Parents in business: Jen of Etta Loves

Your name and age Jen Fuller, 40 (but 39 as it happened in lockdown so doesn’t count)

Tell us about your family… I have two girls, Etta, 4, who is the inspiration behind Etta Loves and Uma who is 2.  Together with my husband, we live by the seaside in Essex and are getting a puppy in the new year!

What is your business and what does it offer? Etta Loves was created to turn everyday essentials into sensory sensations, by using the science of what babies can and can’t see to create clever and stunning patterns. The result is that babies are mesmerised and supported in their visual and cognitive development, whilst parents benefit from a priceless moment of calm. We have a wide range of baby essentials from muslins to playmats to comforters.

What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?  I worked for a media agency in London for 18 years, planning advertising campaigns. I started Etta loves when Etta was born but remained in my media role for a further 2 years until Etta Loves needed all of me. Because I had built the business alongside what I was already doing it didn’t feel too big of a transition, quite seamless actually and a lot of fun.

When did you launch? November 2016, when Etta was 8 months old. 

How did you get started? Sat on my sofa with a heap of mucky muslins by my side, I realised that 4-week old little Etta was staring at my top. It was the first thing I’d noticed her actively trying to focus on and unsurprisingly it was a simple black and white pattern.

After a month of trying to rotate black and white clothing to capture her attention (which got both difficult and boring) this got me thinking; why aren’t the most seen items by babies designed to stimulate them and capture their attention? And why wouldn’t you use medical knowledge of babies’ visual development to make them the best that they could be at doing this? So I set up Etta Loves to bring sensory magic to everyday baby essentials.

What’s your favourite thing about running your own business? I love the variety of my role, that every day is different! It makes for such an interesting week. Probably my favourite element of my job is the creative process, I love planning what’s next. I also love seeing the reviews and our products out and about on the streets.

What’s the thing you least enjoy about running your own business? I find the financial admin and accounts needs a lot of time and focus, and can be a challenge to make space for in my day.

What has worked well about your business? It meets a need that every parent has on multiple levels, it is an essential product made better.  It is utterly unique and has a clear USP.

What’s been your biggest business mistake?  How did you deal with it? For an early design, I chose a Ferrari red colour and when it turned up it wasn’t the colour I wanted. I had ordered several hundreds of units of something I wasn’t happy to sell.  Originally, we had 3 age ranges and this was for the 4 – 8 months age range.  But this  mistake made me naturally simplify the range to the two age ranges.  It gave me the clarity to simplify our offering and go back to the drawing board.  I donated and sent the stock out to a pregnancy twinning charity to swaddle babies for parents in need in Malawi, Africa.

How do you fit in work with the family? For me it’s about having clear boundaries between work and home life. I like to be fully present wherever I am. So when I’m working, I’m working and when I’m home with my children, I’m home with my children, even though it is tempting to reach for the phone as it never stops!

Are you working towards a financial goal for your business? Not specifically, although it is important for me to see a progression and the numbers going in the right direction.  I have forecasts to make sure the numbers are going in the direction I would like but in the current climate it’s very hard to know what next year looks like, let alone 5 years.

Would you ever give up your business to do something else? No! Etta Loves fulfils everything I want career-wise in my life right now.  It is hard having the girls at home during the week too, but it is everything I have always wanted.  It is an incredible journey and I feel very fortunate to be able to have this as my job.

Do you have an exit strategy? No I don’t as there are so many unknowns. I do have a dream to hand it over to Etta one day but she is only 4 and I may be too exhausted to keep it going that long!

Have you had your ‘I’ve made it’ moment?  Or when do you think it will come? No, I have had lots of moments of validation, i.e. our Cowshed collaboration, that was a huge moment for me that a brand like Cowshed was interested in collaborating.  I always believe the best is still yet to come!  We have a global collaboration to launch in the New Year which I can’t wait to talk about.

Where do you hope to be in five years time? Currently we are only in the UK but are working towards having more of a global presence. We are also planning more product categories to enable us to deliver sensory play & calm to more moments in the day. I also want to continue to work with like-minded brands to bring wonderful collaborations to market too.

Everyone we work with works flexibly – I always believe there is no such thing as work life balance, there is just life.  You have to do things you love which enable you to live.  Currently we have just taken on a VA who works flexibly around her two young children.  We love to employ and support mums who want to be home with their kids, as we are very much a family centred company and we think it’s important to support each other in any way we can.

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