Aden + Anais: Raegan Moya-Jones

Aug 25, 2019

Cotton muslin baby blankets are commonplace in Australia, where Raegan Moya-Jones grew up. But when she started a new life and family in NYC, she couldn't find them anywhere. So in 2006, she started the baby blanket company Aden + Anais, which now makes more than $100 million in annual revenue. We first ran this episode in 2017 – but about a year later, Raegan's role as leader and co-founder took a dramatic turn. She fills Guy in on what happened in this special updated episode. PLUS in our postscript "How You Built That," we check back with Brian Sonia-Wallace, who started the business Rent Poet, and makes a living writing spontaneous poetry at weddings, corporate events, and other gatherings.

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it's a really quick before we start the show I want to tell you about our how I built this live tour it's happening this fall supported by American Express I'll be in New York talking with Christina Tosi of Milk Bar in Boston with Luke Holden and been Kana founders of Luke's Lobster in Washington DC with Tristan Walker of Walker & Company and wrapping up the tour in Denver with Kurt Richardson founder of Otter Products you can get tickets for all these shows and get more information at NPR presents dot-org

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and I hope to see you on the road

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if you run a company a lot can change in a year or two and that is certainly the case for Reagan Moya Jones whose career took a major turn after we first ran this episode about two years ago so earlier this month I called her up to get an update you'll hear that brand new conversation at the end of this episode which first aired in July of 2017 I had read a lot of literature

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about women entrepreneurs and I had learned the statistic that only two percent of all women owned businesses ever break a million dollar revenue is that true yes isn't that frightening shocking yeah but I'd set myself that goal so I just said right once I get to a million in Revenue I've done something that most women entrepreneurs unable to do

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from NPR it's how I built this a show about innovators entrepreneurs idealists and the stories behind the movements they built

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I'm Gyros and on Today Show how one Australian mother searched for the right blankie for her newborn and when she couldn't find it she built a baby blanket company now making a hundred million dollars a year

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so back in 2013 you might remember the birth of a brand new royal baby the heir to the British throne that's the Duchess of Cambridge has being delivered of a son

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hearing I was looking at these pictures from Buckingham Palace today after he was born Mom and Dad stood outside st. Mary's Hospital in Paddington and introduced Prince George to the world a good pair of lungs are not so he's a he's a big boy is quite heavy but we're still working on a name and as the camera zoomed in on baby George you could just make out that he was wrapped up in a white cotton swaddle printed with tiny cartoon birds

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and after a little internet sleuthing people track down the maker of that swaddle Aiden and an a it's a baby product company that sells swaddle blankets for about 15 bucks a piece and of course the effect was instantaneous within four hours the company's website crashed and then it crashed again the next day and for Aiden and a as co-founder Reagan Moya Jones it was a pretty big shock because the company was barely seven years old

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over that seven year period Aiden and an a had been through a lot of ups and downs starting with the recession in 2008 and then eventually a traumatic breakup between Reagan and her business partner that threatened to dissolve the entire company a company by the way with yearly Revenue now of over a hundred million dollars so how did she create this company Aiden in an a well the Story begins when Reagan and her husband Marco's moved from Sydney Australia

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to New York in 1997 after he got a job and Reagan at the time she didn't really have any plans I came here without a job without a working Visa and I thought you know what I'll do some volunteer stuff I'll learn to speak Spanish because my husband's Chilean and I'll fill my time that way for two years and sort of treated as just you know a new and different Journey rather than being you know a hundred miles an hour with my work and my

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studies and that didn't kind of work out for me because about four months in my husband initially was working from home because you know they were really setting things up from the ground here in New York and he walked into the living room and I was laying on the couch 11 o'clock in my pajamas you know and he just said to me what the hell are you doing come on you got to you got to get up and shake this off and find something to do we would

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you were you getting depressed because you were bored I don't know that I was depressed I just I didn't know anybody in New York and I just sort of fell into a rut I think and I underestimated how much I needed to be the person that you know had a very full schedule so rather than using the down time productively I just used the downtime to lay on the couch and watch morning talk shows

