“Saving the world one person at a time” is how a friend and employee describes Heidi Bertino-Daum, 38, a Naperville resident and business owner. She abruptly switched careers and decided she wanted to do more for the environment as well as help people with mental and physical disabilities.
Bertino-Daum is the owner of Go Green Baby, an eco-friendly store opened in April of 2012. It features everything from cloth diapers and toys painted with water-based paints to organic bath-and-body products and re-usable lunch containers.
A native of the East Coast who grew up outside of Philadelphia, Bertino-Daum attended Penn State from 1994 through 1999 and earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and anthropology, followed by a master’s degree also in special education.
“I can’t explain the anthropology other than it was something that was an interest of mine,” she said. “I got a job as a special education teacher in a self-contained classroom. We had moved to Woodridge and then to Bolingbrook and finally to Naperville. I worked in District 45 in Villa Park, and then I came here to District 204.”
Bertino-Daum spent 10 years with the Indian Prairie Schools District but found that she became more disappointed with “a lack of support for employment options” for special education students once they graduated.
“I felt there weren’t a lot of options for people, and I decided I wanted to change that if I could — even in a small way,” she said. “My husband and I talked it over and felt that retail was the way to go. We wanted to be able to offer positions for young adults to work the sales floor or the back room. In terms of the eco-friendly products we offer — that was the easy part. I was doing that already.”
Bertino-Daum admits that launching a retail business after a successful educational career was “a bit of a leap,” but she believes offering eco-friendly products for kids as well as adults reflects a trend that has already begun and is likely to continue.
“I was familiar with a number of products as I had researched things for my two girls myself, and overall the merchandising has been easy for me,” she said. “I talk a lot with sales reps and go to the Merchandise Mart, and receive recommendations from friends and customers. I do a lot of research.”
Bertino-Daum said she understands the difficulty mothers face when shopping with infants and elected to offer free gift wrapping and curb-side delivery service for those who shop online.
“People can order items online, and we send them an email when things are ready, and they can just pull up in their car and we’ll bring the items out to them,” she said. “During busy times, we’ll do deliveries to the car maybe four times a day, and people say they really appreciate the service.”
Through a former colleague, Bertino-Daum employs a woman with disabilities who has worked for her since the store opened. Naperville resident Carla Romain, who works part time at Go Green Baby, said that Bertino-Daum is making a difference.
“I like to say about her that she is saving the world one person at a time,” Romain said. “I met her when she was a young woman, and she has now grown into this amazing person as she reaches middle age, and I’m proud of her. I feel Heidi is honest and very well-intentioned — she goes out of her way to help others. She has great interpersonal skills, and I feel with her educational background, she probably has some psychology training that helps her deal with people and her business.”
Bertino-Daum said she and her husband chose to live in Naperville because of the school system and “the sense of community you have here.”
“We live in a really great neighborhood and living here has been a great experience — both as a teacher and a business owner,” she said. “I’m proud of our community and the support it gives to local businesses.”