My Early Hour: Jen Fuller, founder of Etta Loves

Jen Fuller and Etta

Her days are spent working at a busy media agency, and by night (after getting the toddler in bed) Jen Fuller runs her business Etta Loves – the first sensory baby textile company. We talk mornings, work life, motherhood and the juggle…

Jen Fuller, 37, lives in Walthamstow with her husband Chris and daughter Etta (15 months).

What’s your home like?
It’s a Victorian terrace on a busy road, which we are slowly doing up.

What time are you up in the morning?
Generally around 6.45 when Etta wakes.

What wakes you up?
Etta shouting random words through the monitor.

How do you feel?
I used to be a morning person but that was when I had a choice, now I always wake a little groggy and in need of more sleep.

What do you do first thing?
Leap in the shower and get ready as quickly as possible. Chris does the nursery drop off so I have to get into work work (not Etta Loves) asap, four days a week.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Chaotic, Cuddles, Crying.

Tea or coffee?
I go nuts with full on caffeine so a herbal tea or Earl Grey if I need a pick up.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
One big juggle of working in a media agency and running a fairly big team, coupled with dropping off orders and answering Etta Loves emails in my lunch break. Then a sprint to nursery, the joys of trying to feed and bath a tired toddler, and finally when Etta is down for the night I get properly stuck into Etta Loves – fulfilling orders, emailing wholesalers and keeping our social media going. Then bed.

What’s your workspace like?
At home I’m basically working in our stockroom (aka the spare room). It’s not very conducive to creativity but it reminds me of how far we’ve come since launch so is oddly motivating.

Where is Etta when you’re working?
Etta is at nursery four days a week and then on Mondays we spend the day together. This is unsurprisingly my least productive day on the business as she needs fairly constant entertainment/ supervision/ nose wiping.

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Tell us about your business…
I launched Etta Loves in November last year. I was sat feeding six-week old Etta when I noticed she was staring at my black and white patterned jumper. I then glanced at the plain muslin on my shoulder and something clicked, I wanted to take baby products that are omnipresent and make them not only functional but also developmental and stylish too. So Etta Loves is the first sensory baby textile company – producing muslins, washcloths and bibs designed specifically to complement babies’ visual and cognitive development. I work with an orthoptist (or specialist in children’s vision) to ensure that the colours and patterns are in line with normal visual development in babies. This means that the range is split between 0-4 months and then 5+ months.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
Because I run Etta Loves in the spaces in between my job and daily life, it can be a struggle to find the motivation. I also am terrible at beating myself up about all the things I haven’t done but could or should be. But the reality is that I’m the only one who knows about my deadlines so I need to be a bit kinder to myself.

What makes it all worthwhile?
I am a total cliché of a new(ish) mum who wants to have a future where I’m in control of my working week. So that’s my overall motivation. Personally, I want us to live by the seaside and have a dog, so that will be far easier if I am able to run my own business. And I guess that professionally I’ve received such incredible and overwhelming feedback since launch that I am genuinely excited to see how far this business can go!

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
I work with our designer and the orthoptist as and when new ranges are being developed, and a good friend I met at NCT is also involved with the business development side of things – so reaching out to potential stockists and thinking about new product lines. Everything else is on me– so all the fulfilment, all the social media, the accounts (bleugh) and just so many fiddly bits that you don’t give a moment’s thought to until you’re in the thick of running a business.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I love having people around to talk to about ideas, as whilst I’m confident in most of my decisions, it’s still totally nerve-wracking and I’ve made a couple of clangers.

At my day job, it’s a buzzy open plan office so that feeds that side of me, whilst at home it’s generally very solitary – but in a way that’s not terrible as I work best when I can be totally focussed.

What’s the secret to career success?
I’m not sure I know just yet. I suspect it’s a combination of passion, hard work and an openness to new ideas, challenges and ways of working. I also think that being kind, in general, goes a long way.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yes, yes and yes. I certainly don’t balance it all successfully. I don’t have much me time, I don’t see my friends as much as I’d like to and poor Chris hardly gets a look in, unless you count blobbing in front of the TV as a relationship! I make a real effort to be present when I’m with Etta, as it’s so easy to get distracted by technology and my ‘to-do’ list, but she’s growing up so quickly so I don’t want to miss it. I do need to look at a few elements of my life and make some changes, now that I feel like I’m getting into some kind of swing of what needs to be done across work, business, family life etc.

Describe an ideal weekend…
It would be a heady mixture of a lazy start in our pjs and Etta not throwing muesli at me, followed by a decent walk to both get some fresh air and meeting friends at the pub at the end of it. The night would be a happy bathtime then an Indian takeaway and good crime thriller on the telly.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
The Maldives. I am craving sand, sun and sleep at the moment and every picture I see of the Maldives look idyllic, although perhaps not with a toddler…

Visit the website: Etta Loves

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