Shaper: Raegan Moya-Jones

Show aired on 11th October 2014

Transcript of the show

Elliot Moss
That was Downtown from Rebecca Bracken here on Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining me for another edition of Jazz Shapers; the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business; a business shaper. My business shaper today I am very pleased to say all the way across from the other side of the Atlantic is Raegan Moya Jones. She is the co-founder and CEO of Aden & Anais, if you don’t know them they are the baby care business who are doing fantastic things in the world of muslins and lots more. You will be hearing huge amounts of intelligent things from Raegan my business shaper very shortly. In addition to hearing from Raegan, you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mischon De Reya some words of advice for your business and on top of all of that of course a phenomenal mix of music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, including Dr John, Frank Sinatra and this from the Neil Cowley Trio here on Jazz FM.

That was Sparkling from the Neil Cowley Trio. Thank you again for joining me, my business shaper today here on Jazz Shapers is Raegan Moya Jones and as I said, she is the co-founder and CEO of the business that she calls Aden & Anais. They are in the baby care world, the world of muslins, of swaddling and now more recently have lots of other things to do with caring for your baby. Raegan thank you very much for joining me and I know you are on a short time here in the UK, I appreciate you coming in.

Raegan Moya Jones
Thank you for having me.

Elliot Moss
Now you are a mum.

Raegan Moya Jones
I am a mum.

Elliot Moss
You have how many?

Raegan Moya Jones
I have four daughters.

Elliot Moss
Okay. You started this business when you were doing another job didn’t you? You had a moment of insight?

Raegan Moya Jones
I did have a moment of insight. I had the moment after I had Anais my first daughter who is about to be eleven and at the time I was working at the Economist and I had been there for at that time, eight years in various roles and when I had Anais I went looking for these large muslin blankets that were very common back home in Australia and they didn’t exist in the US and I thought how can every Ausie parent have this wrong and I am quite sure if I introduce them to Americans they will get it like we get it and luckily my hunch was right and that was really the beginning of it all.

Elliot Moss
Now that was as you said almost eleven years ago or so. The business is now I believe around sixty million dollars turnover, seventy two countries. If you go back then just so I understand the Australian mind-set, I mean, in the UK muslins have kind of been used on and off but it obviously was a big part of rearing kids and of looking after them. Where did that come from? Just out of interest.

Raegan Moya Jones
In all honesty I don’t know I just always knew that wrapping your baby in muslin was very much a part of our culture in Australia. I don’t know how it started to tell you the truth. I just knew that there wasn’t an Australian household that had a baby in it that didn’t use ten of these giant muslin blankets a day so it was very much a staple part of our culture.

Elliot Moss
So you are full-time working in Economist. You’ve got a young daughter and you decide you are going to set up a business in New York?

Raegan Moya Jones
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
Okay so not very much to manage at that time then obviously?

Raegan Moya Jones
No not at all.

Elliot Moss
But sometimes people have really good ideas and that’s where it ends. Why do you think you managed to convert that idea into a real living, breathing, hugely successful business? What is it about you that managed you to help the process happen?

Raegan Moya Jones
I am a tad type A so I tend to challenge myself and I never really doubted that it was going to be a success. It is not like I thought big long-term but I just believed so much in the product that I thought, you know what, there is no way that people aren’t going to respond to this if I actually get it out there. I had the idea in 2003 and it took me until the middle of 2006 to actually work out how to make these blankets and get them to market so there was a long period of time between having Anais and then actually getting the product to market but you know, I get asked often in interviews you know, what was the difference between your success and others that you know, have great ideas – I said well I just followed through on mine. You know and I think that is the problem, people have these great ideas and just go, oh that would be a good idea but then they actually never do anything about it.

Elliot Moss
Find out more from my very tenacious and focussed business shaper, Raegan Moya Jones. Time for some music, it’s Chicago from Frank Sinatra.