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yeah that does sound depressing it was it was horrible eventually Reagan's Visa did come through so she could start working and within about a year she landed a job as a sales rep for The Economist magazine and the sounds obnoxious but I was really good at it you know the wonderful thing with sales is you live and die by the number that you're told to hit and I was very fortunate that I never didn't hit the numbers did you like it did you have fun I

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did have fun I did I love it was it was was it my passion absolutely not and I was very frustrated that wasn't really taken seriously in terms of being able to be promoted and everything I was very much sort of kept in my box of what I had always done or be in different areas of the business over 10 years but that was a huge frustration to me that it was obvious I was never really

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going to go anywhere within the economist did you like were you dreaming of leaving and starting your own thing I wasn't going to leave it for another job I think I have always been an entrepreneur I never defined myself as that but there was always a desire for me to do something on my own I just never had had an idea I'd had lots of ideas but none that I felt were worth sort of you know die

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diving in the deep end for but I mean it's some point I mean you got an idea the idea that would become a danann a so what happened well I had my first of my four daughters that's what happened I was pregnant with an A and I was you know getting ready as we all do when we're having our first baby with all the paraphernalia that you think you need and I went out looking for these Muslim blankets that were extremely common back home in Australia so

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that you could buy them in you know supermarkets it was mind-blowing to me when I went looking for them in the u.s. that they didn't actually exist you can find them and I guess just to explain it to somebody who doesn't know what a muslin blanket is it's sort of like a really soft cheese cloth kind of yes it's like a gauze and Not only was it in my opinion and still in my opinion the only thing you should wrap your baby and because it's lightweight and breathable

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ball and big enough to be able to securely swaddle the baby's it was the fact that this one blanket did multiple things so you could use it as a burp cloth you can use it as a portable crib sheet could use it as a nursing cover you could use it as a stroller cover you could you just use it to mop up the messes that you know inevitable when you have newborn babies that sort of thing so and the thing with muslin is the more you wash it the softer it gets

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so in Australia this is just normal like all babies were wrapped in these babies cotton muslin wraps yes so that was you know and I just thought every every Australian can't have this wrong and if I introduce this product to American parents I was just absolutely a hundred percent certain that they would respond to it the same way as I saw Jesus had so you presumably took leave where

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after and I was born and and then went back to the economist yes I had three months off and did you go back to the economist with this idea turning in your head yes and how do you then start to make this a reality what's the first thing you do well I had no supply chain or operational you know experience or knowledge you know I'm a salesperson you know so I

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to find out how I would even go about making this stuff and that took a long time so you had the idea in 2003 when an a was born and it took it took till 2006 to actually work out how to make it and get it to Market so did you start this process all by yourself no I had a I had a partner the one person that my husband knew from

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Elia his best friend's ex-girlfriend klaudia who ended up marrying an american guy and that was the first person I met here in klaudia is Aidan's mum she was the other co-founder of Aden and danai wow so you guys got together and she agreed she said this is crazy that you can't get these in America well she had Aiden about seven or eight months after I had a name so I had been in Australia and I was coming back from a

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earlier and I would stop and hang out with Gloria and Mark her husband in LA to break up the trip and I distinctly remember sitting on Aidan's Nursery floor and I just said to a we need to we need to do this klaudia like you know we need to find a way to make this happen and she actually said well why don't we just try and become a distributor for the company that already makes

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it stray Leah yeah which was seems like a reasonable right and I said well why would you do that I said I want it to be better than what is already available in Australia and I remember saying and we can call the company Aiden and Danae after the babies and that was sort of how it all got started

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all right just like a logistical question because you kind of had a growing sense of how to maybe start a business but what about the design side of it I mean did you have were you going to design the blankets where you can add design the patterns and the and the shapes on them that's a great question because I am not the most artistic person actually I you know my artistic skills don't go beyond stick people yeah I really

