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.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I grew up in a very working class family where I was taught that you had to work hard to be successful at anything you did in life. When I started aden + anais I had absolutely zero concept of how hard you had to work to get a business off the ground. My upbringing most definitely came in handy as I was sitting at my dining room table at 4am in the morning building aden + anais from scratch. I was also raised to treat people the way I want to be treated myself so I try to lead by example and run aden + anais very much as a democracy. It doesn't matter if you are CEO, CFO or office manager at aden + anais you are treated equally and no one's voice is more important than anyone else's.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at aden + anais?
Prior to starting aden + anais I had always worked in sales roles, most recently having spent 10 years at The Economist group in various sales positions throughout the organization. Having a sales background made me extremely resilient, especially in the early stages of building the business when I heard "no" more than I heard "yes". It was my 20 plus years of sales experience that gave me the thick skin and the ability to push on in spite of the rejection.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at aden + anais?
The biggest challenge has always been access to capital, especially in the early years. Even though aden + anais was profitable literally from day one and has experienced exponential growth from inception, finding money to grow the business was extremely difficult and in the early stages nonexistent. I would say the highlight has been the overwhelming response from mothers and parents from all over the world. By far and away the best part of what I do is receiving letters and emails from mothers who take the time to write to me to tell me what a difference our products have made in the lives of them and their babies.
What advice can you offer women who are looking to start their own business?
The only way to succeed as an entrepreneur is to face the challenges head on and walk right through them. My motto, no matter how hard it gets, never ever ever give up.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't really, I struggle every day with balancing my commitment to both my family and my business. I've learned that I have to make peace with the fact that there is only one of me and all I can do is my best.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Being taken seriously, unfortunately and in most cases, by men in positions of power.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have never really had a mentor either professionally or personally, I have however been lucky enough to work with some exceptional people whilst building this business. My original investors, Matt Seidler and Bob Seidler from Seidler Equity Partners were instrumental in guiding me in the right direction in the early stages of building this business. I would have made many more mistakes had it not been for their support and guidance. Scott Ventrella, from Positive Dynamics and the author of Me, Inc. who is my executive coach, has also been a huge help to me and this business. I lean on him often as I navigate the waters of being the CEO of a fast growing company.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
As an entrepreneur I admire Sara Blakely, the business she built in a relatively short amount of time was phenomenal. And then there is Oprah, hard not to admire someone who has accomplished as much as she has.
What do you want aden + anais to accomplish in the next year?
We have huge growth plans for the company in 2015. With a very large focus on our International market. Primarily the UK, Europe and Japan. My ultimate goal for the company is to create a true global lifestyle brand that becomes a household name and lives on long after my time at aden + anais has ended.