Made in Eastern Iowa: From a desperate place, a Maquoketa company tries to make a better diaper

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MAQUOKETA, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The story of RagaBabe, like so many other small businesses that are thriving, came from a desperate place.

RagaBabe, in downtown Maquoketa, came to be after a mother struggled to find the best diaper for her son. Years later, RagaBabe holds a worldwide online presence for cloth diapers with distinct designs.

Years ago, nothing that Joy Yoder seemed to do with her second child, seemed to work when it came to diapers.

"We had major rash issues, sores and I found myself just leaving him un-diapered on a blanket, leaving him several occasions," said Yoder, a mother with six children under 12. "I got to talking to one of my friends who used cloth diapers and I thought 'that sounds like a lot of work' and I look over and I see a huge pile of laundry of blankets and clothes from him wetting on it. Within three days, his rash had cleared up so it was due to the chemicals in disposables and I had tried several disposable options. Cloth was the way to go for us."

Even with that discovery, the cloth diaper fit still wasn't ideal for her son. Constant leaks and getting up in the middle of the night led to trying to craft something better.

As Joy came up with the idea, another barrier. She couldn't sew.

However, her mother could.

"My mom was an amazing seamstress," said Yoder. "I said 'Mom, help me make a pattern and I want to learn how to sew and I want to start trying to make my own diapers.' She made the journey to help me with my project and it just snowballed. Two and a half years of just trial-and-error until we got a product that we were proud to sell."

That product turned into RagaBabe, a series of cloth diapers now with more than 100 very distinct prints. About ten employees work out of the company headquarters on Main Street in downtown Maquoketa. The hum of stitching and sewing fills the workdays.

Now the real work comes in keeping up with the orders. The social media outreach for RagaBabe has led to customers all over the globe.

"We wouldn’t really be in existence without social media so we’re a good example of that kind of company," said Dave Ketelsen, the company's chief financial officer. "To get national and worldwide exposure from a small town, that takes this huge network and that’s how RagaBabe came to be."

Inside the headquarters is where all of the creations come. The designs, the patterns - of which Joy has about a dozen she said she would still like to see become reality - as one question for RagaBabe would be "what's next?".

"Baby booties that I’ve got a pattern for," said Yoder. "Nursing pads. Pull-ups but we’re so busy just keeping up with the diapers that it’s hard to expand. I want to but it’s hard to do."

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