- by JEN BAKER
- June 20, 2022
- 5 minute read
- Sue-Rose Read is the founder of Oneberrie, a Canadian company that created an innovative hands-free baby towel.
- Bath time is supposed to be a beautiful, calming experience, but drying a slippery baby with an ill-fitting towel creates vulnerability, which caused Sue-Rose, a first-time mom, to question why baby bath towels were square rather than rectangular.
- Realizing that profit was trumping practicality, Sue-Rose decided it was time to innovate the ordinary. Through trial and error, she landed on a design that fosters connection and makes bath time a safer, more comfortable experience.
The days are long, but the years are short. Parents know this all too well. It’s why reading Robert Munsch’s Love you Forever brings tears—babies grow too fast. Try as we might; we simply can’t stop time. Instead, we must exchange the days and years for a collection of memories.
First ultrasound (when baby is the size of a blueberry), first smile, first bath, to Canadian entrepreneur Sue-Rose Read, these are Oneberrie moments—fleeting milestones that create forever memories. Memories that are universal to parenthood and serve to connect us to our children and each other.
Oneberrie is committed to fostering connection between parents and children through their luxury, handmade bath towels—made for children but innovated for parenthood.
The Winding Path That Led to the World of Bath
“I never thought that the Oneberrie story would begin with having babies,” Read shares with a laugh. It is safe to say that it has not been a straight path to entrepreneurship.
Before babies and bath towels, Sue-Rose dreamed of becoming a mechanical engineer. Her grandfather lost his legs to diabetes, and Read wanted to create prosthetics. Unfortunately, (as one could imagine) this field of study proved very difficult.
So, armed with an idea for a new startup, Sue-Rose pivoted into chemical engineering: “As a woman of color, I noticed a lack of true skin-toned foundations and thought, with a chemical engineering degree, I could create a foundation line.”
Sue-Rose has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, wryly admitting that her startup ideas could fill many volumes, a running joke between her and her husband. The only problem? She didn’t yet know how to turn ideas into reality.
It wasn’t until Sue-Rose landed a job in business development with an engineering firm that she would learn of creation and fruition.
Shortly afterward, Sue-Rose welcomed her first daughter and was able to apply the knowledge she gained as an engineer in the oil & gas industry towards launching Oneberrie.
The Oneberrie Moment: Innovating the Hooded Towel
When Sue-Rose became a parent, the stars aligned to present her with an unexpected business idea.
After months of bathing her newborn daughter, she couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a better way to do bath time. “The square-hooded towel didn’t make sense—all towels were rectangular except for baby towels. Why was that?” Sue-Rose pondered.
After looking into it, she says she realized that “manufacturers like square towels because the margins are easy, and the fabric goes farther.” But these cost-saving measures result in an ill-fitting towel, which babies quickly outgrow.
It’s profit over practicality as parents, looking for a better fit, are forced to purchase more towels.
Believing that “parents deserve more moments, not more things,” Sue-Rose realized she had to innovate the ordinary. Fortunately, innovation comes easy to a professional engineer capable of thinking outside the box. And so, for the first time in 70 years, the square hooded towel would receive a redesign.
Sink or Swim: Overcoming Challenges
In the beginning, the startup process was slow. Building a business as a new mom takes balance and is perhaps the biggest challenge that Read has faced. “It’s all doable, but both take a lot of time and effort,” admits Read, “If I was single, with no kids, I could have done things faster, but I’ve understood that slow and steady is the best way.” That’s why Read’s husband, a fellow entrepreneur, encouraged her to start small, making towels as a hobby.
In the early days, Read vowed not to invest any money she didn’t make. So she borrowed her mother-in-law’s sewing machine to keep production costs down. Then while on maternity leave, she slowly picked away at testing new towel designs.
Initially, Sue-Rose settled on a one-directional, rectangular towel. But with the birth of her second child, she knew she needed to rethink her design. “My son was born smaller but grew faster,” Sue-Rose remembers, “The one-directional towel was too small to accommodate babies his size.” This realization led to a breakthrough—a two-orientation towel with a patented loop-and-button for hands-free wear.
After successfully revising the design to create an innovative towel capable of being worn four ways, Sue-Rose had issues scaling the business, which saw her struggle with logistic and quality-control issues.
Determined not to see Oneberrie fail, Sue-Rose found a solution. “Now we have a layer—a team that helps cut, sew, and ship. My staff are superheroes!” Sue-Rose exclaims, showing genuine appreciation for the Oneberrie team.
Passionate about providing employment opportunities to parents with alternative schedules, Sue-Rose shares that “Many of the staff are moms who cannot work full time. They work evenings and weekends on days when they have childcare or when their spouse is home.”
No longer “a one-woman workhorse,” Sue-Rose has found the support needed to overcome hurdles and grow Oneberrie.
A dependable team, industrial sewing machines (so she no longer has to borrow her mother-in-law’s), and custom fabrics have come after years of hard work. But Sue-Rose acknowledges that none of this would have been possible without the mentorship she received along the way.
“One of the biggest turning points in the entire journey was taking part in Futurpreneur,” Read shares. A non-profit that provides financing and support tools to aspiring business owners, Futurpreneur matched Sue-Rose with a mentor she is still in touch with over five years later. Support and guidance from a fellow entrepreneur have been invaluable to Sue-Rose, who says, “You can’t do it alone. It’s nice to speak to someone who has also lived in the arena.”
What’s Next for Oneberrie?
Committed to innovating the ordinary, Oneberrie also wants to help create beautiful moments by connecting families through every stage of childhood—from newborn to toddler and beyond. “The future is more towels and more connected experiences for parents,” Sue-Rose shares, “I want every baby to have at least one Oneberrie towel.” A lofty goal, but recently established relationships with large retailers like West Coast Kids and Indigo has brought that goal closer to reality.
With Oneberrie enjoying sustainable growth, Sue-Rose plans to continue focusing on creating a company that “is at the forefront of hiring women with skills that don’t fit in the traditional workplace. Women looking for flexible work hours and financial freedom.”
Oneberrie, after all, isn’t just about towels; it’s about time, love, and connection—parents connected to their children and women connected to meaningful work.