That was Chicago from Frank Sinatra. Raegan Moya Jones is my business shaper today and she is the co-founder and Chief Executive of Aden & Anais and they make really nice muslins which are very soft and very beautiful and they do other things too. I was going to say the word condiments but they are not quite condiments but the equivalent for skin and lots of lovely things which we are going to come on to very shortly. You said when I asked you the question, well you know people often ask me that question about what makes me different and I just followed through. You are a sales person and selling stuff is probably the most important part of any business because without it you, you know, you can’t get anywhere. You didn’t know about supply chain stuff, you didn’t know about finance and you said very humbly, well I just followed through. I imagine following through actually meant a hell of a lot of work over those three years. What did that actually entail? To make it happen? If you can bear to go back that far?

Raegan Moya Jones
Right. It was, it was brutal and in all honesty had I know what I was getting myself in to before I got myself into it I might have thought twice about doing it. Now obviously that I am out the other end and I have this wonderful thriving business and a hundred incredibly talented, more talented than me the people working for me. I am glad I did push through but you know I basically chose sleep deprivation over poverty when I started the business so I stayed working full-time at the Economist.

Elliot Moss
Did they know you were doing something else as well?

Raegan Moya Jones
No. They had no idea and because I was a sales person it really I, you know, all that mattered was that I was making my numbers so I was doing that and exceeding my numbers so there was never any question about what I was doing and the way my day sort of worked is I would wake up at 6.00 with the babies and deal with the girls and then go off to my day job and then get home at about 6.30. From 6.30 to 8.30 I would focus on the girls, spend time with them and then when they were down for the night I would start working on Aden & Anais and I would do that until 3.30 / 4.00 every morning and I really did survive on about two and a half, three hours’ sleep for a good two years whilst I was building the business.

Elliot Moss
And people say specifically about women in business versus men in business, especially mums and you have four kids that you really can’t have it all. It sounds like you were super burning you know, the candle everywhere. You look back now and you sort of say, you know it was brutal but how brutal is brutal? I mean were there days when you went – what am I doing?

Raegan Moya Jones
Absolutely. One story that is still extremely vivid in my mind is I hadn’t washed my hair for about sixteen days.

Elliot Moss
Her hair is very clean today, just to add very quickly.

Raegan Moya Jones
Yes, I have not done that for a while.

Elliot Moss
That’s very reassuring.

Raegan Moya Jones
And I was, I was on the subway coming home from work and I sort of said to myself, there is absolutely no way I am going to bed tonight without washing my hair. I am going to log off from my Aden & Anais job an hour early and I am going to wash my hair. So anyway fast forward to quarter to four in the morning when I go into the bathroom and there is this greasy haired girl staring back at me and I did actually fall on the floor that night, it was very dramatic and cried for about half an hour and went ‘what am I doing, this is ridiculous. I have bitten off more than I can chew’ and went to bed with greasy hair and woke up the next morning and went ‘okay well you have had your moment, you shake it off and you just get up and do it all over again’.

Elliot Moss
And you didn’t lean on anyone in particular. I mean obviously maybe your other half or something but you just described a, you know, bouncing back from a very quick, you know, moment where you have gone ‘hold on a second’. A lot of people I interview say well actually there was this person, there was that person. Sounds like you were pretty focused on recovering yourself?

Raegan Moya Jones
I was. My husband was by far and away my biggest cheerleader and you know he took on a lot because obviously you know; he was there for the girls and me. But no, I pretty much just sort of did it myself. He, Marcus used to worry that he couldn’t do more but it was really me and I was working it. That said, he was our acting CFO originally and very much helped with me you know, getting the business off the ground but for the most part I took it on myself.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from the tough Ausie, my business shaper today, Raegan Moya Jones. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that, some words of wisdom for your business from our program partners at Mishcon De Reya.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning from 9.00am I get to talk to a brilliant shaper in the world of business and if you have missed any of the past ones, go into iTunes, put in the words Jazz and Shapers and you will find us there. Or FT.com or Cityam.com or even on a British Airways flight if you so desire. Raegan Moya Jones is my business shaper today, she is the co-founder and the CEO still of Aden & Anais. Sixty million dollar turnover, seventy two countries, I love the numbers Raegan and probably eight four different varieties of muslin you are going to tell me in a minute; I have no idea. We were talking before about your toughness really and the fact you pushed through. In those early years, those formative years, did you, although you had a vision for the end point, was there a plan on how to get there or did you just literally bump into stuff and fix it as you went along?

