As new parents, the weight of responsibility can feel overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make and your baby’s health, safety and happiness become your priority. On discovering how much her three-month-old daughter liked to put things in her mouth, Jenna Horner was disappointed that most teethers on the market were made from plastic or silicone. She struggled to find a natural rubber teething ring that would meet the needs of her daughter, prompting her to sketch her own design, and My Friend Goo was born. At Cloud & Cuckoo they offer a range of natural rubber teethers and gorgeous accessories that are better for your baby and the planet. Here Jenna talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about her business journey so far.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
When my daughter was around three months old, like most babies she started putting literally EVERYTHING she could find in her mouth. Most of the toys and teethers I could find were made from plastic or silicone which for me seemed bizarre as I didn’t particularly like the idea of her chewing on plastic. A friend told me about a miracle rubber toy from France that my daughter did indeed love but she couldn’t hold it. I remember sitting there as a new mum holding the toy towards her mouth. I hadn’t even managed to get dressed and I was looking around at the mess thinking there had to be something better than this.
I searched online for a for natural rubber teething ring and couldn’t find anything that met the needs of my teething daughter. I even looked at dog toys! It wasn’t long before I found myself sketching a design for a natural rubber ring shaped toy, based on a character, and before I knew it, My Friend Goo was born.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Running a business was a whole new world to me that I knew absolutely nothing about. I had managed to get myself a website but I didn’t have a clue about marketing or PR and had nothing in place to launch my products. Various Mummy bloggers were starting to appear online and luckily a friend of a friend wrote a blog and had just had a baby, so I decided to send her ‘My Friend Goo’ for her baby to try. This helped to spread the word and one contact led to another. I worked with a few influencers on social media and I couldn’t believe the response, everyone could see babies enjoying our toys and hear their parents describing how and why it was so effective. It really helped us to build a following and get the concept of our brand out there in the early days.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
I had the idea for ‘My Friend Goo’ a few years before I managed to get it into production. I initially wasted a LOT of money trying to get it licensed, and finding someone who could manufacture natural rubber was near impossible as it had to be manufactured in a tropical climate.
Even though I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, I knew it was the right thing to do. Not only was plastic hard and not very pleasant to chew, but there was A LOT of research that had found harmful chemicals such as BPA, PVC, Nitrosamines and Phthalates in plastic and silicone toys. Eventually I found a manufacturer that was ethical in all areas and could make high-quality natural rubber products. Initially this had felt like an impossible task, but the concept behind Cloud & Cuckoo and my products relied on it.
Even though this was crucial to getting the business off the ground, you don’t get anywhere if people don’t know about your products, so I also want to mention being included in The Unmumsy Mum’s blog ‘5 Bloody Useful Baby Products‘. I sold out in two days and had to create pre-order options. I can’t thank Sarah enough for that; it opened so many doors.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
It’s very hard if I’m honest and I always feel like I’m never doing enough, but the benefit of running Cloud & Cuckoo is I can be flexible with my time. I was an art teacher before I started my business and I remember everyone told me that would be the perfect career to start a family. They were right in terms of the maternity leave and to be honest that’s when I had the idea for Cloud & Cuckoo, but it was far from ideal when I started raising a young family. As soon as I went back to work, it hit home that I could no longer be there when my children needed me. I couldn’t go to their sports’ days or Christmas plays and I always had a pile of work to do in the school holidays.
Now I run my own business I can take them to school and pick them up every day. I never miss a parents’ meeting, school play or sports’ day. I work in the evenings of course and it’s an added pressure, but I will be forever grateful that I didn’t miss those special moments.
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