An Interview with the boss of aden + anais
Thursday, 15 February 2018 | Mummy and Little Me
An Interview with the Boss of
The first year was hell. I was juggling babies, two at the time. I had the idea in 2003, but it took me until 2006 to get the product to market. Between those years I also had my third baby. I had a lot on my plate from a mother perspective. I was still working full time and then building aden + anais in the evening. I would go to my “real job” as I used to call it, get home from work around 6:30pm, spend time with my girls, and then when they were in bed at 8:30pm, I would start working on the business until three in the morning, sleep till around 7am then get up and do it all over again. It was very, very tough in the beginning! It was a conscious decision to choose sleep deprivation over financial hardships. I didn’t want to put that pressure on my family. My husband is an electronic engineer and a successful businessman, but he wasn’t a hedge fund husband and the money I made mattered. I also didn’t want to put unnecessary financial pressure on the business in the early stages. I was never anxious about getting a return or salary. It was a very calculated decision. The fact is by nature I am an insomniac. My husband would look at me and say, “What are you doing?” But to be honest I never craved more sleep. I didn’t ever think “This isn’t normal.” It was my normal. I did what I had to do; there was no other choice. That’s not to say I didn’t have my fair share of minor breakdowns, where I would cry myself to sleep, but I would always get up the next morning, shake it off and keep going.
The “aha!” moment was right before I had Anais, my first daughter. I went looking for muslin blankets, which you can get anywhere in Australia, and was astonished when I found that no one here had even heard of muslin. In Australia, every parent uses about 10 a day. They are as common and necessary as nappies. So when I realized they didn’t exist here, I had my sister send some over from Australia for me to use with Anais. It was at that point that I realized that every Australian can’t have this wrong, and that if I introduced them to American parents, they would love them too.
I was so pleased to find that UK mums were also looking for soft and beautiful baby essentials. They fell in love with our brand, and so did influencers—that was 6 years ago now. The UK knew muslin, as musy squares have been a part of parenting for a long time there. So educating UK parents on the benefits of muslin was not as difficult as it was for me to do in the US.
I would like to say Prince George being wrapped in an aden + anais swaddle when he left the hospital was perfectly orchestrated by us, but we had nothing to do with it. The Duchess of Cambridge just went into a store and bought it herself. You couldn’t even put a value on what that meant for the company in terms of brand awareness on a global scale.
There are many differences between the US and UK markets from fashion to current events, but the desire for mums to give their babies the best is the same. I myself love the European aesthetic and always look to Europe for trend and design inspiration.
I have a very vivid memory of myself at about 18 months into building the business, when I was sleeping four hours a night and hadn’t washed my hair for 15 days. This one morning I had my hair in a greasy, slicked back ponytail because I was about eight days past being able to wear it down, and I looked at myself in the mirror and realized how ridiculous it was that I couldn’t find the 30 minutes I needed to wash it. I promised myself that I would finish working on the business by 2:30am that night and wash my hair. Fast forward to 3:30am, and I head into the bathroom before bed and look in the mirror only to see the greasy-haired girl staring back at me. I had a very dramatic breakdown. I think I actually fell on the bathroom floor crying and then went to bed again with unwashed hair. I do bounce back quickly though, as I got up the next morning shook it off and headed to work with my greasy hair again. Happy to report on day 16, I found the time to finally wash it.
As for high points, it will always be a highlight whenever I see a little one using an aden + anais product, whether it’s Prince George, Blue Ivy, or a little baby on the subway in Brooklyn. That was my dream: to make products that are truly useful and beautiful, and seeing that come true is pure magic. I also cherish the wonderful letters and emails I get from mums who use the product and love it, and also mums who have sick babies with heart diseases and cancer who use the blankets as security during treatment. Penning to me when you're going through that in your own life, saying that the product was a source of comfort to your child, is pretty extraordinary, those mums are absolutely my heroes.
Working with Disney is a dream. What I love about this collaboration is that we’re able to bring these iconic characters, characters that mean so much to generations of people, and translate them beautifully into practical items, with an aesthetic that is true to who we are at aden + anais, that will become a part of peoples’ lives. These creations are going to be snuggled with, swaddled up, loved and used by little ones all over, and that’s a great feeling.
Thank you, we love them too. I have always known that I wasn’t a design expert, so I never pretend to be one. My strengths are my instinct and my decision making, so I work with people who are great at design and make sure I let them do their jobs. But yes, I am very much involved in all final design decisions because it’s important to me that we stay true to the design vision I’ve had since day one of aden + anais.
Part of what I love so much about my job is that there truly is no such thing as a typical day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We have 92 employees, globally.
I struggle every day with balancing my commitment to both my family and my business. I try not to convolute the two. When I’m with my family, I am 100% committed to them, and when I’m working on my business, I am 100% committed to that. And I have learned to make peace with the fact that there is only one of me and all I can do is my best.
I am a handbag girl, so some of the beautiful changing bags would be my pick, especially because they’re perfect for popping in one of our swaddles or musys when you’re on the go.