We had a pleasure to meet an amazing woman, mum and entrepreneur – all in one! Founder of Etta Loves, Jen Fuller answered some of our burning questions about motherhood, setting up a successful business and plans for the future of Etta Loves.
Who is Jen Fuller?
I’m the founder of sensory baby brand Etta Loves and mother to two girls, Etta & her little sister Uma. I live in a sleepy town in Suffolk with my husband, two girls, my mum and our dog.
What’s the story behind Etta Loves?
When my first daughter, Etta, was 6 weeks old I noticed her staring intently at the black and white patterned jumper I was wearing whilst feeding her, ignoring the plain muslin over my shoulder, and feeding for longer as a result. I glanced from Etta to the jumper to the muslin and had my lightbulb moment, wondering why essential products that were in babies’ eyeline day in day out, weren’t being designed to create wonder for them.
I became fascinated by what Etta, and babies in general, could see and set out to recreate the magic on her face and developmental benefits of age appropriate patterns, by turning omnipresent baby items into sensory essentials using the wonder of science. Etta Loves launched 7 months later in October of 2016, the week that I returned to work..
Why is it so special?
What makes us unique is that every pattern we design uses the medical knowledge of what babies can see as their vision develops during their first year. This is the critical input that comes from our Orthoptist, Laura, and through our very own PhD student at The University of Sussex.
By inputting a precise range of scales based on average infant visual ability month by month, alongside shape preference research and optimum pattern spacing, we create the most effective sensory stimulation to support their development. It looks different to babies week after week as the patterns effectively come to life as their vision develops, and in the case of our 5+ month prints the colour intensity grows right up to their first birthday and beyond.
The result is a calm, mesmerised baby who is having their vision and brain development supported as they stare at our scientific prints, and some wonderful moment of calm for the parents.
How did you manage to build such a successful brand while raising two kids?
I think so much of it has been down to having such passion about what I’m building and putting out into the world, and the rest is sheer determination to give it my best shot and see what happens.
I’ve always had to really work hard to prioritise the tasks that will make the greatest impact to the business so as to not get distracted on things that take up every waking moment but aren’t as important, and I made the decision to outsource things that don’t need my touch on them – so fulfilment being the main one that I removed from my plate the moment that I could justify the additional cost. For the first 2 years I was running Etta Loves alongside working 4 days a week in a media agency, but that quickly became unsustainable as I was struggling with both the number of hours in the day and also keeping focus on either of my jobs to do either well.
The girls both love the fact that mummy has a business, Etta especially as she loves seeing her name on things and telling friends about it. It’s not easy though as I do feel a huge amount of guilt when my children tell me to “stop working as much” or “put my phone down” but the reality is that it’s extremely hard to switch off fully when it’s your own thing and that it’s success of failure is in your hands.
What advice would you give to mums who want to set up their own business?
I would say critically be sure that you’ve done the research to know that you’re bringing something to market, be it a product or service, that is genuinely unique in some way – so never done before (like Etta Loves) or something done better. This is because it’s so much more of an uphill battle if you’re fighting against an established brand from the get go.
I’d also say to accept all the offers of help, however small they might be, as it’s quite the learning curve when you have to do everything that a business needs to launch, grow and stay legal financially! So, for example, if you know an accountant ask them for some advice about the company set up, as certain things are hard or expensive to change once you’ve pressed the button.
Finally, be sure why you’re starting a business. Many people think that it’s exciting and flexible and might make them a lot of money, but the reality is that most small businesses don’t make it past 3 years, and flexibility is a bit of a false promise as your own business consumes every waking hour. But if you’ve got an idea you can’t stop thinking about, and set clear goals from day one so that you have something to keep you motivated and on track, you’ll be setting yourself up for a greater chance of success.
What’s the future for Etta Loves?
The $1m question. Well we are in the second year of our scientific partnership with The University of Sussex Baby Lab so will be using the results of our proprietary research with them to bring best in class products across current and new categories in the baby market.
We are launching our European hub in a few months time so will be looking to find new stockists across Europe and reach an exciting market that we haven’t been able to serve efficiently because of Brexit.
We are also having some very interesting conversations regarding potential brand partnerships, so I’m keeping everything crossed for those as they would be real pinch me moment for my small but mighty brand.