Our latest collaboration is with Etta Loves, the range of sensory muslin squares featuring prints designed with an expert in children’s vision to support babies’ visual and cognitive development. We spoke to founder Jen Fuller about the highs and lows of launching her own business and what might be next.
What was your background before launching Etta Loves – had you always hoped to run your own business?
'I’ve spent the past 20 years working in a media agency, mostly client service and media planning. I’ve loved every minute but have always been searching for an idea good enough to take a chance and start something for myself, to afford me the flexibility and freedom around my family.'
What was the reality of launching that business like?
'It certainly opens up a to-do list that you could never have imagined when you take the plunge with your own business. From the financial accounting and navigation of anything to do with taxes, to the manufacturing and product development, which was all completely new to me. One wobbly moment was signing off production of a muslin in a colour which I thought would come out Ferrari red, but in fact came out the precise colour of blood - that was a little flooring and rather pricey. But then there are the highs - receiving the first shipment of our reversible sensory playmat (our first non-muslin product) and on a more regular basis getting incredible feedback from customers about how well our products “work” to give them moments of calm and how amazing it is to see the wonder on their babies’ faces as they stare at our patterns.'
Why was it important to you to have the blog element on the Etta Loves website – talking about the realities of having small children honestly?
'It’s a hard balance being a brand and a mum and all realities that two tiny humans bring so it’s important to me to show the human, personal side of Etta Loves. After all, the business was inspired by my now 3 year old, Etta, and Uma (7 months) is my chief product tester. I would hate for people to think that I’m living the dream with two perfect children and a business to boot, when the reality is that it’s tough and some days it’s really tough and horribly unproductive. On my social channels I’m very unedited, so people definitely get to see the highs and lows of running a business in the cracks between parenting, working and life in general.'
'It certainly wasn’t a prerequisite but the way that the business started out meant that it was formed using the expertise within my NCT group and local network, so everyone happens to be a mum. I was extremely lucky that I knew people in the right fields and it all slotted into place. Given that we were all trying to manage new motherhood, the expectations on deadlines were far more relaxed in those first 6 months which suited everyone.'
What are your plans for the future of the business?
'I am focusing on expanding the range of products this year, as opposed to the prints, and currently have four new items in pre-production. It’s important to me to continue to find moments in a parent’s day that could benefit from some sensory stimulation – so our new products have a focus on travelling, teething and playtime. For now I'll stay focused on visual (and cognitive) stimulation, from birth to around 9 months, as this is the age where the biggest changes are occurring so the stimulation has the greatest impact.'
Now you have baby Uma how different is it, running the business with two small ones?
Going from one child to two has been challenging. I never believed people when they said it was more than twice as hard, but I have to say I agree. Uma is a really chilled out little sweetie, but her arrival sent Etta into meltdown and it felt like we had a good few months where literally no one in the house was sleeping. Fast forward 7 months and things are far more settled, but obviously Uma is with me 24/7 so fitting in enough hours on the business can be challenging. I’m also on maternity leave as I’ve never left my media agency career, so it’s the norm that evenings and weekends are when things get done.'
How did the collaboration with Cowshed come about?
'I’ve always loved the Cowshed brand and ethos, so when I was contacted by the team after Etta Loves had come up in a development meeting I was beyond excited. It’s a wonderful fit as Baby Cow is all about the best for babies, as are we, and about wonderful moments of togetherness and exploration as parent and child.'
What are your favourite ways to relax and unwind?
'Being a parent to two under 3 has certainly shifted my perception of relaxation! But if it’s about being on my own then a lovely bath with a good book or else I’m a sucker for a facial and massage, and it’s even more of a treat than it’s ever been before. I feel guilty whenever I take time for myself away from the children, but like the saying goes “you can’t pour from an empty cup” so it’s important to take some time to recharge.'