We’ve written about the very cool Lovevery play-gym before, and today we’re sharing an interview with founder Jessica Rolph about being a mom and entrepreneur and balancing it all.
Jessica is an entrepreneur and category creator. Passionate about the importance of early life, she is the Cofounder and CEO of Lovevery, a new child development company helping parents feel confident they are making the most of each learning stage. Jessica also serves on the board of Happy Family Brands, where she was Founding Partner and COO through 2016. Jessica helped launch, build, and lead Happy Family, which is the #1 organic baby, toddler, and kid’s food in the US, with more than 200 SKUs sold in 20,000 stores across 30 countries worldwide. Groupe Danone acquired HappyFamily in 2013. Jessica also co-founded the Climate Collaborative, a non-profit organization helping companies in the natural products industry take meaningful steps to reverse climate change. She is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow, and was awarded the Park Leadership Fellowship, graduating from Cornell’s Johnson School in 2004. Jessica also holds a BA from Cornell University, where she graduated cum laude. Jessica and her husband Decker are parents to Beatrice (2), Thacher (5) and Leland (7).
How and why did you start Lovevery?
I am passionate children’s health and learning. As founding partner @happyfamily, I fought to keep toxins out of babies’ bodies. And then I started thinking, what are we doing to nourish our babies’ brains? I discovered a doctoral thesis on infant brain development that had all these detailed, nerdy, cool things that I could do with my baby. It felt really natural and simple and I never looked at our toys the same again. @loveverybaby our mission is to help parents feel confident they are giving their children the best for learning and development.
Where did you come up with the name?
It was so hard finding the right name for the company. You come up with an idea for a name, fall in love with it, and then realize you can’t use it because some company in Austrila used it a while back for a toy the lawyers think is similar, but you are convinced is totally different. It is such an emotional process!
In the beginning, my cofounder and used “Smart Baby” as the working name for what we were doing, but we knew it wasn’t right. “Smart Baby” sounds like so much pressure, and we aren’t about just optimizing for intelligence. We want to be broader and more approachable. We want to help parents feel supported, like that nurturing, well read friend who you can trust to do all the research so you don’t have to. We were constantly trying to come up with new names, and finally ended up with Lovevery. Love is such a powerful word, and sums up so much of the parenting experience.
How do you balance work and family?
So much of life is about achieving and doing, yet so much of parenting is about being. It is hard to train myself, even after having three babies, to really absorb the understanding that the only way I will not let this precious time slip by is to learn to be present. My children are so scrumptious, but I admit I often find myself in autopilot mode, or find I’m processing a work challenge in the back of my mind, or wasting energy stressing about the mess and clutter in my house.
I made a resolution this year to meditate 5 minutes a day, and made it through mid February. Now I meditate occasionally. When I do take a few minutes to train my brain to slow down, it helps me take in more moments with my kids, whether they are all losing it or saying something precious.
I’ve also (mostly) let go of any aspiration that doesn’t seem essential at this stage – an organized minimalist house, a zero waste lifestyle, extra commitments, all those emails I am constantly struggling to get to.
When I was still COO at Happy Family, co-founding Lovevery, had an infant, toddler and pre-schooler at home and was trying to be a dedicated wife, mother, daughter and granddaughter, I admit in my attempt to streamline life I consciously deprioritized my friends. It sounds terrible, but I was so maxed out and felt I couldn’t do it all. After about a year I realized it was a mistake. I was lonely and am now working to build more connection back into my life.
Balance at this stage is so elusive, but there are so many moments of joy. I’m trying to be present for more of them.
What’s the best part about being a “Mompreneur” and running your own business?
I feel a deep sense of purpose in my work that drives me. In a good way, it feels like there are no other options for my life path, and having that clarity is really satisfying. The best parts are co-creating with my cofounder and our team.
We took a big bet on an insight, convinced friends and family to invest in us, and then went really deep experimenting and testing and iterating. We spent a year following 25 test families, traveling around the country to test our prototypes and learn and iterate. We were so confident that we could create something that would be of service and meaningful.
And then, as it got closer and closer to launch, I started to get really nervous. We have poured so much of ourselves into this business, it felt really vulnerable. I knew that if it didn’t work at first, that I could pivot and find a way… I’ve been in that struggle with the wrong product at Happy Family and I know there is a way out, but it is so incredibly hard.
And then, once we launched The Play Gym and The Play Kits it all became real, and is so exciting. The response was beyond our highest hopes. The very best part is all the customer love. It is a dream come true for us to see parents enjoy what we worked so hard to create.