Raegan Moya Jones
There was absolutely a lot of serendipitous moments that happened along the way where I luckily chose the right path rather than the wrong path.

Elliot Moss
Like what? Give me an example?

Raegan Moya Jones
When I, I am a co-founder because I started the business with a good friend that went horribly bad in 2007 and that was, there was a turning point there where I could either keep going or alternatively you know, fold the business and I decided to keep going and there were definitely moments where I thought ‘look I can’t do this on my own’. It was more a financial I can’t do it on my own because we started Aden & Anais at the beginning of the worst recession since the Great Depression so…

Elliot Moss
And you couldn’t borrow money because people weren’t lending money so I read and if it is true, you were essentially leaning on your own finances. That’s what you were doing for quite a while?

Raegan Moya Jones
Yes. So when that happened with my friend and then partner, you know we then mortgaged our apartment. I then went the friends and family route because there was just absolutely no access to capital at all back then even though the business was growing and had done from pretty much day one. So I was going to friends and family and borrowing money at ten percent interest and then I went to you know, to very good friends who had some savings and asked them if they wanted to invest in Aden & Anais and I sort of you know patched it together that way.

Elliot Moss
Did you ever doubt that it wouldn’t be successful though? Through all those times?

Raegan Moya Jones
I really didn’t. Whenm especially when it all went very pear shaped with Claudia, my friend and ex-business partner. My husband said to me, you know, ‘do you believe in this business’ and I said ‘ a hundred and fifty percent’ and he said ‘well then fight for it’. So I did.

Elliot Moss
And then, as the business started to grow what was intriguing me was that there was a couple of years of massive growth, of super-fast growth. What drove that? How does a business like yours which was started from literally zero become suddenly ten, twenty, thirty… suddenly you are hitting some really big numbers. What was really the secret behind that do you think?

Raegan Moya Jones
I think it was a couple of things. The main thing though was that it is just a really great product. You know and the mother’s marketed the product for us so even to this day I have never spent money on traditional advertising. You know we have great PR agents around the world and I am a huge believer in PR but as for traditional marketing dollars we have never really spent any and so the fact that it was such a great product and mothers and parents wanted to tell everybody about it, that, you know, that just drove awareness of our business and the product very very quickly and the other thing was I was very hands on with everything you know, even in the early stages we incorporated in Japan, we incorporated in Canada, we incorporated here in the UK and we did that very early on as a very young business which is not normal. Most people go the distributor route. So it was because you know, I was getting on trains and going into the middle of Japan to find warehouses and things like that myself.

Elliot Moss
It was yours and you had control?

Raegan Moya Jones
Exactly.

Elliot Moss
Very good. Stay with me for much more from Raegan Moya Jones, my business shaper. Time for some music though this is from Dr John and Bonnie Rae and it is I’ve Got The World On A String.

That was Dr John and Bonnie Rae and I’ve Got The World On A String. I have got Raegan Moya Jones right here, not on a string but definitely right in front of me and she is, if you haven’t been listening, the co-founder and CEO of Aden & Anais, the beautiful baby care business. I am going to call it that because it has been caring for my baby, my latest baby. The latest addition for the last eighteen months or so. You talked about quality and you talked about control. For me those were the two things that really came through. Quality is one thing as you start to grow which it can be hard if you haven’t got the standards in place. It strikes me that with a hundred people though they know what they are meant to be doing and they do it. The control is a different thing because in the last couple of years, private equity has backed your business. You have obviously had your own equity diluted to a point that I believe you still have a significant share. What is it like not being fully in control? As opposed to being a hundred percent in control? It must be hard for someone who is as you said yourself, a type A?

