We met Elle at Alt Summit back in January and we’re so happy we did. She is the founder of Solly Baby, a family business that began in Salt Lake City but is now based in San Diego. She and her husband, Jared, have three children and live in a little house by the beach.
How did you conceive of Solly Baby? Was it from dissatisfaction over what the market provided in the way of baby carriers?
Solly Baby came about at a time when I was blogging, sewing, having babies, and constantly thinking of how to simplify and beautify my role as a mother. So many of the products on the market for parenting were either for the parent or the child, not both. I wanted to make a wrap that was the most comfortable place for a baby to be, as well as for the caregiver, and I wanted to help the wearer retain a sense of self.
When you started Solly Baby, your husband was in school full time and you were home with two kids. How did you make time to get the business off the ground? What was your biggest challenge in doing so?
Oh man. Looking back, the numbers don’t even add up. I honestly don’t know how it all happened. Jared was at school before our two-year old and newborn were awake and most evenings he didn’t return until after the kids were in bed. I really utilized nap times, early bedtimes, and I multitasked. I also remember getting the advice from my sister-in-law that if you give your kids thirty minutes of undivided attention, they will give you an hour or even two of independent play. I found that to be true with my toddler and I wore Solomon so much in the wrap that taking care of him was a breeze. A little ironic, right?
You’ve been very clear from the beginning about your values and creating a product that reflects them. We love your attention to detail, even down to your letter pressed packaging, and note cards. Sourcing your materials in the USA and working with American factories, fabric mills, dye houses, and printers is something you are passionate about.
Your book, Carrying Baby: A Babywearing Adventure, was such an natural complement to the Solly Wrap and you had such an amazing team who helped you put it together: Eva Jorgensen created the hand lettering, Amanda Jane Jones did the book design, and Ashmae Hoiland did the illustrations. We love it!
Your brilliant creation allows you to stay close to your baby and still get things done. Your design integrates the benefits of babywearing and the beauty of personal style. Can you tell us a little about why babywearing is so important to you? How did you conceptualize the wrap and determine which fabrics to use? When did you know you had created something special?
Just the idea of giving your little one everything he or she needs while having the independence to get other things done by wearing them is a really amazing concept. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. Babywearing also reduces postpartum depression, promotes bonding, reduces colic by astronomical numbers and just makes for a much happier “fourth trimester” as we call it. I see it as vital to helping your baby thrive, especially in that first year.
The design is quite simple but still not like any other wrap on the market. Every line, stitch, taper, and pocket was designed for a specific reason. We’ve tested out every width, weight of fabric, and kind of fabric to make for a truly luxurious experience. We’ve changed things a few times and we might do so again in the future, because we believe in continually innovating and improving.
I think I knew I’d done something differently the first time I wore Solomon. It was snowing outside and I wanted to walk to a friend’s house for a play date for my daughter Lucy. There was all the hustle and bustle of getting shoes and coats on and the usual stress of leaving the house with little kids. I put him in my first prototype of the wrap and he immediately fell to sleep. Like right away. I felt like I could exhale and take on the day.
Children are at the core of your business model. You have an amazing way of finding the balance and have created a beautiful lifestyle for you and your family. Whether you are home or traveling the world, you make every day an adventure… Speaking of which, let’s talk about your five-week European escapade..
You took Solly’s marketing campaign to Europe. What an amazing concept! What sparked your decision to do something so grand? Had you traveled to Europe before? What sights were on your itinerary? From the looks of it, it seems like you didn’t plan every location; instead, you kind of just went for it.
I’m always looking for ways to travel, so when the idea hit me that we could travel and run a successful marketing campaign, it felt like a no-brainer. Jared and I have both been to Europe on our own, but never together and definitely not with three children aged five and under, which is an experience that is unique to say the least. You see and experience everything in a different way when you’re traveling with kids. I thought our community might be interested in what that looked like and if it was even possible.
I was the most excited to rely fully on our wraps throughout the trip. We didn’t bring strollers or even car seats (we rented them any time we used a car, which was rare) so I felt like we got to know our product in a way that we never would’ve otherwise. Especially because we had no idea where we were going. We had a flat in London and a little cottage in the English countryside. After that first week we had no plans for the next four, so we created our itinerary as we traveled. It was great because we could gauge how our kids were doing and if we needed something more rural or if they could handle more city. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
Not only did you decide to travel together for five weeks, you created a contest for your readers and followers using the hashtag #sollycation. Tell us more about that. How were the results? What an incredible way to involve your community.
We felt kind of funny just showing off our trip through Instagram for five weeks without giving our community any more payoff other than getting tips on how to fly with your wrap, so we decided to give a trip away. People always ask us if we really paid for the prize package or if we had our companies sponsor, but we didn’t. We wanted it to feel like we were really giving back to our community.
Through all of your travels, did you come away with a favorite city or memory? What about your kids? What was their favorite part?
My favorite city was Paris, Jared’s was Stockholm, Lucy’s was the English countryside, Solomon’s was Greece because he ate so much pizza. There were beautiful moments in each place and hard ones, just like daily life anywhere, but both of the moments were a little bit heightened, you know? The good was REALLY good and the bad was pretty (laughably now but not then) BAD.
One night in Paris, we went on a whim to hear a string symphony play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in this gorgeous famous cathedral, after we walked by Notre Dame and listened to street performers. Then we tried to catch a taxi back but couldn’t find an empty one anywhere so we started walking. The kids started to complain about walking so we started singing songs to get them energized. We sang “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables as we walked (nobody was really around, thank goodness) while looking at the Eiffel Tower, touching the Love Locks bridge and walking along La Seine river. That falls into the REALLY good category.
You couldn’t have created a more natural and lovely way to show your customers exactly how Solly Baby can enable them while traveling. You make everything look so effortless and fashionable. We love your style. Who are your style icons? Who do you look to for inspiration?
Thank you! I am rather practical when it comes to style. It’s all about the fit, the quality, the functionality. I love timeless pieces that nail it in the details. Understated and stain-resistant is definitely my vibe.
I’m most inspired by a mix of women of the past: Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and Coco Chanel; and natural beauties from today: Alexa Chung and Gwyneth Paltrow.
You mentioned recently that this year is your husband’s year. What great things has he got going on?
I love that you thought to ask about Jared. Because most of our community is made of up mothers, he’s not always at the forefront, but he’s played a vital role in Solly Baby even when I was the one making the wraps. I have been pushing him to streamline his position as CFO so that he has time to work on other projects as well that are more creative. He’s great with analytics and numbers, but he’s just as much of a creative as I am so I can’t wait to see him doing something that satisfies that part of him. Solly Baby has been my dream, but he’s made it his as well these last few years. I’m excited for him to pursue his own dreams in the future.
You have worked very hard to get where you are and it seems you have your life and Solly Baby figured out just right. Can you share some advice with us that you learned throughout your journey?
You’re definitely giving me too much credit. It’s always crazy behind the scenes, you know? I feel like, in so many ways, we are still finding answers to the same problems we had four years ago. I thought there would be this moment where we’d know we’d made it; when we could say “we are a success.” I’ve realized that time doesn’t really happen. You can have tons of little or big successes along the way, but everything can fall apart in a moment and there’s always a new level of success to reach.
The only success that isn’t fleeting is being the kind of person you’re meant to be. To run your business with integrity, to be kind, to work hard, to be vulnerable, to keep your priorities straight, to add value, and to be good to the people around you.
Thank you so much for sharing your time with us, Elle. We love your work and your creativity! You can follow Elle on her Instagram or her website to keep updated with Solly Baby.
All photos © Solly Baby