The Millennial Who Started A Global Lifestyle Brand From Her Mother’s Living Room In West Sussex

Founded in 2017 from Jessica Hanley’s childhood bedroom in West Sussex, Piglet in Bed started as a small direct sale linen brand selling duvet covers and pillow cases. Today, the brand has offices and operations in both the US and UK, and has grown to include, much more bedding, sleepwear, table linens, gifts and accessories.

What’s the story behind the name?

Jessica Hanley: I launched Piglet in Bed in 2017 with my mother’s help from her house in rural West Sussex. Those early years building the business in the countryside have 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 even sometimes a little scruffy) way of life.

Why linen? Tell me about your linen 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 learnt about this super fabric the more convinced I was that it was going to take off among increasingly environmentally conscious customers. The flax plant that linen is made from is grown with natural rainwater, no GMOs and very little pesticides. It is also a very durable fabric, meaning that it won’t need to be replaced too frequently unlike other synthetic materials.

When I started meeting with factories, I realised that by selling directly to consumers there was an opportunity to position linen in a more accessible way. Ultimately we chose a small family run factory in China to launch with, as they had the best quality and pricing and were able to accommodate the small order sizes that we were placing in the early days. Now we also work with other factories in Romania, the U.K. and increasingly Portugal.

I know you refer to the colour scheme as “calming” but tell me about developing the Piglet in Bed colourways? The term “calming” is often associated with lighter, neutral tones, and yet I myself feel my most calm when in nature, surrounded by rich, earthy colours. The rustic texture of linen means that even our brightest shades—Raspberry, Forest Green and Burnt Orange for example—can create a tranquil mood in a bedroom.

When we launched our Mix & Match Bundle Builder last year, we quickly found that our customers were especially excited to combine our colourways. Different combinations began to pop up in our tagged Instagram photos, even ones that we hadn’t thought to put together ourselves.

You started with just linen duvet covers and pillowcases and have since grown the brand to include sleepwear, loungewear, table linens, curtains and more—how do you decide what products to launch and when? What are the upcoming plans for the business? We listen to our customers when they tell us what they want for their homes, and they have never steered us wrong. In fact the only times we have made mistakes with new categories or products has been when we have been listening to the market rather than to our customers!

Since our fundraise a year ago, one of the major focus areas for the business has been to prepare to significantly expand our product offering. As part of this, we have rebuilt our website; re-branded; hired product, sustainability and sourcing experts; onboarded new European factories (especially in Portugal); and are now gearing up for a busy season of product launches. We recently launched our jute rug collection, and soon we’ll be stepping into the world of bathroom textiles. This is the really fun bit!

Who is the Piglet in Bed customer? It’s someone who loves to feel good in their home and in how they shop. Through Instagram we get to see a little window into the lives of the people who tag us in their photos, and it is thrilling to see how different this way of life can look from home to home.

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 and unfiltered relationship with our communities. Whether that is to share what our team is up to, ask for feedback on new product ideas, share product photos that our customers send us, or chat directly with customers.

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 a lot of female shoppers), had grown very weary of brands using perfectly polished imagery to tell me how I should look, dress or behave. I feel very proud to be part of a new generation of brands who get out of the way and let their customers express themselves with their products however they see fit!

You now have operations based in Illinois and a North American branch to the business—what are some of the major differences in the two markets? Do you offer a slightly different product line in the U.K. and U.S.? Our best selling colours differ quite a lot between the two markets (in the U.S., for instance, they buy a lot of Deep Teal!) and the bedding sizes differ between the two markets, so we do need to create stock exclusively for our North American customers.

As a busy CEO you must travel a great deal—what’s your top tip? I was actually stuck in the U.S. with my husband at our home in Illinois for two years during Covid because the US’s travel restrictions kept me from traveling in and out of Europe on my work visa, so I am just now getting back into the swing now. I always pack our Lavender room mist. At home I spritz it on my pillow every night before bed, and I find that doing the same while traveling helps me wind down whatever the time zone.

What’s one thing no one knows about you and the business? Most people don’t realise just how many of my family members are working alongside me. I started the business with my mother, and right now my sister Rebecca is on our brand marketing team, my husband Patrick is building out the B2B side of things, my cousin is on our operations team, and my aunt sends out all of our fabric swatches. When we say “family business” we really mean it!

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