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Exploring Life & Business with Megan Fischer of Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Fischer.

Megan, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
In 2014, I was pregnant with my second child and learned diapers are not covered by food stamps or WIC. I read stories about babies being left in the same diaper for days, disposable diapers being reused, and the infections children get from a lack of clean diapers. As a parent, I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to not be able to provide for the basic needs of your babies, and tried to find a diaper bank in Cincinnati to volunteer with. When nothing turned up, an idea took shape, and I envisioned an organization that could work with social service agencies in Cincinnati to make sure every baby in the city I love had clean diapers.

In the fall of 2015, I attended the Unpolished Conference for entrepreneurs at Crossroads Church in Oakley, and it proved to be the spark I needed to stop ignoring the call I felt to start a diaper bank. Just a few days after the conference, I had an amazing team in place ready to volunteer to throw their support and talents into starting Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, and I’ve been working hard to create a thriving program for families in need ever since. In February of 2017, I left my job in higher-ed textbook publishing and made the move to Sweet Cheeks full time.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been anything but a smooth road. Our growth has been exponential and extremely fast, but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. I had no background in nonprofits, social services, human services, poverty, etc. I had to learn every single thing from the ground up. And not just about running a business in general–I had to learn all the ins and outs and legal requirements and expectations of running a nonprofit. When I’m doing something I’m passionate about and love I can literally work nonstop.

After several years of that kind of work life, I had just about run myself into the ground, and had sacrificed so much time with my family for the organization. Finally creating real work/life boundaries was really hard for me to do, but it’s something I continue to work on and am trying to do a better job modeling for my staff as well. In addition to trying to manage huge growth year over year and making sure our team has lives outside of work, a constant struggle until we moved into our current facility in late 2019 was space. We outgrew every space we operated out of almost as soon as we moved in. That forced us to be really creative and get really good at just-in-time production of our partner agency orders, but it also doesn’t allow much room for error or setbacks. We now have 16,000 sq ft, our own loading dock, warehouse equipment, and the room to expand and plan for the future.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank?
Our overall organization is COVERD Greater Cincinnati, and COVERD runs 3 programs: Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, Tidal Babe Period Bank, and Fly & Dry Basic Needs Bank. The mission of the organization is to restore dignity and health to people in need by partnering with social service agencies to distribute free basic hygiene products. We currently distribute over 2 million diapers a year, and over half a million period products. We just finished piloting our newest program, Fly & Dry, which will distribute adult incontinence supplies and potty-training resources as well.

I am incredibly proud of our branding. Mike Schell, our Marketing Director, has been with me from literally day one of this adventure. He did such a phenomenal job with our initial branding and website–it opened so many doors from us early on because we had a really professional and legit presence that people felt they could trust. As we’ve grown and expanded, our branding and website have done the same, and I think we’ve done such a good job creating program brands that people love and get attached to.

Despite many early challenges learning the nonprofit world, I think having an outsider’s perspective also has served us well over the years. We either didn’t know how things were “supposed” to be done, or were more willing to question why something was done the way it was. I believe we came up with some creative solutions and have often done things a little differently in ways that have served us well because we didn’t have conditioning of “this is how it’s always been.”

What would you say have been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
The most important lesson I’ve learned on this journey so far has been to take care of yourself. You cannot pour out yourself for others if your cup is empty. You have to have a separation of work and home. You have to take care of your kids and your family first before you take care of other families in the community. The life of an entrepreneur, especially when your business is in start-up mode, is wild and fun and exhausting. But it doesn’t last. Your mental and physical health and your family are what you have at the end of the day, whether or not your business exists.

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