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draw to save my life but I am very opinionated and I have a very clear vision of what I like aesthetically from a design perspective and I am so type A you know that I was very much I want these colors I want these images I want it to look like you know and we Claudia and I hired a you know outside freelance design people to come up with our initial design

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earns that launched the first products so where did you find the manufacturing facility how did you find somebody who who could make these Muslim cotton blankets this is actually an interesting story guy because I was standing at the reception desk at The Economist and the mail arrived and on the top of the mail was a women's wear daily magazine so I'm flipping through this and then there's a full-page advertisement for an Asian

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textile sourcing trade show that was happening in New York City three days later so obviously I went to that trade show and I walk the entire trade show of probably 40 vendors and then I got to literally the last vendor before I was about to walk out the door and I walked over and I said I'm trying to find someone that can make this fabric for

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me it's called muslin he said I have no idea what this is but I work for a major Manufacturing Company in China let me take this back and see what they say and two weeks later I got an email saying we can make this for you and that was it so it was literally the last Booth you went to absolutely true story I was out the door bar one booth and they

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ended up becoming my manufacturer for 10 years unbelievable so so when they sent you the first sample did they did they get it right right away no okay there was a myriad of back and forth in terms of getting the quality to where I wanted it and I am not a textiles technical person I have no idea I understand the basics now having been in it for so many years but I couldn't tell them the grade of cotton I couldn't tell them the warp and weft

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counts I couldn't tell them anything I just basically said make it like this but I need it to be softer and then I worked with the factories over the years on the way to wash it and what to put in the wash to make it soft and obviously as mum I wouldn't you let them use anything that was in any way you know they used to use formaldehyde in dyes on baby but that that stuff just blew my mind so obviously that was very important to me that

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there was none of that in any Aiden and in a products and it was a long and laborious process with a hell of a lot of failures along the way where we had full containers of product that when they arrived in the u.s. like the fabric had turned yellow so that you know there's so many stories about the trials and tribulations of actually perfecting the fabrication will you still working at The Economist at this point yes I see

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I stayed working at The Economist until May of 2009 so did you tell your colleagues about it to they find out not nobody knew were you keeping it secret because you just didn't I didn't want anybody looking or questioning me and again I go back to I was a salesperson I never ever didn't make my budget I knew I didn't want to walk out that door and then have people say well it's all good and well that

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created this business but it was that at the expensive The Economist yeah right at this point I guess 2006 and Ina is 3 and then did you have another child by that point I actually had three of my four daughters by that point okay so you were still working full-time at The Economist and presumably flying back and forth to LA to work with Claudia and on the side business and you were also raising three kids and a did you

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make all of this work it was really really hard but it was a conscious decision that I made so when I got home from I used to call The Economist my real job when I got home from the real job I was well in mummy mode and I focused on my girls and then when the girls went to bed at 8:30 that's when I would start my day of working on Aiden and an A and I would do that until

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you know 3:30 every morning well and because it was a conscious decision on my part I sort of never I just never really complained about it it was what it was so it's 2006 you have your free make your first big order how many what was that order like you what do you remember well we started we both started just putting $15,000 in for our first inventory

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hurry and and that we did the minimum we had a boy pack a girl pack of white pack and a towel and washcloth and I just went door-to-door in LA and New York to every baby store to every you know I picked up the phone I called byebye Baby I that that was the sales girl coming out in me and actually jumping ahead a bit a year later the target buyer called me called me

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and said can you come in I took in you know 6qs thinking they might take one or two and what's just how much is ask you ask you is like one for pack so I presented six four packs thinking they might take a one boy and one girl yeah and Target took all the six wow and rolled it out into all Target stores from day one

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once you got orders from these big companies I mean you had to then make the order with a factory in China and I guess pay them money how did you fund that we initially it was you know all our savings and and the money part of it was actually what brought about the demise of klaudia and my partnership but I don't know if you want me to talk about that but I can because you know the partner thing is always well off

