creating and selling a product for kids!

What was your inspiration to create Fabkins?

Joyce came up with the idea after a day of shopping for trash-free lunch products for her son’s lunchbox left her frustrated by the lack of kid-friendly cloth napkins available. She talked to me about her idea and we decided to make some samples to show friends and gauge their interest. Everyone loved them. Around the same time, we saw the Oprah “Green 101” show. Guest Elizabeth Rogers, co-author of The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time, was asked to give one tip from her book that America could implement immediately. Elizabeth’s response was “If we all gave up one [paper] napkin a day, we could save a billion pounds of paper waste from going to landfills [each] year." Joyce and I knew then that we had a huge opportunity to make a product that would both reduce paper waste and get kids excited about their role in saving the environment. Soon after, in August 2007, Fabkins was born.

What kind of response have you been getting for your creation?

We have sold over 3,000 sets in one year through a combination of online, retail and school event sales. What’s even more fun is that we hear from moms all the time how Fabkins have made school lunch more fun, family mealtime more special, teaching table manners easier, and the discussion of reducing paper waste to save the environment more relevant to their kids.

How did you go about starting the business?

We made a few prototypes of Fabkins to show friends and people loved them. We got our kids and their friends involved in selecting the designs and fabrics, then talked with parents about pricing, packaging, etc. We found a great sewer in San Francisco, purchased the fabric and embroidered appliqués and got started. Our logo, website design and marketing materials were all done by a mom in West Marin and we got some PR help from a friend and fellow mom who runs her own PR agency. It’s been a community effort and we are so grateful to our mom friends for all they’ve done to help us succeed.

What are your goals for Fabkins?

Kids with FabkinsWe have always intended to transition our fabric to 100% organic cotton and we are excited to make it happen this Fall. We hope to more than double our sales in the coming year and will be introducing new designs in the next few months. We’d also like to continue our work educating kids about ways they can be involved in saving the environment.

What do you like best about living and working in Marin?

We could not imagine a better location for starting an eco-friendly company with a product for kids. We feel very fortunate to live in such an eco-conscious community of families committed to making a difference for future generations. Fabkins was an instant success in Marin because people got it right away. We’re finding that in other areas of the US, there is some education needed around the importance of reducing paper waste and packing a waste-free lunch. Of course, we also love Marin because we can spend a brainstorming session hiking up Mt. Tam!