Welcome back to Mama You Can, a series started to share inspirational stories of Mama’s who have changed career direction, started their own business or negotiated a more flexible role to fit in with family life.
This week we hear from Jen who not only runs her gorgeous business selling sensory baby muslins but also has a just about a full-time job and a little girl, Etta. I’ll hand over to Jen to tell her story…
Mama You Can: Jen from Etta Loves
Hi! I’m Jen, mum to 2-year-old Etta and founder of Etta Loves – the worlds first sensory baby muslins. Alongside my business, I work for a media agency 4 days a week, something which I’ve done since I was 19.
When did you decide to start your business? What inspired the idea?
I was on maternity leave (yes I’m a cliché) when I noticed then 6 or so week old Etta staring at a black and white jumper I had on whilst I was feeding her. I had a muslin flung over my shoulder but she was totally enthralled by my top. Something clicked right then and the idea that muslins should be scientifically designed to complement and stimulate babies’ visual and cognitive development, as well as doing all the things a muslin does so well. So I went to a baby sensory class that morning, funnily enough, and ran the idea past my NCT friends and they loved it. I had a designer and our orthoptist (aka our expert in children’s vision) onboard 4 weeks later and I launched 4 months after that initial spark. Etta was, and still is, the inspiration, hence the name of my business.
Was it a quick decision or something you thought about for a long time?
It was all very spontaneous from the moment of having the idea, and I hadn’t really thought ahead to the implications of running a business, or even whether people would like the concept, but it felt exciting and I instinctively believed that it was a good idea. It’s been just over a year since launch and the same amount of time back at work from maternity leave, and realistically I suspect I’ll have a difficult decision to make in the next couple of years.
Now you have taken the plunge how are things going?
It’s gone better than I ever let myself imagine. When people see the muslins they like the patterns, and when they understand the science that has gone into them they love the idea. But it’s a whole new level when they actually try them out with their babies and see the magic in action. I will never tire of receiving messages telling me that mums have been able to have a proper breakfast, lingering shower or managed to get their usually un-putdownable little ones to go down for a chunk of time because of the distraction and enjoyment our muslins provide.
How are you finding managing a business, a family and also a full-time job?
I’m not going to lie, it’s tricky. The thing I miss is having any time to just sit in front of the sofa and do nothing, and not have a crazy amount of things swirling around my head that I should be doing instead. Returning to work was tough, as I’m sure a lot of new mums find it. The guilt was deafening but as soon as I realised that firstly Etta was enjoying and benefiting from nursery and secondly that the sole reason for me returning to work and juggling Etta Loves in the evenings is to get to that elusive place of control of my time I found some peace with it all. Ultimately I’m doing it for her, for us, so that perhaps one day I have the flexibility to be at the school gate or have a decent chunk of the school hols with her. I also have a second little person due in July so life will once again be spun out of control, but will no doubt give me even more reason to work my arse (and bingo wings and mum-tum..) off for our future.
What advice would you give to other Mama’s who are thinking about making a change to their working life?
I think you need to listen to your heart. Personally, I was astounded by how my attitude to work changed after having Etta. Having previously been extremely career focused I just didn’t have that spark anymore, but having a fledgeling business gave me that passion and drive, which I have been then able to reapply to my full-time job too. I think my advice would be to be realistic about what you need out of work – is it mostly financial security, self-improvement and development, or even the social element, and once you understand that you can keep checking in with what you’re doing to make sure it is still delivering what you need it to and making you happy too. I don’t think there is such a thing as the perfect situation for a lot of us, but identifying the compromises you’re happy to make is a good starting point.
You can find Etta loves on Instagram
Mama You Can will be back next Thursday, until then why not read some of the other stories…
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