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in a story with entrepreneurs right yeah so klaudia and Mark were very wealthy Marcus and I not so much you know we were doing fine but we didn't have you know millions of dollars yeah so Marcus and I kept up for as long as we could make you know we'd put in 15,000 then we put in another 30 then we put in another 40 you know that and we kept up as long as we could until we got to a point where we couldn't keep up anymore

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or there was no access to Capital you know we started the business at the beginning of the worst recession since the Great Depression so Claudius said we just need to borrow money off you know Mark and and his family which I absolutely did not want to do it was the last resort but it had got to the point I think we'd borrowed a hundred thousand off klaudia and Mark and then we borrowed another 250,000 off marks dad and very long story short

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was more Mark I think that was just not comfortable with the fact that in his mind they were funding the business yeah and it just got it just got to the point where you know I got a demand of you've got 30 days to come up with this to buy us out if you can't do that we have the right to pay you the same and if we can't come to an agreement we're going to dissolve it when we come back in a moment

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mint how Reagan's company and friendship with Claudia changed forever I'm guy Roz and you're listening to how I built this from NPR

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it might be hard to pin down what makes a friendship really work I feel like we're like the Michael Jordan of friendships like you can't ask Jordan you can't ask Jordan how he does what he does he's a freak of nature but clearly some people know how to do it check out Life Kits new guide from NPR on navigating the highs and lows of friendship or subscribe to life kit all guides for all of our episodes all in one place hey welcome back

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to how I built this from NPR I'm guy Roz so when Reagan's friend and business partner Claudia told her she wanted out of Aden and then a Reagan had to figure out how to hold onto the company when Claudia exited the business in 2000 very early 2008 it was it was me it was just me alone doing all the work I was sales customer service

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and you're factoring marketing Finance at my husband was helping with the finance side of things so I hired one person to at least alleviate some of the work that I was having to start doing it 839 o'clock at night once my girls went to bed because that was also a line I've Drew very deeply in the sand for myself that these little girls did not sign on from for an entrepreneurial mother but I did

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believe in the business and I went out to a few of my other friends who were watching what I was doing to raise the few hundred thousand dollars that Claudio you know wanted for you know the work that she put into the business so far to buy a route to buy her out so three other people came into the business and bought 49 percent of the business for like 500

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$1,000 wow this is a really important story because we don't get to hear these stories too often about the reality of starting a business with a partner where at the beginning it's there's this vision of a kind of a utopian business and there are Partnerships that really work but often oftentimes the cases is more like this where money gets involved and tension builds and people get nervous about the investment and you can kind of understand what Claudia and Mark were coming

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drumming you could I mean I mean they were getting nervous there were they had a lot of money on the line but I mean I have to imagine that it took a toll on your friendship well we've she never spoke to me again because I just responded and said claude's what are you doing breaking my heart here we can talk through this you know I was the legal guardian of their children that's how close we were and it was horrible it is horrible but you know it was I wanted to talk to her

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just in her mind it was over and looking at it I get it she was under the pressure of her family and it was her marriage and all of those things so I don't not understand why it happened yeah it was just it was just heartbreaking that it did did you did you think that the business was going to collapse no I never thought that I thought I might collapse yeah I and I questioned whether or not I could keep going because

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cuz obviously it was an extremely emotional time and but no I've I've never ever doubted Aiden and danai was there any tension in your marriage I mean I was Marcos fully supportive Felisa he was the one who actually when I started to get a bit shaky through the whole drama with klaudia and I said to him look I don't know if I can do this you know and he said to me do you believe in the business

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and I said I absolutely believe in the business you said well then fight for it yeah you know don't give up fight for it have you ever had any contact with Claudia since since The Break-Up absolutely none unfortunately the friendship was very much a casualty of the business but she must know where the company has has gotten her child's name is I know people ask me

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why I didn't change the name and I just why I still refer to myself as the co-founder even though Claudia's been gone for forever I co-founded this business with her so I didn't feel right to me to just sort of cut her out of the story so so you buy out Claudia's share well I don't you partners partners do and you and you move on you you continue to grow this business believing that this is going to work and

