Parenthood, Diapers and Ingenuity

Leda Health Innovations

Diaper rash is no picnic, for babies or their caregivers. That red, bumpy, irritated skin on a little one’s bottom can leave them uncomfortable and making everyone miserable.

Thankfully, there are ointments to provide a layer of protection to soothe and heal the delicate skin. And David Walt, father of three, is proud to say he’s behind one of the top-selling diaper creams in North America: Sudocrem. It’s a natural, antiseptic healing cream that you can find at major retailers like Walmart, and it’s available in tub sizes or a handy tube for on-the-go application.

If you’re new to parenting, you’ll want to stock up! Diaper cream is essential baby care first-aid.

“We knew that it was a really good product, which is why we worked hard at building the brand over all these years,” Walt says of the popular diaper cream he brought to consumers in 2003.

“When I launched Sudocrem, buyers from the retail chains said to me, ‘are you mad, why are you doing this?’ There are some of the biggest brands in the world with the biggest pharmaceutical companies, and you’re a little guy going against them.”

Sometimes, it’s the little guys who do the most amazing things.

Walt is the founder and CEO of Leda Health Innovations Inc., a Canadian company based in Ontario, that sells and distributes select pharmaceutical, health and baby products from around the world – along with its own in-house brands.

How does a small company compete with the big guns? It’s the story of the little David that took on the behemoth Goliath.

There is actually a predictable strategy to winning in these situations. Examples include the one-time garage start-up known as Apple that stared down IBM and Microsoft – and won.

It takes a combination of tactics: ensuring you have a defined niche. Being unique and different – not just looking different but being different, with a unique offering such as natural or organic. Appearing to be a larger entity than you are by delivering a great product, excellent customer support and a better experience than anticipated.

“And also the ability to get knocked down and stand up again,” Walt says of his entrepreneurial drive and determination.

Walt has that kind of grit in spades. He’s from South Africa, where he worked in the textile industry, and immigrated to Canada in the early 1990s because of the political unrest. When a job offer fell through, he started his own textile business for window coverings. As blinds were just becoming fashionable, he decided to change course and picked up some product lines in the baby sector.

Leda Health started with baby feeding accessories and expanded from there, with product testing commencing with Walt’s own family. “We wanted to make sure these products worked well and my wife was happy with them.” She’s a lawyer who handles contract legalities and paperwork for business.

Now 25 years in, Walt says his strong suit is his knack for people skills and a great business network honed from travelling the globe to source products at trade shows and connect with manufacturers. He also has a nose for trends and focused his business on the health and wellness market right from day one.

Today, the wellness industry is worth about $4.2 trillion, according to the Global Wellness Institute, with natural ingredients and sustainability being key components. That’s where Leda Health shines. The company distributes all the necessities for babies, from teethers and toys to household safety items like baby gates, cupboard locks and foam edge bumpers for furniture. Its fast-selling consumables, like bath and skincare products for baby, are top selling items. Leda Health also has mom in mind with body creams and reusable nursing pads.

“Pharma products, treatments for diaper rash and treatments for infant colic, those are consumables that people continue to buy,” Walt explains. “But if you buy a safety gate or a door latch or a drawer latch, you tend to buy just the one.”

Walt partnered with a pharmacist originally from Dubai to formulate a range of natural products for mom and baby called Aleva Naturals, one of the company’s most successful lines launched 10 years ago. “The timing was right, just when people were starting to move more toward natural and organic,” Walt says. “And we’ve continued with that focus.”

An interesting story involves the pharmacist’s newborn son who developed severe nasal congestion. The pharmacist decided to develop his own remedy based on eucalyptus oil and mint leaves. He couldn’t find a truly natural product on the market that was safe and effective, so he drew upon his experience in the baby and adult skincare industry and his cultural upbringing rooted in the traditional medicines of India.

Billed as “pure, natural and vegan,” the line’s gentle ingredients are popular with mothers and their newborns. In fact, the line has grown to more than 20 unique products sold in 12 countries.

Indeed, ingenuity and grassroots marketing go hand in hand, Walt says, of his company’s route to success. Small companies don’t have the multimillion-dollar advertising budgets for TV and print campaigns so they have to be smart and strategic in other ways to find loyal customers.

When Walt started a line called Daddy Works, he approached the Autism Canada Foundation to include its logo on the packaging and donate a portion of product sales to support autism research. “If we can get a good product into the hands of the new parents, and they can test it and try it and like it, they will buy,” Walt says.

“You really want to try something where you get childbirth educator referrals, let’s say. Once you get a referral from them, you’ve got to get the doctors to believe in it. You’ve got to get the lactation consultants and the midwives. Once they believe in the product, they will tell their clients. It’s just a very slow build. You really need a lot of patience.”

Patience and perseverance have seen the company through retail’s ups and downs, and Walt stresses that another winning formulation for Leda Innovations is its range of brands and products. “A lot of companies are one brand, one product, and that’s the main focus. I think it’s an asset that we have multiple [lines]. We can go to certain stores and they can buy a whole lot of different things from us.”

Which is why making inroads in big retail chains, like Leda Health has done with Walmart and Loblaw, is critical. Loblaw now owns Shoppers Drug Mart, an iconic pharmacy destination across Canada. And Walmart has fast become 45 percent of the retail industry in Canada and a dominant player in the U.S., Walt says.

With the shift to online shopping and Amazon’s incredible rise to online market leader, the opportunity to reach new customers around the globe has never looked more promising than today.

That said, with new products always coming onto the market, competition is also a constant challenge – and one Leda Health is clearly up for. As Walt puts it: “You’ve got to be true to your brand. If you don’t innovate and have new products coming out, you’re not going to survive. If you stand still, you’ll stagnate. We innovate and bring the best quality to consumers.”

September 19, 2020, 5:25 AM EDT