Planet Venus Women: Marie Mélinon

French and Planet Venus Member, Marie, has lived in Barcelona for the last 10 years. After working for 12 years in the localisation industry, she started her own business: Pana, clean cloth diapers for babies delivered at home or at daycare.

 

What is the exact service you offer?

My mission is to enable eco-conscious families to choose the sustainable option of cloth nappies by offering a turnkey solution including renting, cleaning and delivery of cloth nappies.

Three times a week, I deliver clean cloth nappies, families use them, I pick the soiled nappies up, I clean them and I deliver clean ones again.

pana eco nappies pana eco nappies 2 
 
In your profile, you talk about matching your personal values with your professional activity giving as a result sustainability. What do you think about successful entrepreneurship and the values behind the business?

I think a successful entrepreneur is someone that enjoys the work they do, believes in the impact of the product/service they sell and manages to keep this whole proposal economically viable. That’s why for me it is key to constantly reassess whether those three points are still on track to avoid getting lost, frustrated or bored on the way.

The key values of my business are: 

  • Sustainability: by helping families reduce their impact on the environment but also by keeping the impact of the business itself as low as possible since it would not make sense to promote a sustainable solution and then use unsustainable processes.

     

  • Shared responsibility: when the business grows I would like to follow a very horizontal organisation so all participants can be equally responsible for reaching our objectives and improving the service.

     

  • Empowering: I would love to see this business replicated in many locations of Spain and participating in empowering women by running a franchise of the business.
 
 

Circular_service_casaguarde

 

How was the process in between you had the idea of sustainable baby diapers until the business became operational?

It started 4.5 years ago. I saw a news report about this very similar service in the North of France helping a maternity ward with cloth nappies. At the same time, my sister gave birth to a little boy and I was able to witness in first person the amount of disposable nappies that accumulated every day in the bin. Being convinced that reducing our personal waste participates in reducing our CO2 emissions (and slowing down the effect of global warming), I connected my sister’s experience with the existing solution and started investigating whether this service was also available in Spain. 

During a 6-month entrepreneurship course, I gave room for this project to bloom.

I took the opportunity of the course to investigate deeper, did some market research, and received over 200 answers to the survey I shared on social media. I also took part in the 2019 EUSIC competition (European Social Innovation Competition) which helped me consider further topics like economical sustainability and scalability and shed some light to my project. I was also accelerated by Climate-KIC in a 3-month programme with personal mentoring in addition to further entrepreneurship courses.


In parallel, I started organising some tests with voluntary families. This helped me question the logistics and understand better the fears and limitations families could experience so I could design the service to better meet their needs. I also did a couple of tests with two kindergartens and as a partner adapt the service to their reality.

I also did tests with laundry services to identify the best cleaning and drying process that both gives good results and is kind to the baby’s skin.

I managed to reach a functioning MVP state which was slowed down by Covid-related lockdown but is still working.

 

I am now focusing on the marketing aspect of the business, getting visibility so more families take part in this MVP. There is a double work to be done in the case of pana since people do not know about cloth nappies, so it’s about educating about this sustainable option and offering help to those families that feel they need to be accompanied in this choice (whether it be temporarily or long-term).

 

What tip can you give to other women with a good idea but that don’t know how to take it to a business plan?

I think one of my main mistakes was to wait before testing. It seems like one of the obvious answers. I do remember reading about it and being lectured about it during the business course.

You learn about what your customers need, how they live without your product/service, what they think but also how to improve your product or tweak the logistics and finally, you also feel empowered when you test because you are in the action and it feels good because you’re taking concrete steps towards your mission.

 

Was quarantine a positive or negative period for your business? Why?

For me the lockdown was a very negative period. I had been focusing all my efforts on developing my relationships with kindergartens as my prescribers, organising meetings with families so they could get to know about the service, testing the logistics with the kindergartens, etc. And suddenly all of this stopped from one day to the next as all schools closed. It took some “me” time and coaching time to regain confidence and change the focus and I hope that will serve me in case of a second lockdown.

 

How did you manage to have your first clients? 

Two main ways:

  • Via a survey I posted on related Facebook groups. At the end of it, I asked those interested in taking part in a test to leave their email address.
  • By talking to friends and friends of friends with babies, offering my service to them.


What do you feel about women sorority in the business world? 

I had this prejudice that women are “bitches” (excuse my French, haha!) with each other. I know now it is not true. It is difficult to build a business and I think it is more difficult being a woman (not because our brain is not made for that but because our socialisation process does not encourage entrepreneurship as much as it does with men). I think this is why women entrepreneurs support each other.

I’ve had the chance to experience sorority at different occasions. The business course I attended was only for women and resulted in a very bonded group of female entrepreneurs that celebrate wins but also stick around when you need help.

I am also part of a few different online female entrepreneur communities on the Internet which help me develop my skills but are also my best advocates.

 

In that sense, how does Planet Venus make you feel about it?

Being new at Planet Venus, I am really looking forward to being part of this community and seeing how I can contribute. I know many exciting experiences can happen: whether it be a recommendation for a supplier, or a potential client, but also a new business partner, new business ideas and even friends!

Do you want to know more about Pana.eco? We recommend you to visit the website and discover Marie’s solutions for you baby care. 
 

 

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