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what point where you finally able to leave The Economist what was the Milestone you hit in the company that made you comfortable that you could focus full-time on this thing well I had read a lot of literature about women entrepreneurs and I had learned the statistic that only two percent of all women owned businesses ever break a million dollar Revenue that true yes isn't that frightening a shocking yeah so that I'd set my

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self that goal so I just said right once I get to a million in Revenue I've done something that most women entrepreneurs unable to do so at that point I allowed myself to quit and focus on Aidan and a full-time all right so you will when you finally when you leave The Economist I'm assuming you told them why no you didn't know I didn't I just said I've got another opportunity and his my two weeks notice

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and my then boss who I wasn't a huge fan of I was having a discussion and I distinctly remember it was about a week before I was I handed in my resignation so I knew it was coming and I sat in his office and he said to me I'll what would you know you do not have an entrepreneurial bone in your body and then his his even this story gets even better that boss ended up working at Cranes yeah and we have won multiple

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all World Awards with cranes as the fastest one of the fastest 50 growing entrepreneurial businesses in New York I mean do experiences like that with your boss do they like add fuel to your fire are they powerful motivators for you I you know what my biggest motivation always was with this guy and it was never about making a lot of money mine was very much proving to myself I could do it because I had been

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told by many people over the years that I was only capable of X when in my heart of hearts I always thought I was capable of why but I was just never afforded the opportunity to prove it okay so by 2009 you leave The Economist and then I guess you're profitable but by the way what is your Revenue that year we closed 2009 at just over 4 million so a

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as soon as I focused on it you know a hundred percent it changed the game and then we more than doubled every year for the five years after that I guess it was around 2010 were you took on some outside investment that's correct I took on my first private Equity Firm in 2010 why did you do that I mean up until this point you are the majority owner you know you're doing well for million Revenue what did that enable you guys to do well it enabled me to scale

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so it gave me some money to be able to hire some more people buy more inventory because we would literally be you know the core team there was about eight of us nine of us and we would be sitting there late at night going okay well we need we do our inventory planning with say okay well we need this and then we look at it and go well we can only afford half of it and we just have to cut half of what we really needed we could never keep up with the demand so when the

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Equity Firm came in it enabled us to get closer to it at least back then yeah I know that like at a certain point celebrity you started to be like you know US Weekly like that they're just like us they swallow their babies except the swaddle was like your swaddle blankets when did you start to see celebrities using the blankets one week after we went on the market and when I say went on the market me walking the product to the stores and handing it to the store owners in La Adam Sandler and his wife

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who just had their baby with photographed on Malibu beach with their baby in a carrier with an Aiden and in a blanket draped over the front of the baby and it was a full-page picture in US Weekly so we had celebrity press from a week after we went on the market did anybody know what the blanket was though not back then that we actually named a pack Paparazzi once sort of as a nod to how many photographers photograph our blankets with the celebrities try

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and to hide their babies away back in in 2013 Prince William and Kate Middleton I guess we should call them that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge they had a baby Prince George the leave the hospital and what did you what did you see they left the hospital in and Aiden and then a blanket which blew my mind having been raised in Australia because that I would have bet every penny I had on the fact that was never going to happen because there's

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Royal Protocol no royal baby is ever come out in anything other than a white wool blanket that has been royally appointed to the family you know and lo and behold they walk out in Aden and a and the world goes wild and so did sales just go crazy yes you know the typical reaction the Royal affect our website crashed twice we sold out of that around the world people were coveting it to the point where they were paying three times

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as the value of the it was insane I was like guys we've got other patterns over here of the same but they all just wanted what the royal baby had what was the pattern that he had but it was interesting lie it was from a pack called jungle Jam which the was the third pack that I ever released so that particular design had been on the market for eight years when the royal baby came out in it I mean just to be clear these are not like it

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super crazy expensive right I mean how much is a four pack well now it's 4995 when I started it was $44 and that was always I never set out to build a luxurious celebrity you know endorsed brand I wanted to create and make other mothers aware of this amazing product that as a mother I just didn't understand how they could have babies without it when you arm around

