Jen is the CEO & Founder of the innovative baby sensory brand, Etta Loves. She chats with B Magazine about the history of her brand
Before starting Etta Loves, I spent the best part of 17 years working on the planning team for various media agencies. I only recently ended that career, July 2019 in fact, to focus on my company. I genuinely loved my career but felt very acutely that it could not offer me the flexibility that I craved with two children, so when the business was at a stage where it required more attention than I could fit in around my job, I jumped at the chance to be my own boss.
When I had my first baby, I felt slightly overwhelmed at the amount of bright coloured plastic there was available for babies and couldn’t find enough high quality, stylish textiles for little Etta. I was also that parent who would buy something and then see someone with something better, so I would buy that too. I had far too much stuff but not much of it really stood out, as I just didn’t know where to look.
The company started with very much a light-bulb moment while I was on maternity leave with my first daughter, Etta. She was around six weeks old when I first noticed her staring intently at the patterned black and white jumper I was wearing whilst feeding her, ignoring the plain muslin flung over my shoulder. I found myself questioning why essential products that were in her eyeline day in day out, weren’t being designed to create wonder in her eyes. I became fascinated by what she, and babies in general, could and couldn’t see, so I set out to try to understand whether I could recreate the magic I saw on her face by turning omnipresent baby items into sensory essentials. Etta Loves was born. I relied heavily on my NCT friends to help me make sense of the idea, and one of them – Shruti – remains my designer to this day.
The potential for where I can take Etta Loves excites me – both growth from new retailers and markets and also through launching new ranges and products. I’m also enjoying the continuous learning that running a business demands, as I’ve had to step so far out of my comfort zone to get to grips with everything that I hadn’t realised was even a thing before now! There is certainly no hiding from the bits you don’t like or aren’t good at, you just have to learn and get stuck in.
Now that I’ve made the jump to focus 100% on the business, I try very hard to be head down, working at 100mph on my working days when both girls are in nursery. As soon as I pick them up I try and flip back into full-on mum mode, leaving my to-do list and stresses behind until they’ve gone to bed. There are obviously urgent things that come up fairly often that need me to fire off an email or make a quick call whilst I’m with them but then I’ll be as prompt as I possibly can. I think my relationship with my husband has taken the biggest hit, as so many of my evenings are spent sat next to him in front of the TV working away to catch up with my to do list and make the next day achievable.
With all of that going on, I could not do without our cleaner! I really can’t justify one given that I don’t pay myself from the business as yet but it’s an investment back into my time and my mental clarity as I’m very much a tidy house / tidy mind kind of person. I used to be quite the shopper when it came to clothes and shoes, but it’s amazing how quickly you can change your habits and focus in on what’s really important to spend your money on when money is a lot tighter.
I try to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing, as it’s more than likely to enable me and my children to have a nicer life. I find this helps me to reduce the inevitable mum guilt slightly.
As I said, I try be all-in to whichever situation I am in at the time – work or family – focussing as fully as possible. It is however easier said than done, as I remember returning to work after maternity leave for Etta and finding it nigh on impossible to think of anything but her. I’d lost my motivation for a job that I’d previously thrived on, and it took a lot of effort to find my mojo for it again (not helped by the distraction of Etta Loves waiting for me when I got home too). But now I feel like I am a lot better at wearing one hat well, not two hats on the wonk!