The millennial who launched a global lifestyle brand from her mother’s living room in West Sussex

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Founded in 2017 from Jessica Hanley’s childhood home in West Sussex, 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 much more bedding, sleepwear, table linen, gifts and accessories. .

What’s the story behind the name?

Jessica Hanley: I started Piglet in Bed in 2017 with the help of my mum from her home in rural West Sussex. These early years of building the business in the countryside left their mark on the brand in many ways, including the name. We like that the name doesn’t take itself too seriously and nods to a laid-back (and maybe even a little scruffy) lifestyle at times.

Why linen? Tell me about your laundry and how did you find the factory you work with? Before starting the business, linen bedding wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today, but the more I learned about this great fabric, the more I was convinced it would take off among increasingly environmentally conscious customers. The flax plant from which flax is made is grown with natural, non-GMO rainwater and very few pesticides. It is also a very durable fabric, which means that it will not need to be replaced too frequently unlike other synthetic materials.

When I started meeting the factories, I realized that by selling direct to consumers, there was an opportunity to position the linen in a more accessible way. In the end, we chose a small, family-run factory in China to get us started because they had the best quality and prices and were able to meet the small orders we placed at first. Now we also work with other factories in Romania, the UK and increasingly in Portugal.

I know you call the color palette “calming”, but tell me about the Piglet in Bed color development? The term “soothing” is often associated with lighter, neutral tones, yet I feel most calm when I’m out in nature, surrounded by rich, earthy colors. The rustic texture of linen means that even our brightest shades (raspberry, forest green and burnt orange for example) can create a peaceful ambiance in a bedroom.

When we launched our Mix & Match Bundle Builder last year, we quickly found that our customers were particularly enthusiastic about combining our colorways. Different combinations started popping up in our tagged Instagram photos, even ones we hadn’t thought to put together ourselves.

You started with linen duvet covers and pillowcases and have since grown the brand to include sleepwear, loungewear, table linens, curtains and more. How do you decide which products to launch and when? What are the upcoming projects for the company? We listen to our customers when they tell us what they want for their home, and they have never failed us. In fact, the only times we made mistakes with new categories or new products was when we listened to the market rather than our customers!

Since our fundraising a year ago, one of the main areas of focus for the company has been preparing to significantly expand our product offering. As part of this, we have rebuilt our website; renamed; hiring product, sustainability and sourcing experts; integrated new European factories (particularly 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 be entering the world of bathroom textiles. This is the really fun part!

Who is the Piglet client in bed? He is someone who likes to feel good at home and in the way he does his shopping. Thanks to Instagram, we can see a small window into the lives of people who tag us in their photos, and it’s exciting to see how different this lifestyle can be 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 photos of products our customers send us, or chatting directly with customers.

This new way of interacting with customers was one of the main things that attracted me to e-commerce. Prior to launching Piglet in Bed, I was (like many female shoppers) very tired of brands using perfectly polished images to tell me how to look, dress or behave. I am very proud to be part of a new generation of brands that step aside and let their customers express themselves with their products as they see fit!

You now have operations based in Illinois and a North American subsidiary of the company. What are the main differences between the two markets? Do you offer a slightly different range of products in the UK and the US? Our best-selling colors differ a lot between the two markets (in the US, for example, they buy a lot of Deep Teal!) and the bedding sizes differ between the two markets, so we need to stock exclusively for our Nord customers Americans.

As a busy CEO, you have to travel a lot. What’s your best advice? I was actually stuck in the US with my husband back home in Illinois for two years during Covid because US travel restrictions prevented me from traveling to Europe on my work visa, so I just got back into the swing now. I always take our Lavender Room Spray with me. At home, I spray it on my pillow every night before bed, and I find that doing the same while traveling helps me relax regardless of time zone.

What is the one thing no one knows about you and the company? Most people don’t realize how many members of my family work alongside me. I started the business with my mother, and currently my sister Rebecca is part of our brand marketing team, my husband Patrick is developing the B2B side of things, my cousin is part of our operations team and my aunt sends all our fabric samples. When we say “family business”, we really mean it!


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