The Millennial who started a global lifestyle brand in her mother’s living room in West Sussex

Founded in 2017 from Jessica Hanley’s West Sussex childhood bedroom, piglet in bed started out as a small direct selling linen brand selling duvet covers and pillowcases. Today, the brand has offices and operations in the US and UK and has grown to include many more bedding, nightwear, tablecloths, gifts and accessories.

What is the story behind the name?

Jessica Hanley: I launched Piglet in Bed in 2017 with the help of my mother at her home in rural West Sussex. Those early years building the business inland left their mark on the brand in many ways, including the name. We love that the name doesn’t take itself too seriously and nods to a laid-back (and maybe sometimes even a little scruffy) way of life.

why linen? Tell me about your clothes and how did you find the factory you work with? Before we started the business, linen bedding wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today, but the more I learned about this super fabric, the more convinced I was that it would take off among increasingly environmentally conscious customers. The flax plant that flax is made from is grown with natural rainwater, no GMOs and very little pesticides. It’s also a very durable fabric, which means it won’t need to be replaced very often, unlike other synthetic materials.

When I started meeting with the factories, I realized that by selling directly to the consumer there was an opportunity to position linen in a more accessible way. Ultimately, we chose a small family-owned factory in China to launch as they had the best quality and price and were able to accommodate the small order sizes we were doing in the early days. Now we also work with other factories in Romania, UK and increasingly in Portugal.

I know you refer to the color scheme as “soothing”, but tell me about Piglet in Bed color development? The term “soothing” is often associated with lighter, neutral tones, and yet I feel calmer when out in nature, surrounded by rich, earthy colors. The rustic texture of linen means that even our brightest hues – raspberry, forest green and burnt orange, for example – can create a peaceful ambience in a bedroom.

When we launched our Mix & Match Bundle Builder last year, we quickly discovered that our customers were especially excited to match our colors. Different combinations started showing up in our tagged Instagram photos, even ones we hadn’t thought to put together ourselves.

You started out with just duvet covers and linen pillowcases and since then the brand has grown to include sleepwear, nightwear, tablecloths, curtains and more – how do you decide which products to launch and when? What are the next plans for the business? We listen to our customers when they tell us what they want for their homes, and they have never misled us. In fact, the only times we made mistakes with new categories or products were when we listened to the market and not our customers!

Since our fundraising a year ago, one of the key areas of focus for the business has been preparing to significantly expand our product offering. As part of this, we have rebuilt our website; rescheduled; hired product, sustainability and sourcing experts; incorporated new European factories (especially in Portugal); and are now gearing up for a busy season of product launches. We recently launched our collection of jute rugs and will soon enter the world of bathroom textiles. This is the really fun part!

Who is the Leitão na Cama client? It’s someone who likes to feel good in their home and the way they shop. Through Instagram, we can see a small window into the lives of the people who tag us in their photos, and it’s exciting to see how this way of life can differ from house to house.

How does social media help what you do? One of the things that makes direct-to-consumer brands so exciting is our ability to have such a direct, unfiltered relationship with our communities. Whether it’s sharing what our team is doing, asking for feedback on new product ideas, sharing product photos our customers send us, or talking to customers directly.

This new way of interacting with customers was one of the main things that attracted me to e-commerce. Before starting Piglet in Bed, I (like many women shoppers) was very tired of brands using perfectly polished imagery to tell me how I should look, dress or behave. I am very proud to be part of a new generation of brands that go out of their way and let their customers express themselves with their products in any way they see fit!

You now have Illinois-based operations and a North American branch for the business – what are some of the key differences in the two markets? Do you offer a slightly different product line in the UK and the US? Our best-selling colors differ greatly between the two markets (in the US, for example, they buy a lot of Deep Teal!) American customers.

As a busy CEO, you must travel a lot — what’s your top tip? I was actually stuck in the US with my husband in our Illinois home for two years during Covid because US travel restrictions prevented me from traveling in and out of Europe on my work visa, so I’m heading back now . . I always wrap our lavender bedroom mist. At home, I spray it on my pillow every night before bed, and I find that doing the same while traveling helps me relax in any time zone.

What does no one know about you and the business? Most people don’t realize how many members of my family are working alongside me. I started the business with my mom and now my sister Rebecca is on our brand marketing team, my husband Patrick is developing the B2B side of things, my cousin is on our operations team and my aunt sends all our fabric samples. When we say “family business”, we mean it!

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