Michael Wahl never planned to start a diaper company. And certainly not one called DriButts. But in 2013, after building wells as a church missionary in Haiti, where toddlers often go naked, he returned home and, with wife Starla, set about designing a quick-dry, reusable diaper.
The Wahls had initially planned to share their invention—first sewn by a friend—just on mission trips. But when they returned to Haiti, demand instantly outstripped supply. Since then, churches and donors—who can also help deliver the diapers to needy children—have kept their nonprofit’s website, dributts.com, humming. The Wahls hope to distribute 10,000 diapers in 2016, an ambitious goal that would require $150,000 in donations.
It’s not easy building a nonprofit from scratch while squeezing in trips to make diaper drops. But Wahl, who says he feels called by God, is inspired by one simple question: “Who should have to raise their kids without diapers?”
Diapers for the win
On a whim in 2014, Wahl entered the Atlanta-based Plywood Presents Idea Competition before he even had a product name—and won! The $5,000 prize came with advice from a startup consultant.
No boiling required
Unlike cotton, which requires high washing temperatures and long drying times, the fabric used by DriButts can be rinsed out and line-dried in less than an hour.
Inside the moisture-wicking polyester outer shell is a removable insert made of bamboo fiber, which is naturally resistant to bacteria.
The diapers are fully adjustable and will fit children up to three years old.
A big mess
While governments and NGOs often focus on sewage treatment, Wahl developed his diaper with the realization that babies don’t use toilets. Still, DriButts is at best a partial solution to a third-world sanitation crisis that kills 1.4 million children a year.
Praying for donations
Wahl is trying to quickly scale up his idea, which means raising funds and working with a contract manufacturer in China.
This article originally appeared in our March 2016 issue under the headline “The Bottom Line”