If we won the #DECAgems contest, Part 2

My colleague at work had her first baby, L’il Hank, last week. On, Saturday, I dropped in on Universal Diapers to buy a present (the cutest outfit, shoes included, only $18). While I was there, I talked to owners Lewis Liu and Sarah Qin.

They are originally from Inner Mongolia, a province of China. They moved to North America for their daughter, now 31. “All they do in China is work. They have no breaks. They are assigned homework even at lunch,” says Sarah. “Not all knowledge comes from books. Here, children get free time to play….”

Lewis did his Master’s degree in the US in statistics. Then, they were accepted as immigrants to Canada.

How they got from statistics to children’s clothes and diapers is a story of entrepreneurship.

Sarah and Lewis

Sarah Qin and Lewis Liu have backgrounds in graphic art and statistics. They got the idea to open Universal Diapers from a notice they put up in their apartment mailroom: “Extra diapers for sale.” Their phone rang off the hook. They opened Universal Diapers Baby Store at 1987 Danforth on June 1, 2004.

After arriving in Toronto, they had their second child — a son. They were living in a high-rise in Cresent Town (where they still live), when he was finally potty-trained. Lewis put a notice in the mailroom stating they had extra diapers for sale, and his phone rang off the hook. “I realized, this could be our big chance!” he says.

They rented the storefront out at 1987 Danforth Ave. and sourced cheap diapers from China. Then, as parents arrived and asked for other items, they expanded their stock — clothing, clothe diapers, little Robeez and bassinets. Sarah, who has a background in art design (she did the sets for a television station in China), started designing and sewing her own baby clothes, out of UVA sun-veil.

Sarah and her sunveil

At first, business was so slow, they both took up part-time cleaning jobs in Cresent Town to make ends meet. Now, only Sarah still cleans part-time.

If they won the #DECA gems, they would get a new website. “I made it. It’s very ugly. I never finished it,”  says Lewis.

Quattro4Ragazze owners Carmelo and Enza Lorefice have also been nominated as a #DECAgem by many people.

Gay Stephenson went by their family-run Italian restaurant at 1792 Danforth to ask them what they’d do with the prize, should they win. This is what they said: https://youtu.be/2Wgrvwcgvxw

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