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I guess around 2013 you guys you guys got a big investment right that's correct Swan depace Capital entered in and they became the majority shareholders so explain how this works is they they bite a big share of the company but that allowed you to cash out some of some of the value of the company that's correct they bought they bought the whole company what I did was bought back in as a major shareholder in the company

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I mean so in a sense I guess that made you financially I mean you were at that point sort of set financially for the rest of your life yes baby blankets have afforded my family an incredibly wonderful life so a pretty incredible result it is although what I will tell you guy is I much prefer the entrepreneurial building of a company now that we're over a hundred million dollars

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it's just very different you know obviously the way you run a hundred million dollar company to the way you run a you know a 20 or even a 30 40 million dollar company you know you can get by with running your business on Excel spreadsheets that 30 million it doesn't cut it at a hundred like at 30 million I was still very much involved you know in a lot of the day today whereas now at this size oh my gosh there is so much that you know I mind

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getting updates once a week I'm just not involved in that kind of way anymore so I definitely do not enjoy this as much as I did when I was much more in the weeds of the business and that's interesting you know I missed that given that you got this big payout do you ever think I don't know maybe I'll just like stopped working and just take up a hobby or do something completely different for a while

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well it's I could never be the lady that lunches just not remember back to the story of me on the couch in my pajamas you know so too much time is not a good thing for me but not only do I think that it would be good for me that if I maybe wasn't the CEO of this business it might be good for the business to bring in somebody who has run a business of this size and has scaled from a hundred to three hundred because I

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really believe that that's where this brand is going and do I think I could do it I know I could do it and selfishly being the mom of four little girls my worst nightmare would be in 15 years time when I am sitting at a bar with my four girls as adult women not being able to turn to Aden and a as a company and a brand and say hey your mum did that when you were tiny babies at our kitchen table

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table and now look at it it's a you know a half a billion dollar Global brand how much of what happened to you and this company is because of luck and how much because you're just really smart and hard-working I would say it would be 40 percent luck and 60% hard work and tenacity you know because you've got to take advantage of the luck right so there has definitely

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definitely being many serendipitous moments along the way of this journey that without really working hard and believing in what you're doing you that it's not going to be enough but it's Reagan Moya Jones the first dr. Reagan about two years ago and about a year after that conversation her business her whole life in fact took a dramatic turn so I called her up a few weeks ago to hear about what happened

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and

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So Reagan we are back together again for a quick little update obviously the last time we talked to you things have changed a bit actually quite a bit can you tell us about that what what happened at eight and then a in 2018 well plain and simple I got fired from my own business which was pretty heartbreaking the investors and I just didn't see eye to eye and they didn't think that I was capable of continuing

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in to run the business and they just became extremely cantankerous and unpleasant and because they had the controlling interest of the business they won I guess and ultimately fired me I mean this is a crazy thing right which we don't often hear about on the show which is when you you create something right like you start this going door to door selling these muslin

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kind of blankets and pounding the pavement and you know going to byebye baby and try to convince people that this they need to sell this thing you build it up and then the moment you know you really have to scale it you often times you need to bring in outside money but there are strings attached with a decision on the one hand you will make a lot of money personally but on the other hand it basically means that you're giving up a lot of control over the thing you built it

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exactly single worst decision of my life I would say wow yeah wow and the thing is Guy it actually happens more often than you think I'm just someone that is willing to speak openly about it and I'm doing that because if I can help one other entrepreneur avoid quite frankly the hell that I went through after being fired from a company that I'd lived and breathed for

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over a decade then I you know I'm happy to do it but I do think that there's a lot of Shame around being fired because I'm acutely aware that most people hearing this will go well she clearly really screwed up and that's why she got fired when I sort of know the ins and outs of it but you know I'm prepared to have people think that I really messed up in the better in

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best of getting the story out there that this is actually what it can happen and often does happen when you sell the controlling interest of your business to a private Equity Firm I mean here's a thing Reagan right I actually think a lot of people have just heard our original interview right and listening to us now I actually think a lot I'm trying to channel channel their thoughts and I think a lot of people will be thinking hey hang on she

