Promoting the Cloth Diaper Industry

2011 RDIA Cloth Diaper Business Conference

Tuesday, September 27th, 12:15– 2:00PM

Together We Can!
Working together we can affect positive change

Dan Marshall and Mary Newell, board members of the Handmade Toy Alliance, are speaking on the challenges of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) and how the last 3 years have been difficult yet very rewarding both politically and personally.  The Handmade Toy Alliance story is about looking beyond typical business relationships and working together for a common purpose. They will be giving an overview of how the Handmade Toy Alliance started as a simple grass roots email group to become a trade association that Washington D.C. listens to. They'll highlight the challenges that the group faced during this time and what helped to keep them going and to become a powerful group. In working as a group they have grown from being ignored by congressional staffers or given a generic response to testifying at House and Senate committee hearings. They'll also speak about the power of working together as a group and how they would have each burnt out long ago if not for the group's encouragement and support.  The board members of the HTA bring their strengths to the table and have worked together to accomplish a lot in a short time.  The Handmade Toy Alliance have also encouraged and supported each others' struggles and accomplishments as their businesses try to navigate this difficult economy.  Sometime that has been to offer encouragement to not give up and stay in business or to help with solutions to testing, marketing, questions or compliant supplies. Handmade Toy Alliance

Dan Marshall

Peapods Natural Toys (RDIA member, Retailer)
President, Handmade Toy Alliance

Dan Marshall is the founder of the Handmade Toy Alliance and co-owner with his wife of Peapods Natural Toys and Baby Care, a brick and mortar retail store in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dan's wife Millie Adelsheim started Peapods in 1998, selling baby carriers, cloth diapers, and wood toys. Peapods began as a tiny shop which would close at midday so that Millie and Dan's daughter Abby could nap in the office. Dan quit has day job at American Express to join Millie full time after the birth of their second child, Riley, in 2001. Since then, Peapods has grown steadily and now lives in a 3,000 square foot renovated former hardware store in St. Paul. Dan and Millie's third child, Duncan, was born in 2005. Dan and Millie are particularly proud of how they're children have been intimately involved in Peapods all along.

In 2007, Peapods benefited from the public's increased awareness of toy safety and the renewed interest in the European and American toy companies they buy from. However, Dan was shocked to learn that Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 would greatly harm many of these same small business, who could not afford to comply with the new law's third party testing requirements. He started the HTA by reaching out to vendors and competitors in an effort to change the law. The alliance soon gained momentum and the attention of lawmakers. Dan has appeared in news articles in the New York Times, the Associated Press, and the Wall Street Journal and has testified twice in the US House Commerce Committee.

Dan is a former board member of the Metro Independent Business Alliance, a Twin Cities trade organization that promotes locally-owned independent businesses. In addition to the HTA, Peapods is also a member of the RDIA and the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance. Dan holds a BA in History from the University of Minnesota.

Dan Marshall
Peapods Natural Toys

Mary Newell

Terrapin Toys (makers of nationally distributed Mary's Softdough)
Treasurer, Handmade Toy Alliance

Mary started creating and selling Mary's Softdough, her own natural version of playdough, in 1988 at the local Saturday Market and has grown Softdough into a nationally-distributed toy company. With over 20 years in the toy industry, Mary has seen lots of changes both in the toy industry as well as in her own business. The challenges of running her own business have been many, but the growth and pride in a job well done have made it worth it. Mary joined the Handmade Toy Alliance soon after its initial formation and was part of bringing the HTA from a simple grassroots email group into a nonprofit organization that is known throughout the country and in Washington, DC, standing up for small-batch manufacturers and specialty retailers. Mary has traveled to Washington, DC, as a representative of the HTA, to participate in panel discussions at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). She's worked to broaden other's ideas about who is in the toy industry and how the CPSIA does not work for small-batch manufacturers.

Mary has come a long way from a painfully shy child, afraid to speak in class, to a successful business owner speaking passionately about what is important for her company as well as thousands of other small businesses. Over the last 3 years, serving on the HTA board and struggling to keep her own business going has shown just how much can be done with persistence and speaking up for what is right and fair. Being part of the HTA has been challenging at times - to the point of wanting to give up - but the great rewards and strengths that have come from these struggles, have made the work all the more worthwhile.

Mary Newell
Terrapin Toys

Real Diaper Industry Association is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit advancing, networking and promoting the cloth diaper industry.
Contact info @ realdiaperindustry . org

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