Raegan Moya-Jones is an Australian who has lived in New York for 18 years. From her kitchen she created the baby brand aden + anais which is internationally recognized, acclaimed and loved by celebrities the world over.
I’m originally from Australia, but have spent the last 18 years of my career in New York City. When I was expecting my first daughter, I was living here in New York, very far from home, and preparing the way that new mums do, nesting. We tend to stock up on all of the things that brought us comfort when we were young, things that we saw our mums and in my case sister using on their babies, and for any Aussie mum to be, a stack of muslin swaddles would be the first thing on that list.
I looked all over New York – a city where you can find absolutely anything – and there wasn’t a piece of muslin in sight.
At the time, I wasn’t an entrepreneur. I didn’t have aspirations of owning a business. In fact, my most recent boss had told me that I didn’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my body. I was working in research sales at The Economist, and I was good at what I did and was successful. But in the back of my mind, I knew that the little voice telling me that I could make American mothers fall in love with muslin swaddles was right, and I decided to give it a try.
This is the part where I walk right in and turn in my resignation, right?
I started aden + anais as an additional full-time job, one that I worked on at night in my kitchen after my girls were in bed and I’d worked a full day at my “real job.” I survived on a few hours’ sleep every night. I went way too long without washing my hair. And I believed from that very first day that what I had in my kitchen was the makings of a 100 million dollar business.
How long did you have the idea for this business and why did you decide to start aden + anais?
The entire brand was inspired by necessity. I knew that if mothers in America had the kind of swaddles that mothers in Australia did, if they realized that this one piece of fabric had multiple uses and would become indispensable after having their baby, they’d fall in love with it. And for whatever reason, I thought that I could work out a way to make that happen.
Why do you think your brand has been so popular in the United States?
Ultimately, we all want the same things when it comes to our children: to know that we’re making good choices for them, that we’re bringing products into our lives that we trust, and that the things in our lives feel authentic and true to who we are. You can’t fake any of that, and our brand is popular not because we have a massive advertising budget – we absolutely don’t – but because we’ve been focused on doing what we do best. We make beautiful, useful, high quality products that we’d want in our own homes. We make things well. We make things to make life easier for parents and caretakers. And we make them stylish. We owe our success to every parent who loved our product and told their pregnant friends, who told their pregnant friends…
After your success in the USA how long afterwards did you start exporting?
That happened very quickly as I realized that outside of Australia no other country had heard of muslin swaddles either so I worked quickly to expand globally. I started the Australian office first in 2008, as that was easier in terms of staffing. My sister Paige ran the business and my mum Barbara was our bookkeeper. Then I expanded into the UK in 2009, Canada and Japan in 2010 and just this year we incorporated in China.
What has been your ‘Ah Ha’ / ‘I’ve made it in the USA moment’?
Having Adam Sandler photographed with his first baby, using one of our products…and then Gwen Stefani…and then Beyonce…that kind of truly authentic PR coverage, where celebrities were using our products not because we were sending it to them, but because their own friends and family had suggested it to them and purchased it for them, THAT was special.
What have been the hardest lessons in starting a business in New York and how does it differ to Australia?
I’ve only ever started a business in the US so I have no comparison to starting one in Australia. I would think that the challenges would be the same. It is a huge amount of work to start a business from scratch regardless of what country you start it in. Had I known going in how much work it would be I may not have dived in so willingly. That said, now I am out the other side I am very happy that I did.
Are there any particular manufacturing challenges you have faced and what tips would you give someone looking to start a product range?
It took a long time for me to develop the quality of muslin we are known for at aden + anais. Once I found our manufacturer, which in itself took me two years, there was endless back and forth until we perfected the fabric.
The biggest tip I have for someone trying to start a product range is to understand that you are signing up for hard work. It’s work that you can do, but you better want it and love it, because it’s not going to be easy and it certainly won’t be glamorous. I started aden + anais at my kitchen table, and worked it full time from 8.30pm through to 3am every morning on top of my full time job …while raising my daughters.
Everyone thinks “I can do that,” and the only thing that will set you apart is actually doing it. You don’t need to be an expert in everything. You need to have a vision you can stay true to, and enough humility to be able to surround yourself with people who are experts at what they do…and let them do it.
Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?
We have never spent much money on traditional marketing; in fact the first time we paid for any marketing placement was in 2014. I am a big believer in PR and have worked with the same PR agent, Kristina Junger Godfrey since back in 2008. She did an amazing job getting the word out on aden + anais. We are lucky to be a brand that people really connect with and because of that they are happy to spread the word for us. Most of our success has come from word of mouth, mums telling other mums that they have to use aden + anais.
Do you have any mentors, and how have people been with sharing information and their networks?
I have never had a mentor and I am not much of a networker. There have definitely been people over the years that I have gone to for advice. The most significant being my first private equity firm, Seidler Equity Partners. Bob and Matt Seidler were instrumental in the early stages in guiding me on how to build a successful healthy business. I definitely owe a lot of my business success to them.
What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?
Make sure you believe in your idea 150% otherwise the amount of work you need to do to get it off the ground will derail you if you don’t. Know what you know and what you don’t know and fill in the gaps with people who do. Trust your instincts, mine still guide me and to this day have yet to let me down.
Your first product was a baby swaddle. Why do you think that Americans didn’t use swaddles before you introduced the product?
I think that plenty of Americans knew about swaddling, but thought it was too difficult, or were using entirely the wrong kind of blanket to do it. Cotton muslin is really the ideal fabric for a swaddle. It’s soft, and breathable, and has the right amount of stretch to make sure you can get it right. A muslin swaddle was designed to make swaddling as easy as possible. It has a natural stretch, it gets softer with every wash, and it’s intentionally oversized, to make it easier for parents to get a nice secure swaddle.
What is next for aden + anais?
We always have lots of things in the queue, which is why I’m still excited to come to work after ten years. I can tell you that we plan to keep growing globally, to continue to innovate and make great products for families around the world, and that I plan to still be here steering the ship for the foreseeable future.
Do you have an offer or promo code you would like to share with AWNY members?
I have set up a 20% code for your members at www.adenandanais.com if they enter AWNY2016 at checkout. The code will be valid through November 1st.
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