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you know moved to the United States she's struggled to kind of figure out what she wanted to do she built this company from nothing she turned it into a hundred million dollar company she walked out of it set for life financially set for life and okay she was fired by a bunch of investors and private Equity people but man she succeeded like that I think actually a lot of people sort of see it that way yes and that's absolutely correct but

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it doesn't take away and I'm going to go as far as to say the pain of having somebody rip what you've put your Blood Sweat and Tears into for over a decade out from underneath you in you know because their perception is different to yours they said to me we need a superstar CEO in the chair now Reagan and we don't believe your ears and I know there are many other founding

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others out there who have gone through the same thing and what I say to people is if you are still passionately involved in your business if you still care just don't sell the controlling interest to private Equity or financial institute just don't do it you can sell parts of it but just don't give away the controlling interest because no matter what they're telling you when they're courting you once they have control

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it's a very different story this is a really important point because a lot of people will say to me God you know are most of the people you interview motivated by money and the answer is absolutely no I mean yes of course Financial Security and success is exciting but but this actually is a great example of how that's not the case because the money's there you have the money yes it's the emotional connection it's that

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it's that thing that that it was your identity it is your identity that's what's painful exactly and it still has my oldest daughter's name on the door which is just you know a little bit of salt in the wound as well it took me a good year to sort of get over it you know safe to say I'm back back in the room now but I definitely fell into a very big hole for about a year did you get depressed

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yeah I would say I was depressed I put on nearly 30 pounds I drank way too much wine I you know I was eating and drinking to cope I was confused about what my next steps were going to be that other than that I was kind of thinking well what's next what do I do now that that I don't have this because as I said I lived and breathed it for over a decade

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I'm curious Reagan I mean and you're still pretty close to it so it may not be the right time for you to kind of answer this question but if somebody if this happened to somebody else right that they that they were fired from the company they started how important do you think it is to just take time off to just kind of disengage from entrepreneurship and business entirely for a period

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do you think that's healthy was it healthy for you I think it depends I think it depends on who you are I I think most entrepreneurs are pretty Taipei driven people I would say so for me being idle was actually a bad thing I had to find something to focus on something that was of Interest meaningful to me that was that was part of the healing you are so driven you know

► 00:43:51

who knows where that drive comes from an anyone right right and I know that you decided to start a new company recently can you can you tell me about it yes it's it couldn't be further away from baby blankets it's actually a premium moonshine company so I've gone off on quite a tangent so yes it's a company called Saint lunar and yeah it's been fun it's been yeah it's very interesting to be back going door-to-door even though this time I'm just going door

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door-to-door at bars and restaurants rather than to you know baby boutiques but nonetheless it's pretty much the same hustle so you've got this new company it's called steel una Spirits it is moonshine but it is I guess it's charcoal Infuse moonshine this is like this is like a really trendy thing charcoal like water and what is the charcoal thing tell me tell me about that it purifies things so our

► 00:44:51

still owe who created the recipe for it had been working on it for 10 years and he's he's a chemical engineer so he's combined the tradition of making moonshine with chemistry and just come up with this phenomenal recipe for moonshine so it's a great product what are you distorted from wheat or corn or no it's actually right I based Ryan molasses so it's very smooth that's so cool so

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back out that you're hustling I'm house back hustling yeah yeah you know there's a great quote from from an episode that we had a couple years ago with Whitney Wolf the founder of Bumble and she said you know you can you can temporarily kill someone's confidence but you cannot kill ambition and I thought about that so many times and that's the same story here it is that is exactly what it is and I really did they killed my confidence but only

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for a period of time which was really tough for me to sort of start thinking well maybe they're right you know maybe I am useless and I can't do it but you're right they you know they didn't break my spirit and they didn't they couldn't take away the ambition she's absolutely right I mean there's also something to the idea like at least in my experience I wonder if this is resonates with you that I mean that kind of anger you know when somebody does that

