The Quality Makers: Jessica Rolph of Lovevery

Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…

I’ve been a huge fan of Lovevery since I became pregnant in 2018 -- the brand’s signature Play Gym ($140) was one of the first purchases I made for our daughter. The muted yet fun color scheme caught my eye, and I loved that it offered so many different ways to play -- from batting to teething to learning to focus during tummy time. Shortly after my daughter Ellie was born, we started using the Play Kits (from $80), which offer “stage-based play essentials for your child’s developing brain” and completely take the guesswork out of playtime. The subscription-based program delivers kits of Montessori-style toys to your door every 2 months for the first year and every 3 months up until age four. The toys are tailored to your child’s exact age, meaning they are developmentally appropriate, offering your child both the opportunity to sharpen or show off current skills and build new ones. I literally cannot say enough good things about these put it simply, I am completely obsessed.

So, when I had the opportunity to ask co-founder Jessica Rolph a few questions of course I jumped right on it! Read on to hear what Jessica has to say about Lovevery’s “scrappy start,” the inspiration behind the brand, how they’re upleveling the toy game, and what’s next. 

Baby Lucy loves the Play Gym...and I’m happy we’re getting to reuse toys for baby #2!

Let’s kick off by hearing a little bit about you. What’s your story?

JR: The idea for Lovevery started when I became a first-time parent. One day I was watching my baby play with a purple plastic cow with flashing lights. The question was, why do toys like this exist and what do they do for development? As co-founder of Happy Family, a baby food company, I was already interested in children’s health and development. I felt pretty confident about how my baby’s food was helping his body grow, but I wasn’t so sure about how his toys were helping his brain grow.

I discovered a doctoral thesis on infant brain development that had all these detailed, nerdy, things that I could do with my baby. The approach felt really natural and simple...I never looked at my children’s toys the same way again. I am confident now that I understand what my children are hungry to learn at each stage, and I want to share that feeling of confidence with other parents. That’s the inspiration for Lovevery. 

One day I was watching my baby play with a purple plastic cow with flashing lights. The question was, why do toys like this exist and what do they do for development?

I’ve had a few similar experiences...we just throw these flashy toys in front of our kids and hope they stay occupied, but we don’t really think about how toys might actually help in their development. Lovevery is definitely breaking that mold. Can you talk a bit more about how you’re thinking about this?

JR: I remember sitting with my baby on my lap, reading an illustrated book about opposites. There was a comparison between a mouse (little) and an elephant (big). I don’t think my child really got it. He had never seen an elephant next to a mouse in real life and the pictures were not realistic, so it wasn’t a meaningful comparison to him. The comparison of big to little is relative, and the concept is more complex for our babies than we realize. I dreamed of creating a book about opposites featuring real-life photography that compared familiar objects in context: one child holding a gigantic ball compared to the same child holding a very small ball.

I had so many moments like this. I watched my babies pull out and eat tissues from a tissue box, wishing I could make one out of wood and fabric instead. I saw them spend many happy minutes dropping a ball through a plastic tube my husband assembled from PVC pipe, wishing it was clear so my children could see the ball dropping through. 

I love this so much. My husband and I have so many of the same feelings - Googling baby DIY activities and trying to put something together that was great in theory, but definitely scrappy. So what next? How did you turn this into a company?

JR: Yeah, I remember discovering obscure Montessori infant classroom materials that could only be purchased from school catalogues, wishing we could have them at home. So I spent years reading, researching and testing out homemade prototypes with my babies, figuring out what needed to happen to bring Lovevery to fruition. 

What was launching the brand like? Imagine wanting something really important for your own children that isn’t available and you can’t make at home. Now imagine designing and manufacturing that very thing—to the most precise detail—for any and all families who want it. It feels very full-circle to me. 

What took the idea from incubation into the “okay we’re really going to do this” phase was teaming up with my Co-founder, Rod Morris. I believe in partnerships and needed Rod to make Lovevery really happen. He is strategic, creative and particularly good at making quick, hard decisions. He is rigorous about establishing and maintaining our company’s growth, and is a discerning team-builder. 

Snapshots from the 0-12 month Play Kit, including a fun stroller toy, mobile, rattle, and on-the-go black & white cards.

I’m literally picturing all the toys we’ve gotten in the play kits and envisioning how prototypes became reality. It’s amazing to see how successful and popular Lovevery is today. I know community is a big component too, supporting and connecting parents online. How do you think about community?

JR: Lovevery customers are parents looking for that nerdy edge when it comes to child development. Early parenthood can be a rewarding time, but it’s also an emotional, raw time: what we don’t want is to present ourselves as some kind of top-down authority. We know that great parenting is a mix of intuition and reliable, timely information. To help build confidence, we always deliver our messages from a place of empathy and solidarity.

We co-create products, blog posts, and articles with our customers. We partner with our community so we know what is on their minds. They help us come up with ideas for new products and books and even connect us with experts.

Can you share an example?

JR: Yeah, actually in January, we’ll be releasing a book about a child with a limb difference. Her mom reached out to us on Instagram and asked if we could represent her story. We always try to balance sharing helpful, insightful tips with the stories of real families, and we try not to shy away from meaningful and challenging topics.

It’s like Christmas morning when our Play Kits arrive. Ellie especially loves the board books that are included in every kit.

That’s amazing. Actually all of the board books from our Play Kits are great, but we especially love that they represent all types of kids and families -- it’s a great tool in teaching our toddler about diversity and acceptance. You’re definitely doing great work in that arena. I’d love to hear -- what’s next for Lovevery?

JR: Our early learning program has become an essential resource for parents in 30 markets worldwide. Our goal is to keep expanding, creating new products that serve children all over the word for more years of their early development. Our long-term vision is to support every part of the parenting experience throughout early childhood. We want to be truly accessible to as many families as possible.

I’m super excited - we actually just launched a small line with Target...products that do not overlap with our early learning subscription, but still introduce customers to our approach. Each product offers a QR code with a digital Play Guide that gives customers ideas for thoughtful ways to play as their children grow, informed by experts. 

Ellie at seven months, playing with the aforementioned tissue box.

Let’s switch gears and talk a little bit about you and what’s important to you as a founder and entrepreneur. What do you look for when shopping for something new?

JR: Like so many of us, the climate issue is on my mind more and more. I’m building awareness about what our family really needs, but I’m still slow to act on that awareness. I’m trying to become much more conscious about materials. It’s so frustrating to buy something that you can’t repair, that’s wrapped in three layers of packaging. We are losing the ability to recycle due to the volume of single-use plastics in our waste stream and landfills are full of broken products that can’t be made useful again. Many thoughtful brands are working hard to address these issues... those are the ones I want to support.

So what brands are you supporting? What are your current must haves?

JR: Well, our whole family has been loving Montana Emu Ranch Company’s lotion (we use it daily). I’ve also recently become a weighted blanket person, really love my Bearaby one. And Lunya silk pajamas...the best end of day luxury.

Interested in shopping our favorite Lovevery products? Check out the Play Kits and Play Gym, of course, and don’t sleep on the Montessori Play Shelf, the Block Set or the Placemat & Utensil Set (perfect for getting toddlers to participate at the table...a mom can dream, right?).

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