Raegan Moya Jones
It is hard but I purposely chose partners that I really believed when we went through the process of recapitalising the business which was as recent as last December. I chose partners that absolutely said to me ‘we are buying into this business not just because of the business but because of you. We believe in your vision, we want you to run it, we don’t want to get involved’.

Elliot Moss
This isn’t a buy-out either, we want you there?

Raegan Moya Jones
Ahh no that was definitely not a buy-out. It was a capital injection to actually be able to scale the business.

Elliot Moss
Really expand. And do you still – and so what it sounds like is you really did chose people as much as you chose money to back you because often I hear some pretty horrible stories about private equity as well as some really good ones as well but it sounds like the recipe was the right people both ways made sure that this was going to work?

Raegan Moya Jones
I have pretty much always run this business from my gut. Very much from the perspective of a mum before a business person and so everything is very done by instinct and gut for me. I had my first private equity partners come in in 2010, a very small way and I was still the majority shareholder when they were involved in the business. Their names were Seidler Equity Partners. Just the most amazing private equity company on the face of the planet in my opinion. And they – without them I wouldn’t have the business that I have today. So my experience with private equity was just so positive in spite of the fact that everyone said to me ‘don’t do it Rae because you are going to regret it’. But I had a wonderful experience and then when I went looking for the new private equity partners which was as I said, last December. I looked for the same sort of people and you are absolutely right Elliot in that I looked for people rather than money and I left a substantial amount of money on the table actually. I had much bigger offers but they weren’t the right people. So I said no.

Elliot Moss
We will have our final chat with our guest today plus play a track from Esperanza Spalding; that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was Precious from Esperanza Spalding and just for a few more precious minutes I have Raegan Moya Jones as my business shaper. A couple of things I want to cover before we ask you what your song choice is and say goodbye to you which I don’t want to do too fast. The innovation behind your brand is very very important and you talked about quality and quality is manifest in many ways, especially in the way that a business can expand from its proposition. Tell me a little bit about why the Merino wool thing has come about, why the other products have come about. Where has that come from? Is it just back to your instinct and what it is to be a mum? Or is it a bit more than that? Is it a bit more scientific now that you are bigger?

Raegan Moya Jones
I’d like to tell you it was very scientific and I am this brilliant you know genius person but it’s not. It is very much me still as a mother of four girls and what I want in my house and things that I would buy for my children. That is very much a driving factor of what gets you know, put into the product portfolio in Aden & Anais. I run the business very much like a democracy. There is nobody who has…

Elliot Moss
Do you really?

Raegan Moya Jones
I really do.

Elliot Moss
Because people say that but would your team say that?

Raegan Moya Jones
I can honestly say you could interview the hundred people that work with me.

Elliot Moss
I might take you up on it.

Raegan Moya Jones
And I think they would tell you that it doesn’t matter what role you have at Aden & Anais, if you are the office manager or the CFO you are treated exactly the same way and your voice is heard equally.

Elliot Moss
So if one of them has a great idea you go ‘hold on a minute that’s fantastic we’re going to follow that’.

Raegan Moya Jones
Lots of our team has come up with product ideas that have been implemented and are now selling millions of dollars so.

Elliot Moss
And worn by lots of celebrities. I mean this was the thing that the British public would have seen, that Prince George daubed in a bit of an Aden & Anais and I know that Beyoncé’s children have worn your stuff as well. That’s important but it isn’t the core of the business is it?

