We’re getting up close and personal with mothers who are savvy innovators and businesswomen and finding out their secrets to success. This time, we got the scoop from Raegan Moya-Jones, Co-Founder and CEO of Aden + Anais — you know, the company that makes those adorable muslin swaddle blankets that are so popular. They were even seen on the royal baby!
Tell us how you started Aden + Anais and what it's all about.
I'm Australian, and my daughter, Anais, was born in the US. i was looking around for muslin blankets like there are back home, and no one knew what I was talking about! I thought, How can all those Aussie moms have it wrong? The great thing about muslin is the breathability of the fabric. You don't want to overheat your baby! I think muslin is the ideal fabric for keeping your baby warm but not too warm.
Once we perfected the fabric quality and strength of it, I realized I don't have to stay pigeon-holed to just blankets. I can create a whole lifestyle company based around muslin. Now, people love our brand and what we do — we have products like our Serenity Star and a skin care line now. We have very devoted customers and retailers who know that what we produce is great quality.
What are your top three pieces of advice for women looking to start their own business?
Have an idea and really believe in it. Then find a way to go for it. The biggest mistake people make is having an idea and talking themselves out of giving it a go. For me, I would rather try and fail than watch someone else do it. That would have killed me! I went into it being okay with failing. I'm a calculated risk-taker.
Make sure you have a support network around you. I did lose friends because I went from being an available friend to not even having a half-hour to wash my hair. Have a partner who's someone who'll step up for you when you're getting dragged around. If my husband wasn’t the type of man he is and wasn't prepared to help on every level, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.
Listen to what people say — you don’t know everything — but always go with your gut. If you don't, you usually get bitten in the butt.
What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge goes back to not having enough time to wash my hair. I had bitten off way more than I could chew. I'm lucky and cursed to be an insomniac. I was still working full time when I started the business. I chose sleep deprivation over poverty. I worked at The Economist during the day, and when my girls would go to bed is when my Aden + Anais day would start. I'd go to bed at 3 or 4 in the morning and wake up at 7 to start my day again. For 2 ½ years, I lived on three to four hours of sleep a night. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. There were times I was curled up in ball, saying, "What am I doing?"
What was your biggest joy?
It was probably the first time I saw someone I didn’t know walking down the street with one of our blankets. Now, I still get a buzz out if it, especially when travel to London and Paris. To me, it was a personal thing I wanted to prove to myself that I could do. And now, it's a successful business that people know and love, that employs 60 people in the US. Other fun parts are the wonderful letters and emails I get from mums who use the product and love it and also moms who have sick babies with heart diseases and cancer who use the blankets as security during treatment. Penning to me when you're going through that in your own life, and saying that the product was a source of comfort to your child is pretty extraordinary.
What inside scoop do you have that entrepreneurs never tell you about starting a business?
If you talk to any entrepreneur they’ll tell you that everyone thinks they're rolling around in 100 dollar bills — but they're probably not! I still make less money today than I did when I worked at The Economist. Be prepared to make sacrifices. People see you and think it looks so easy, unless they're there at the beginning to see what all goes into it.
Do you think that being a mother makes you a better businesswoman?
Absolutely. But I can only speak about being a mother that has a business about being a mother — don’t know about running a finance business. What we do, without a doubt, it’s what drives us and makes us successful in my mind.
What are you working on now that you're excited about?
We have a lot of new products coming out. We also are very focused on international business — we now have offices in London, Toronto, Tokyo and Sydney. We have a big international focus now and an amazing growth in international markets. It's interesting see people who don’t speak the same language as you embracing your products.
There's also the Swaddle Love Foundation. A few years back, my husband and I looked into adopting baby. I was told I was too old to adopt baby, and I asked about going through orphanages. I did some research on orphanages and learned that in some places, the babies may be left alone for 22 hours in a crib without being held or touched. That can have negative effects on a child. They learn not to cry because they realize no one is coming — and that broke my heart. I wanted to help put more women in orphanages who were educated about babies being held, and Aden + Anais would help support it. Now we are working to ways we can more actively promote the Swaddle Love Foundation. I'm excited to help in a much bigger way, to solicit donations from people outside our organization.