How One Mother Worked Two Full-Time Jobs to Launch Her Dream Company
Raegan Moya-Jones shook up the baby industry 12 years ago when she introduced the first muslin swaddle blanket to the U.S. She never set out to be an entrepreneur, but as a new mum living in New York after leaving Australia, she saw a hole in the market and decided to fix it herself. Today, to say her company, Brooklyn-based Aden & Anais, is a success story is an understatement. Newborn Prince George famously made his public debut bundled up in a bird-print swaddle blanket from Aden & Anais in 2013, as 10,000 orders were placed almost immediately. The brand is a favourite among celebrities like Beyoncé, who swaddled a baby Blue Ivy in its designs. But it wasn't always clothing famous infants and enjoying a booming business for the brand. Moya-Jones built the company from scratch in 2006—not leaving her full-time job until 2009—working her day job and running her startup at night, sacrificing sleep to make sure she continued to provide for her family. Below, the mother-of-four and CEO of Aden & Anais shares her incredible journey that demonstrates the power of determination and resilience.
Tell us about your first career path.
Before starting Aden & Anais, I was on a totally different career path and had never really thought of myself as an entrepreneur. I was at The Economist for 10 years in various sales roles, and prior to that, I was in pharmaceutical sales working for major corporations including Pfizer and Smithkline Beecham in Australia.
How did you make the transition from The Economist to Aden & Anais?
I started Aden & Anais while working full-time at The Economist. I would work a full day job, come home to my family, and start my second full-time job when the girls were in bed. I survived on a few hours of sleep every night, and I sometimes (too often) totally forgot about things like showering. It didn't happen overnight—I didn't walk right into that office when I started Aden & Anais and yell, "I quit!" Although, yes, I fantasised about doing that. I understood that it would take time, and more importantly a lot of hard work, and I was ready to give this idea both of those things.
Tell us about your current business.
I'm from Australia but was already living in New York when I got pregnant with my first daughter, Anais. I was doing what all new mums do—nesting, filling our apartment with everything I thought we would need for the new baby—but I couldn't find the one thing every mum in Australia had. And that was a simple cotton muslin swaddle. You can find anything in New York, but I couldn't find this? It was maddening. I ended up having my sister send me some all the way from Australia. I didn't just use them as swaddles—they were my burp cloths, a stroller cover, a changing pad when I was on the go, everything. I knew if American mums were introduced to this simple essential, they'd fall in love. And I decided to be the woman to make that happen. What started as a swaddle is now a full line of baby essentials, from clothing to crib sheets and everything in between, with each item being something that fits our initial vision: bringing something to market that brings comfort and ease and style to parents and caregivers and babies. My ultimate goal for the company is to create a true global lifestyle brand that becomes a household name and lives on long after my time at Aden & Anais has ended.
What have been the biggest challenges in your many careers and why?
When I split with my partner back in 2008, that was really tough. I definitely thought of throwing in the towel then. In the beginning, it was also really hard. I was sleep-deprived, and my friends and family were asking me to give up on the business because they were worried for me and my health. 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 realised 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 2:30 a.m. that night and wash it. Fast-forward to 3:30 a.m., 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.
Why is your current path suitable for your personality?
I am a big fan of the quote by John Burroughs, "Leap, and the net will appear." I think having this attitude will take you far—not just in business but in life. I have also always had an unwavering belief in myself and what I was doing, along with an amazing husband and support system who shared that same unwavering belief.
What's the most important thing you have learned in making a big change in your career life?
To be fearless, to listen to my instincts instead of to a long list of "shoulds" in my head. I have always had strong opinions and instincts, and they were worth listening to.
How did you move past the fear of change to pursue your passion?
The sales experience I had, the resilience from hearing "no" for so many years, helped me walk directly into any fear or doubt I experienced. I'm also very competitive with myself. I've never had a mentor or a role model, so I just aspire to be the best person I can be. And everything I do is done ultimately with the goal of being a good mum and role model for my daughters. They are what keep me going every day.
What are some mistakes you made along the way that ended up helping your success?
I have made a truckload of mistakes, but all of them have made the business stronger. None of them were ultimately detrimental to the point of doing permanent damage. There were hiccups, they were annoying, but they led me to where I am today.
What do you love most about your current role and why?
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 love that I have been able to create a workplace where everybody's voice matters, where everyone can absolutely be who they really are, and no one has to pretend to be what they are not—in short, the antithesis of my corporate experience. I always say, "We're not curing cancer, folks. We're just making baby blankets, so we might as well have some fun while we do it!"
When you look back and reflect on your previous career, do you have any regrets? Or are you still really happy with your decision?
Starting Aden & Anais definitely wasn't the easiest time in my life, but I can't see myself changing any of it, because every sleepless night and every greasy ponytail got me exactly where I am today. Looking back, it seems completely insane, and I'm not sure how I did it, but that's the point, right? I did it because I had no idea what I was doing. I hadn't obsessed over what I was sacrificing (sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, friendships, sleep, showers), because I was too focused on what I was building. I chose a direction, and I walked confidently toward it—even if my shoes didn't always match.