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Wilmington mom turns motherly hobby into national business

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Layoffs is not a word you want to hear. But when that happened to one New Hanover County mom, she turned a hobby into a small business. Now she ships her custom baby products to stores across the nation.

In 2008, Robin Riggs was pregnant with her first child. While shopping, she couldn’t find any blankets or bibs she liked.

“I found a lot of pastels and very babyish looking items, and I wanted something that was a little more of a reflection of my style for her,” Riggs said.

A trip to a fabric store solved that problem. So she set out to make her own items, despite having little experience.

“It was definitely reinventing the wheel,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I just got the sewing machine out, and it was kinda trial and error.”

Riggs planned to go back to work after having her daughter, but her company was laying off employees, and Riggs’s marketing job was on the chopping block. To help earn money, she made more bibs, burp cloths and blankets to sell online.

“I was very busy at home with the baby doing everything myself, and did that for about a year before I really couldn’t keep up with it any more with a toddler at home,” Riggs said.

That’s when she decided to jump headfirst into the world of baby boutiques. She started Ella Jean, which is named after her daughter. She found a factory to work with and went to a trade show in New York. Within a couple of days, 20 stores from across the nation bought her products. Her business has expanded since then, and so has her family.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to creating even more things. I’ve got a couple of things in the works right now.”

Ella Jean products are mostly in independent baby boutiques, but Riggs just got a contract to test her items in a large national chain. Locally, her products are at Peanut Butter and Jelly. You can also buy them online.

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