One brilliant, multi-million-dollar business. Four daughters. One incredible woman. Raegan Moya-Jones on business, babies and empire-building.When she had her first child in 2003, Raegan Moya-Jones, started scouring New York for the muslins mothers wrapped their babies in her native Australia. She failed to find anything up to the mark, and so, three years later, aden + anais was born. Now, these beautiful muslins have swaddled every little one from Prince George to Blue Ivy, and have just launched a limited edition Disney collection (muted and chic, not remotely garish, and utterly delightful).
You set up the brand in response to spotting a gap in the market – how on earth did you manage with small children?! What was the first year really like?
The first year was a blur. I had a small baby – the Anais in aden + anais – a full-time job in sales at The Economist, and a business that was growing quickly. I ran it from my kitchen table, after a full day of work, once the baby was in bed. I went days (probably too many days, actually) without showering. I survived on 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night. And recounting all this to you now, I couldn’t tell you how on earth I did it, but I did. I was so driven, I believed so fully in myself and in the idea, that there seemed like no other way.
Your brand vision has always seemed very clear and very ‘true’ – did you have experience or did you go with your gut instincts? And now – what’s the experience/instinct ratio?
I had experience in sales, but not in running my own business. I was completely oblivious to the challenges ahead, which helped me 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. But truly, 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.
How would you sum up your brand in three words?
Simplicity. Trust. Beauty.
How did the collaboration with Disney come about – tell us about working with such a hugely established iconic brand?
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 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.
The growth of aden + anais has been – by any standards – phenomenal. Did you ever anticipate this?
I knew when I started aden + anais that it was a good idea and that once mothers in the US were introduced to the magic of a good muslin swaddle, it would catch on. From the first day, I believed I had a $100 million dollar idea.
What have your highlights/challenges been? (Of course, everyone in the UK knows about your Prince George moment, even if they weren’t aware of the brand beforehand – did you notice a response in sales?)
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. When I was starting out, access to the capital I needed to keep pace with our growth was challenging…and I was learning to run a business as I was building it, a bit like flying a plane while it’s being built.
What do you think are the biggest challenges which face women in the business world (and yes, I regret that this is still an issue)?
There’s a significant need for meaningful leadership roles for women. You can’t reach for a position that isn’t there, or a position you don’t see. We know that gender parity in the workplace is good for men and women but there’s a notion that it’s somehow “more for women, less for men.” That’s not the case. We need workplaces that help women realize their ambitions, leadership that is gender balanced, and to be able to talk about this topic without feeling queasy. To be taken seriously in business, I had to start my own company. There weren’t enough men who believed in my ability.
This year, I participated in the International Women’s Day #PledgeForParity for so many reasons, but consider this: in 2015, the World Economic Forum predicted that the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133. My daughters – everyone’s children – deserve much better than that.
We hear a lot – too much – about the absence of women from positions of power, influence and financial prestige (of course in the UK, we also hear a lot about the class issue of the privileged male elite). As a woman who has succeeded who has one of those ‘seats’ – what can we do to change the status quo? Are you a fan of “leaning in”?
Echoing the above, yes, I lean in. And I have a partner who supports my ambitions and who has helped make it possible for me to achieve this level of success. I wouldn’t be able to lean in at this level if he weren’t an equal partner at home, and that’s a huge reason why women don’t step up. Many of us do want families and careers, and we want to be able to feel supported in both endeavors, and not judged in one area when we’re leaning into the other.
What would you tell yourself if you could go back to that starting point? What would you change?
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but they all got me to this place, so it might just be best to leave them as they were.
What advice would you give other women wanting to build a brand/business?I think a lot of people think they could do it – what marks out the ones who succeed?
Everyone thinks they can do it, but you need to actually do it! And don’t let perfectionism get in the way of progress. Things won’t be perfect immediately, and they don’t need to be. Pick a place to start, and get going.
You have four little girls – please tell us how you make it work?! Any genius tips (especially for Alex, who has just had her fourth little boy…) on the perennial work/family juggle? Do you ever feel you’ve achieved the right balance?
Alex, nobody has the right balance! Every working parent you see is riding a unicycle on top of a ball while juggling flaming torches. In other words, we all feel like we’re right on the brink of disaster. That’s okay. It’s okay to not be 100% perfect at everything. We have 24 hours in a day.
You do need to make sure you have the support you need – at home and at work – or it’s not going to work. You need to be able to say, “I need help,” and to take the help you need. When I’m home, I can be present in the moment because I have a team at work that I trust. When I’m at work, I can be all in because I know my girls are surrounded by love when I’m gone.
Some days, I’m a better mother than I am a businesswoman. Sometimes, I’m a better businesswoman than I am a mother. In the end, I’m showing my daughters (and you’re showing your children) the possibilities that exist in this life, and what it’s like to be ambitious and motivated and real. That’s a powerful thing.
Talk us through the average day – are you go with the flow or military routine?
I have two CEO roles: at the office and at home. We run a tight ship, because we have four girls and two dogs. Dinner is always at the same time. Baths are always at the same time. Children crave routine, and I need it for my personal sanity.
And how about your partner – how does he cope with the hours your business must demand – how do you make time for each other?
I’m lucky to be with someone who supports me, my ambitions, and my company 100%. There are good days and there are not-as-good days, but ultimately, we are on the same team, and my success is his success. He’s my equal partner at home – and is also an electrical engineer and a successful businessman – and I wouldn’t be able to put what I do into aden + anais without his support. Not every man is built for a relationship like ours, but it works for us.
And do you get any time for yourself?
Ha! Sure, I get five minutes here and there.
What advice would you give your own girls? Do you have a philosophy you hope to pass on?
I want them to treat people the way they want to be treated. That’s how I run this company, and that’s how I want them to move through the world.
I’m really interested in what you tell them about being a (very successful) working mama?
We live very close to the office, so they girls know exactly where I’m going and what I’m doing. They can pick out an aden + anais pattern when they see a swaddle in the park. They have a very tangible sense of what I’m doing and what it means for us as a family, and for the families who use our products. I hope that they see what I’ve built – and the work it has taken – and that it inspires them, helps them become fearless young women. Ultimately, everything that I do, I do for them. And it helps that they are surrounded with love all day long. If I’m not there, their father is, or the nannies they know and love. It might not be the most typical experience, but it’s our family experience, and it’s the only one they’ve ever known.
Do you think it’s easier or harder for girls today than it was for you? (In terms of school/self/work. I worry very much for girls growing up in the age of social media – there’s no escape. I’m also very aware of the pressures on young minds (and bodies).)
Of course. God, I’m so glad none of this existed when I was young. It’s a more complicated world now, definitely. I think it’s so important to talk about boundaries with our children, to make sure they know their value and that their confidence is intrinsic and not so easily swayed by likes and hearts and comments.
All products available to buy online at aden + anais