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San Rafael mom creates safe and fair-trade baby goods

Marin Independent-Journal, CA

Hillary Sciarillo is a young San Rafael mother whose business is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of women on the other side of the globe.

Her three-year-old enterprise, Yellow Label Kids, is a line of toys, clothing, accessories and party supplies that has been growing quickly with sales of as much as $200,000 anticipated for 2008.

All of the items she sells – in retail stores, online and by catalog – are made by women from two collectives in Bangladesh. Sciarillo designs all of the concepts and has patterns made and sent to the organizations.

The designs are geared for children age 3 and younger and are made by hand with cotton and natural materials, using non-toxic dyes.

“I wanted to work at home and make money while my child was sleeping,” Sciarillo said. “The birth of my son inspired me to market products for children and babies that would create an alternative to plastic.”

All of the items are washable, durable and tactile. They are designed to encourage children to use their imaginations.

The toys include Waldorf School-inspired dolls, a set of knitted cupcakes and a variety of hand puppets. Parents never have to worry about toxic substances like lead paint in their children’s playthings.

Sciarillo, 33, worked as a teacher in Novato after spending five years working in public relations in New York and said she was inspired by the Waldorf methods.

The women artisans that make the items are paid living wages under fair trade practices.

They learn skills such as knitting at the collectives and can have their children with them when they are working. Many are elderly or disabled and would not be able to travel long distances to factories as women in the area have done.

The collectives were started in 2001 and employ as many as 800 women, and produce goods for markets in Europe as well as the United States.

The collectives emphasize health and literacy programs to women who may have never learned to read or been treated by a health care professional.

“I love the idea of working with an organization that supports women and children,” Sciarillo said. “It feels great to produce products ethically and socially responsibly.”

Yellow Label Kids products have been available at Whole Foods stores and Pharmaca in Marin.

Debbie Coller, manager of Pharmaca in Mill Valley, said the store sold several of the items.

“They were really nice quality and cute,” Coller said.

The products range from $9 for rattles to $32 for cupcakes and up to $69 for blankets.

“I’ve tried to keep our products as reasonable as possible because I know there is a threshold for what people will spend – even for free-trade and organic,” Sciarillo said.

Contact Nancy Isles Nation via e-mail at nnation@marinij.com

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