They say that necessity is the mother of invention. And that was definitely true for Tamar Rosenthal and Dana Rubenstein, two moms who were looking for a way to keep baby messes down to a minimum. In searching for a solution to efficiently (and safely) clean their babies’ toys, pacifiers, and clothing, they created Dapple, a revolutionary company that uses baby-safe ingredients — and not chemicals. We spoke with Tamar and Dana about Dapple, work-life balance (what’s that?), and
During our shoot, it’s easy to see that you are both really good friends.
Tamar: Dana and I are friends, first and foremost. We worked together at a charity event and we worked really well together. We accomplished what we set out to do, plus some, and we had fun together. It was a tremendous experience for me personally. At that point, I had a 1-year-old daughter, and Dana was pregnant. One day, Dana called me up and asked me, “What are you using to clean baby bottles?” She talked about the smell, the film, and the residue and wanted to get rid of it. I told her I wasn’t using any magical potion; I was using whatever the natural dish liquid on the market that was available to me.
We wound up going through a description of what we needed and that’s when our lightbulb moment went off. There was a space in the market for safer cleaners that worked effectively on unique baby messes that are happening on a minute-by-minute basis. With so many babies, there wasn’t one thing that was to wash their toys, wash their bottles, or to wash their pacifiers. That’s what we went out to do and that has brought us to where we are today.
So what was that process like, from the aha moment to being where Dapple is today?
Tamar: It was long, hard, and emotional at points, but wonderful, too.
Dana: One thing when we were starting out was that we wanted products that were both completely baby-safe, but also baby specific. There were some natural products on the market, but when you would turn to the back, you would see that they although they might have been environmentally friendly, they weren’t good as a baby product. Then we started delving deeper into seeing what it meant to be a natural product and it wasn’t always going to overlap between natural and baby safe.
We wanted everything to be vetted by pediatricians and for moms to be able to sleep at night saying that the ingredients in the baby products were safe for their babies because it could be ingested. The products we are making go on baby bottles, toys that babies put in their mouths, or they go on highchairs, so that was extremely important to us.
We also wanted to work on baby messes. Moms have little time, and you want to have a clean home and environment without sacrificing on safety. So we had this big challenge and neither of us are chemists by trade. The first thing we did was to set out and assemble a great team of chemists who had experience with plant-derived and safe ingredients. Then we said, “Go ahead and make a product that will get my baby bottles clean!” We had them look at breastmilk and formula to look at that residue and how it would clean plastic.
It’s true. I feel like no matter how many times you scrub a baby bottle, it still can look cloudy.
Dana: Yes, exactly. Every product is made with how Mom thinks in mind. We had to rinse our bottles 100 times before all the suds were out.
But I think that people have this idea that if you see a lot of suds, that the cleaning product is getting it clean. Or if you smell bleach, then it’s super clean, but in reality, you’re just smelling chemicals.
Tamar: People have been trained to think that, so it’s taking time to untrain them from thinking that. Fortunately, Dapple isn’t the only company dedicated to educating the consumer about what clean should really smell like, which is that there should be no smell. But it’s working because people are reading more, and there’s a wealth of knowledge online about toxicity in the home and what that means.
Dana: Since we started Dapple, I’ve seen a shift in consumer education and what people know about what is healthy and not healthy. It’s gratifying to be a part of that effort.
Tamar: Part of the reason why we wanted to go on this mission was because my daughter is highly allergic to all nuts, nut derivatives, soy, and any seeds.
Dana: Ten years ago, I could never have imagined I would know so much about each and every ingredient. I’m a hard person to shop with because I go into a store and I read every product’s label.
Let’s talk about some of the products.
Tamar: Our dish products were our first products to market. It helped us to know that unique baby messes had to be dealt with differently. We started with a lavender scent, but a lot of parents are looking for fragrance-free. They want it to be as pure as possible with few ingredients. Plus, all Dapple products are made with Mom in mind. The dish liquid comes with a pump because let’s say that your baby is on your hip screaming for their bottle? You can use one hand to pump it in and wash it out. We also have a travel pack for times when you’re in a hotel room and don’t want to carry the large 16.9 oz. bottle with you.
So we have our dish detergent and then we have laundry detergent. We wanted detergent that was all-natural and hypoallergenic. Some of the detergents can be harsh and aren’t hypoallergenic and one of the leading ones has 87 ingredients to make that scent that people associate with it. So we wanted a clean pure formula but that could also handle baby messes.
And we have our toy cleaners. Baby plays with toy and the toy drops on the floor. Or Baby leaves fingerprints on the toy which is gross and you want to clean it up. How are you cleaning it? There are some moms who like to spray and wash away and some who want to wipe and wash away.
I like the packaging, too. It’s simple and clear.
Tamar: We believe that parents want to see what’s in there. We disclose our ingredients but for a visual perspective, you can see that it’s like soap and water.
Dana: Two of my kids made the labels.
Tamar: It was the first time in our partnership where we said, “We have to talk about something!” [laughs] Dana wanted to have her daughter on the label and I was fine with it. I’m camera-shy for the kids to be on the labels.
So what exactly is Dapple?
Tamar: They’re speckles! Speckles of messes.
With four kids each, how are you doing it all?
Tamar: Who says we’re doing it all well? [laughs]
Dana: We do have support; we have babysitters when we’re in the office. Our weekends are sacred. But I haven’t spoken to a mom who works and has perfect balance. We feel the tug from work and from home at different times.
Tamar: What’s nice about this partnership is that we get what it means to be a balancing mom. If someone has to go on an apple picking trip or a child isn’t feeling well, we get it. Our kids are proud of Dapple; they totally get it. they come in here and leave art for the office. They’re excited when we launch a new product. And that makes the sacrifice worth it.