The Bokk Baby Story
Bokk means "to share" in Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal. We made it our name because the whole brand grew out of the idea for our Bokk Bundle Donation Program in Senegal, a program that is built around the concept of sharing. Simply put, we saw a need in one place and an overabundance in another, and we were in a unique position to bridge the divide.
We met while we were Peace Corps Volunteers in Senegal. We lived in different parts of the country, one in a rural village in the desert and one in the capital city on the coast. We had different experiences, but ultimately, we both wound up sharing a deep respect and love for Senegal.
The idea for Bokk Baby started to come together after Margaret’s sister had her first baby in 2014. He was born in the hospital, and right away he was wrapped in a striped, flannel receiving blanket.
It reminded Margaret of her Peace Corps counterpart, Diakhou Ndiaye, a midwife in a rural village, who would buy cotton cloth with her own money to cut into squares, so women who did not bring clean fabric with them to the health post would be able to safely wrap their newborns. Seeing first-hand how quickly outgrown baby clothes, blankets, etc piled up after the arrival of a new baby for many here in the U.S., we knew there was a better way to do things.
Parents here needed an easier way to get rid of the clothes and blankets that their little ones so quickly outgrow. At the same time we knew that there was a need for those same things in rural Senegal, where simply having clean fabric available to wrap newborns in is not a guarantee. So, we took the next step: we contacted our friends and former work partners in Senegal to help us develop the idea for our Bokk Bundle Donation Program.
Inspired by the wildly successful and beloved Finnish Baby Box Program, which provides a box of newborn essentials and a safe place to sleep for every baby born in Finland, we developed the concept of the Bokk Bundle: a take-home gift box with a receiving blanket, a few baby clothing items, and important, culturally appropriate postpartum health information. The Bokk Bundles would be given out by community midwives at our partnering rural health clinics to every mother who delivers inside the facility.
Our midwife partners, who are often the only trained health workers in their villages, knew there was a need for what we were proposing, and not just because it meant that their clinics would be stocked with receiving blankets. In rural areas, many women still deliver at home, a practice that health workers see as a major challenge to improving maternal and child health outcomes in their communities.
Maternal and infant mortality is much higher in rural areas in Senegal than in cities, something that Senegal’s Ministry of Health attributes to home deliveries, where attendants are not equipped to treat or evacuate women experiencing complications during childbirth. And so, the Bokk Bundles would serve to not only bring comfort and joy to new Moms, but also to incentivize women in rural areas to deliver in their local health centers, under the care of trained midwives.
A Better Business Model
In Summer 2017 we traveled back to Senegal to meet with all of our partners, including midwives at the five rural health clinics where we are piloting the program and officials at Senegal’s Ministry of Health. The enthusiasm for the Bokk Bundle Donation Program was more than we had expected, and it made us that much more determined to make it happen on our end. And so, we got serious about building a business and a brand that would sustain our donation program long-term.
We loved the idea of giving busy parents an easy (and free!) way to donate their outgrown baby clothes from home. We also loved the idea of creating a circular business model for baby apparel, where new clothes are made sustainably and purposefully, and where what is outgrown can be responsibly donated for reuse, whenever possible. So, we spent the next year turning an idea into a reality. We wanted to build our brand without deviating from some core principles: an ethical and transparent supply chain, all-natural biodegradable fabrics, and the ability for customers to easily donate outgrown clothing items from home, by mail.
Fast forward a year, and we were in production. Milling, printing, dyeing, cut & sew is all being done in Los Angeles. Our fabrics are super soft, high-quality bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. And, we designed all of our own prints, creating hand-drawn patterns that are bright, happy, and inspired by things kids love. Best part of what we have to offer? Parents can donate outgrown, gently used baby clothing/blankets of any brand back to us with every order. We include pre-paid return shipping, so you can refill the packaging your order came in back up with donations, re-seal and return right from home.