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you it can generate a kind of anger that can actually be very productive and anger that can really motivate you to you know almost to kind of show them that yeah actually are really talented yes absolutely but what I will say is it wasn't until I let go of the anger that I was really able to move forward so the anger was killing me and it wasn't until I let go of all that that I was able to really

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we go okay that was that and now let's prove that you can do it all over again

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that's Reagan Moya Jones she's the co-founder of Aden and an A and now say luna Spirits by the way before she was fired from a danann a she had just finished writing a book about her life story but after leaving the company she had to call it the publisher and tell them she had to rework the ending her revamped book came out earlier this year it's called what it takes how I built a 100 million

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and Dollar business against the odds

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and please do stick around because in just a moment we're going to hear from you about the things you're building but first a quick message from one of our 2019 lead sponsors of how I built this hiscox hiscox Taylor's its policies to fit every business has very specific needs which may explain it's 97 percent customer service rating get a quote or by at H is co x.com hiscox business insurance experts

► 00:48:17

JK Rowling wrote the final chapters of the Harry Potter series was sequestered in a hotel room it's a strategy lots of artists and thinkers use they go somewhere physically isolated and different where they can without distraction think deeply quieting the distractions on the latest of our YouTube .0 series on hidden brain from NPR

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hey thanks so much for sticking around because it's time now for how you built that and today we're updating a story that we first ran about a year ago this is Brian Sonia Wallace tapping away on his vintage Smith Corona typewriter in his apartment in Los Angeles he uses it for his business which is writing poetry on demand poetry is like the ultimate non-commercial art form you know unless you're a professor or

► 00:49:12

Instagram celebrity poet you're really not usually making a living doing this but about four years ago Brian sort of stumbled into the Poetry business when he was laid off from his job writing grants for a non-profit I thought okay let me see if I can pay my rent for one month it was this experiment in whether you could make any money off of this poetry thing so Brian started to show up at Arts festivals and other events around town with his type

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typewriter and a small table I originally had a sign that said give me a topic I'll write you a poem pay me what you think it's worth and it turns out people would pay anywhere between five and forty dollars for a custom poem about their boyfriends or their girlfriends even about their dogs Anyway by the end of that month Brian had earned enough money to pay his rent and his utilities and it was funny because after the month I was like okay well now I'm going to hang my typewriter up and focus on other things and I kept

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in calls from either people who I had met on the street or people who had seen something about it asking me to do private events but when it came to private events Brian had no idea what to charge and I remember there were a couple early ones one in particular I remember I did like an investment banking conference and I didn't really understand that you could set a baseline price and that people had budgets and would pay for Event Entertainment Brian even

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the scored a gig at the Mall of America where people lined up for custom poems including one particularly interesting customer did my usual open Hi how are you what do you need a poem about she thought for a minute she said you know I've actually just come from a week-long silent Meditation Retreat it was really intense and emotional and so I just came to get some Dippin Dots as a reward so Brian got to work

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and a few minutes later he presented her with the poem it's scary how hectic a week of Silence can be left alone with our thoughts and no release valve do we implode that woman ended up hugging Brian after he read her that poem apparently it happens to him a lot finding a lightness that starts deep in the core of my belly and end

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ends with Dippin Dots at the mall

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Brian Sonia Wallace's business is called rent poet this year he expects to hit a hundred thousand dollars in Revenue which is a big boost since last year he now works with a small team of people ate Freelancers all trained in the art of spontaneous poetry if you want to find out more about rent poet head to our podcast page how I built this done in PR dot-org and of course if you want to tell us your story go to build dot npr.org love hearing what you are building

► 00:52:13

it and thanks so much for listening to the show this week you can subscribe at Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts you can also write to us at H IB T at npr.org and if you want to send a tweet it's at how I built this I'm at Harrah's our show is produced this week by Rachel Falkner with original music composed by rumty narrow Bluey thanks also to Julia Carney Neva grandson has Michigan for and Jeff Rogers our intern is David job I'm guy Roz you've been listening to how

► 00:52:43

I built this