Journey to Success: Ella Jean

Ella Jean offers bright, fun and colorful baby accessories.
Ella Jean offers bright, fun and colorful baby accessories.

WILMINGTON, NC (FOX WILMINGTON) - Robin Riggs is the founder of Ella Jean. "It's a line of baby accessories that is meant to appeal to the modern mom and baby," said Riggs.

Today, Riggs is a well-organized business woman happily celebrating success -- but that wasn't the case just a few years ago. She had a marketing job she loved and had just had a baby when she got some terrible news.

"When I was preparing to go back from my maternity leave, I learned that my position was part of a company-wide layoff," said Riggs. "So at that point, I was faced with what my next step was going to be."

Outside of her marketing job, Robin didn't have a lot of experience except for all the time she spent preparing to welcome her daughter Ella Jean.

"I had all the baby furniture," said Riggs. "The nursery was set up perfectly, I had adorable baby clothes -- but the blankets, burp cloths, and bibs were just not the style I was looking for."

So, Riggs decided to design her own. "I basically found some designer fabric that I really liked and then I paired it with soft fabric that I thought baby would like and I started out with a blanket and I got a lot of compliments on it so I made matching burp cloths and bibs," she said.

Riggs started making items for friends as baby shower gifts then to help make ends meet. Soon, she decided to market items online, and before she knew it, she realized she loved what she was doing.

So did a lot of other people. Now, she had another decision to make – a very big one.

"I had to really take a leap, because it was either stop the business because I don't have time to keep up with making all these goods at home myself while I am home with my baby, or take it to the next level, which is seek out a factory and have them produce the goods," said Riggs.

Riggs moved forward and decided to incorporate her business and found a factory -- she was well on her way to becoming a business woman and a stay-at-home mom. But she needed to continue to grow her new business, so she went to the biggest of the really big trade shows: the New York International Gift Show.

There, she set up a booth so buyers from all over the country could see the blankets, bibs and burp cloths she'd become so proud of and it paid off.

"Buyers from, I don't know, may be 20 different states placed orders, and I came and fulfilled them," said Riggs.

After her huge success in New York, Robin decided to see what a local boutique would think of her creations.

She walked into Peanut Butter and Jelly at the Forum and met Shanna Blue.

"Her product came across really well and I fell in love with it immediately, and the fact that she was local made it even more exciting," said Blue. "We want to support as many local people as we can, her product can compete with any national brand. This product is our best-selling gift right now."

While she is excited people love her designs, Riggs measures her accomplishments a different way.

"The number one way I measure my success right now is the fact that I am able to do something I love and I'm home being a mother to my two girls, to which is I feel really fortunate to be able to do that," said Riggs.

Riggs has this advice for anyone starting their own business: meet other business owners in your industry. They will become an invaluable resource. Then, find someone who has experience and ask them to mentor you.

Riggs adds to take time to really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

Small business owners often have to take on many roles like advertising, accounting.

You may try to save money by filling as many of those roles as possible. However, you need to be careful to stay away from the roles that you don't excel at, and make sure to hire others to help in these areas.

Fox Wilmington's Kim Ratcliff wants to hear your success story. If you have one to share send Kim an email at

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