Jen Fuller, founder of Etta Loves, talks to us about motherhood, running a business, and the science behind her clever sensory essentials for babies.
Tell us about Etta Loves. Where did the idea come from and how did you come to launch the brand?
Etta Loves is a sensory baby essentials brand. We design alongside an orthoptist (aka an expert in infant vision) so that every pattern printed onto our range – of muslins, playmats, sensory strips, blankets, teethers and more – provides babies with the most appropriate visual experience to support their eye and brain development across their first year.
The idea came from my first daughter Etta, as when she was just 6 weeks old I noticed her captivated by a black and white jumper I was wearing whilst feeding her. She fed for longer and was far calmer as a result. As I glanced to the plain, very functional, muslin on my shoulder I had my lightbulb moment – why wouldn’t you make everyday essentials that are in a baby’s eye-line day in day out, support their visual development at the same time as being practical and the highest quality, and Etta Loves was born.
What is the science behind your amazing prints?
We work with our consultant orthoptist, Laura, and have a 3-year scientific partnership with The University of Sussex to ensure that we are designing using the latest research on how babies learn to see and what they like to look at as their vision progresses. We strive to bring the best possible visual experience to everyday baby essentials, in turn mesmerising babies, appropriately supporting their development and giving parents a well needed moment of calm as their baby stares contently.
And how are the prints designed?
We’ll start with a concept, so I’ll create a mood board driven by a trend in interiors or fashion, or on occasion driven by a new piece of scientific research. I then work closely with our designer, my NCT friend Shruti who has worked with me since the inception of Etta Loves, and using the input from our orthoptist and our PhD student at the university, we amend and refine the prints until they are optimum for the age range that we’re designing for (we split 0-4 months and 5-12 months in line with significant changes in visual ability).
The things we consider are the size and scale of the pattern, the spacing, babies’ shape preference and – for our 5+ month range – the colours. Every single mark and colour on our prints is deliberate to make it the best that it can be at delivering the right level of sensory support.
Tell us about your family…
Etta is now 6 and she has a little sister, Uma, who is 3. I live with my husband, the two girls, my mum and our dog Rigby. We all moved in together last autumn so it’s taken a little adjustment to be a family of 3 generations, but it’s a lovely experience for the girls, and my husband is most definitely a saint…
How do you juggle motherhood and running a business?
I’m not sure I do it successfully but I’m proud to be able to show the girls that I work hard and am passionate about what I do. They understand that when I’m working, if I’m not looking after them of course, they need to let me work, but I’ll always tell them how long I’ll be and try not to break that promise. I work from home so have flexibility around their school day, so can have impromptu hot chocolate dates with them and take them to their after school classes.
I do however need to get better at putting my phone down when I’m around them, as it’s addictive to see how much the sale was or who the email is from, but I am trying really hard to be all-in in the moment – whether that’s with my family or in work, but it’s a work in progress for sure.
Do you have any wise words for other mamas hoping to launch a brand?
I’d have to say the big one is to make sure you know your USP and make this your North star. The journey to build a business and a brand is so much harder if you don’t have a clear difference and purpose, so I’d always say keep coming back to why the world needs your product and how you’re going to do something differently or better.
What are the best bits and worst bits about motherhood?
I love watching my girls grow into their personalities and seeing their little brains take everything in and process the world around thing – it’s a truly remarkable thing to watch.
I do however find it hard to help them manage their emotions. Uma is a three-nager and Etta is 6 going on 16, so there are lots of tears some days (including from me) as I’m trying to be the best parent I can be but every week brings a new challenge… So the hardest bit for me is the self-doubt that I’m not doing a good enough job for them, even though we’re all just trying our best.
Proudest moment, since launching Etta Loves?
It has to be the launch of our Keith Haring collaboration last March. It was a dream come true to bring his joyously iconic artwork to a new generation, rescaled and re-coloured to make it a sensory experience too. When the Keith Haring Foundation trusts you to carry on such an influencial artist’s legacy, it means a huge amount.
What’s your all-time favourite Etta Loves product?
That’s like asking me to pick a favourite child! I love our playmats as they make tummy time so much easier (and look incredible too) but I absolutely adore our new Plant Print Sensory Strip, especially in this gorgeous springtime weather. It’s such a versatile product and every time I see it out and about in someone’s pram or get tagged in a post where it’s helping to make a nappy change calmer or tummy time happier, it brings me a lot of joy.
And finally, what’s next for Etta Loves?
We have such an exciting year ahead. We’re launching into two new categories in the summer and are talking to some incredible brands about collaborating together. We’re also working on some innovative proprietary research projects with The University of Sussex, so that’s always an incredible learning experience for me and the team, and one that will continue to shape our range as we learn more and more about how infants see the world.
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