Jen Fuller is the founder of innovative sensory baby brand Etta Loves, the brand that transforms baby essentials into sensory sensations using the wonder of science, to support babies’ eye and brain development and give parents many priceless moments of calm.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I had a successful career in advertising for the best part of 20 years and wasn’t looking to start my own business. But after having an idea for something that I couldn’t believe didn’t already exist, I simply had to give it a go. I ran Etta Loves as a side hustle for two years but it became a challenge to run it alongside my full-time job and family, so I decided to take the plunge.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
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 felt the overwhelm of that feed lift.
I glanced from Etta to the monochrome jumper to the muslin and had my lightbulb moment. 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 by turning omnipresent baby items, starting with muslins, into sensory essentials using the wonder of science. Etta Loves launched six months later.
How did you achieve awareness?
I have relied heavily on social media, especially given that our products are very noticeable and striking. And because they really do ‘work’, people naturally want to talk about Etta Loves and show them in action, which is hugely helpful in spreading the word and attracting customers. We have also run social adverts since the second year of business, which continues to drive traffic to the site.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Until now it’s been a combination of using my own savings as a loan to business and taking advantage of the easy capital available through the likes of PayPal & Shopify for any minor shortfalls in cash flow, but it’s absolutely crunch time now and I’m really feeling the growing pains, which is both terrifying and electrifying at the same time.
What are the key successes?
Having the only Global baby licence for the artist Keith Haring’s work and bringing his art to a new generation is a big one for me. Working with Peanuts and Cowshed were also huge highs for me personally. And in the past two weeks we’ve announced that we’re now stocked in John Lewis and JoJo Maman Bebe, adding them to our many indie stores and Selfridges as stockists. It’s also been growing a team of flexible, female experts to support me and Etta Loves. Everyone is so passionate about what we’re building – and in turn I want to keep supporting their growth and balance. The one that I’ll always come back to is making our customers repeatedly happy with their choice to buy from us, and seeing the joy and calm on the babies’ faces.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
We’re in the middle of a growth challenge, but that’s a good one to have. Prior to this manufacturing has always been tricky for me as I had no useful background to help me navigate it. For the past three years though we’ve had the best factory partners and have the confidence that our product is the best it can be in terms of organic cotton and quality of fabrics and design.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We are launching our European hub in the next month, to enable us to deliver to customer post Brexit, which is a huge step for us to enable growth in new markets. We have several products and ranges in development, taking our visual magic into new categories too. It’s all about keeping our eyes straight ahead and driving innovation and growth for the business but in a slow and steady way.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I’m not sure I’d encourage anyone to be an entrepreneur if they aren’t passionate about becoming one already. It’s the opposite of an easy route, it’s overwhelming, underpaid and just a lot of hard work 24/7, but on the flip of that it’s exciting, flexible, positively challenging and you are in control of your destiny to a certain extent. So, if you have an idea you can’t stop thinking about and your traits lend themselves to being an entrepreneur then go for it!
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Be full of belief in your brand, product, and your own abilities – you need to believe that it can and will work or other people won’t either.
Be unique – find something that no one else is doing – or do something far better than exists. Running your own business is hard but it’s made so much harder if you’re unoriginal and following someone else’s lead.
Keep it as a side hustle for as long as you can – the regular income and routine will really help keep you going and focus your mind on how much you really want to make it work.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
My mum has always pushed against the tide and is a huge source of daily inspiration to me.
My daughters Etta & Uma have literally inspired me to make products that they want to look at and play with and continue to show me the world through the eyes of a child, which is an incredible thing.
My school friends – they are my biggest cheerleaders and always lift me up if I’m struggling.
A huge business inspiration is Marcia Kilgore, the founder behind FitFlop, Bliss and most recently Beauty Pie. She is so full of passion and purpose, so listening to her speak always gets me back to my ‘why’
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
‘There is no such thing as work/life balance, there is just life’ – this ring in my ears often as I juggle the business and everything else, as if work doesn’t fit with everything else it’s reducing your love of life so needs to change. It’s a good saying to force you to inspect everything about your business or job and make sure it is adding to your life, not detracting from it.
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