Raegan Moya Jones
It really isn’t and I am glad you brought that up because so few people when they talk about the celebrity thing I always tell the people that are talking to me about it that it is absolutely wonderful that these celebrities are using the product. Obviously it is just sort of it’s free PR for the company and I am very grateful for that but you know, even with the Duchess, as wonderful as that was, I am much more appreciative to the millions of mothers who have helped me build this business from my dining room table to employing a hundred people around the world now and it was them that got us to the point that the Duchess walks in to a store and goes ‘that’s the product I want for my baby’. So yes it is important but what’s more important is that we appeal to every mum out there. The everyday mum’s like me.

Elliot Moss
And beyond the everyday mums it also strikes me that what is important to you is actually doing good things. You’ve written a book, Swaddle Love; you are a champion of the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome affliction that hits a lot of families; you are involved in the if I believe I am right, Aden & Anais Swaddle Love Foundation which is all about helping kids in orphanages have a better life; you’ve just got involved with RED. This is not one thing, this is not lip service, you really do believe that a brand can play a very positive role it seems to me.

Raegan Moya Jones
I really do and again you know, this comes back to me being a mum and the thought of God forbid something happened to one of my girls or them getting sick so you know, I have been blessed a thousand times over with my family and my business and it’s just – it would be wrong if I didn’t take every opportunity to give back so I do it and I do it with a smile on my face and quite honestly it’s absolutely the best part of my job.

Elliot Moss
Fantastic. What is your song choice then Raegan and why have you chosen it?

Raegan Moya Jones
My song choice is Here Comes The Sun by Nina Simone. I have been listening to it for many many years and it always makes me smile when I hear it.

Elliot Moss
Well here it is, this is your choice, thank you very much for being my business shaper today. Coming up now it is Nina Simone and Here Comes The Sun.

Raegan Moya Jones
Thanks Elliot.

Elliot Moss
That was Here Comes The Sun from Nina Simone, the song choice of my business shaper today, Raegan Moya Jones. Hard working, how many of you could do two jobs at once in effect and also look after a family of four. Incredibly focussed, she knew and understood her market super well and stuck to it and unbelievably tough even in the dark moments but she pulled herself through to ensure she was successful. Fantastic stuff. Join me again, same time, same place – that’s next Saturday, 9.00am for another edition of Jazz Shapers here on Jazz FM. Do stay with us in the meantime though because coming up next, it’s Nigel Williams.

After moving from her native Australia to the United States, the news in 2003 that Raegan was expecting her first baby triggered many mixed emotions. Although her family was half way around the world, Aussie motherhood traditions were always with her. On the top of her list were muslin wraps that Australian moms use to swaddle their babies. It was to her surprise when she went looking for them in New York that they were nowhere to be found. After scouring stores across the U.S. for the soft, breathable wraps used by mothers everywhere in Australia, Raegan came up empty-handed. Every swaddle she found was too small, too thick and in her mind just not right to use to swaddle her new baby girl, Anais. Before she could stop herself, Raegan was taking a page from Plato’s Republic – inventing by way of necessity – and became an Economist employee turned baby industry entrepreneur—a mom on a mission, you might say. And in July 2006, aden + anais® was born and can now be found in thousands of stores across 63 countries, worldwide today.

I just always knew that wrapping your baby in muslin was very much a part of our culture in Australia.

I am a tad Type A so I tend to challenge myself and I never really doubted that it was going to be a success.

I get asked in interviews: what was the difference between your success and others that have great ideas? I said, I just followed through on mine.

I basically chose sleep deprivation over poverty when I started the business.

…fast-forward to quarter to four in the morning; I go to the bathroom and there is this crazy-haired girl staring back at me…

I went the friends and family route because there was just absolutely no access to capital at all back then…

The mothers marketed the product for us, so even to this day I have never spent money on traditional advertising.

I have pretty much always run this business from my gut.

I’d like to tell you that it was very scientific and I am this genius person, but it’s not. It is very much still me as a mother of four girls and what I want in my house and things I would buy for my children.