With a best-selling lullaby album in the UK under her belt, British musician and performer Jane Stewart wasn’t content to simply rest on her laurels (of which there are many). Instead she spent time expanding upon her lullaby CD success with launch of the Lully teddy bear. Playing songs recorded by Jane, Lully is born of much hard work and hustle which, like many women-owned innovations, is often the story we really need to hear. Because the hill to climb to make our entrepreneurial dreams a reality is bolstered by the stories of other women’s successes.
So having met Jane a few years ago as she embarked on the creation of her singing, soothing, bear, we wanted to check back in to hear about Lully’s success in the UK and plans for expansion in the US.
The Motherhood ‘Incubator’
Stepping back, the story of Lully is one that we often hear about from new mothers. And that is, of course, how maternity leave can actually be a time of both great exhaustion AND creativity. For Jane, the fact that her firstborn was unable to self-soothe and sleep started her down a new path… As a singer and performer, she was able to comfort her son by singing lullabies. But when she tried to find a high-quality CD with familiar songs and uninterrupted play; none seemed to exist.
So, like many new mothers, when Jane couldn’t find what she needed…she made it happen herself. Leveraging years of experience as a stage and screen performer, she quickly inked a deal. And not just any deal; but one with Universal Music and Marks and Spencer in the UK. Called I Watch You Sleeping, the CD was full of well-known songs that would come to please parents, grandparents and small children. And, no surprise, it did the trick. I Watch You Sleeping became one of the top selling CDs in Marks and Spencer’s history.
Never Stop Innovating…From Album to Lully Bear
Of course, having a best-selling lullaby album was enough of an achievement (along with her long and successful career) that Jane could have left well enough alone. But in 2018, she pursued an idea she’d had for a while… Already busy enough with her ‘day job’ as the Managing Director of a hospitality company specializing in the arts; Jane decided to combine her lullabies with a soft, cuddly toy. More convenient for parents and more fun for children.
After endless months of negotiations, Jane was able to secure timeless songs licensed to be played in full. This includes classics such as ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’, ‘You Are My Sunshine’, ‘Any Dream Will Do’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’. And of course, sung by Jane herself, an accomplished singer with a track record in lullaby success!
Our Chat with Jane Stewart About Lully Bear
After spending time with our own Lully bear (which is everything promised and more — even able to sooth our little dog!) we had a chance to catch up with Jane.
You’ve had a number of successes and forged different paths along your career… tell us about your journey?
I’ve had a very interesting career path. I was a very premature baby so started dancing almost as soon as I could walk; as the doctors said it would strengthen my limbs. This lead me to a theatrical school where I trained as a dancer, singer and actress. I worked in show business for many years with work spanning television, film and theatre.
Once my children were at school it was hard to work in the theatre so I started working with my brother in his hospitality company. He was heavily involved in the sports business; so with my arts background I added hospitality opportunities in music, film and theatre.
It was a fantastic partnership. And today we continue to work with many world music touring artists creating, selling and running the hospitality on their UK and European tours. Very sadly my brother Mark died suddenly at the age of 42 from cancer and I continue his legacy and run the company in his name. It was a very steep learning curve but we still fly the flag very high in his name; and hope to make him proud!
So, I had always wanted to continue my work in music and creating Lully was a great way to do this. Having combined my knowledge of business with my love of music, it made sense. And I don’t think I would have been able to create Lully if I hadn’t been involved in running a business and working in the theatre.
What are you proudest of?
To have had the idea for Lully and then to make it happen makes me very proud. It was a great challenge as I had to work closely with the music industry to bring the product to life. Nobody has ever put 23 tracks into a soft toy and having achieved it I now know why! Lots of people have ideas but very few bring them to fruition!
What’s been the most difficult?
In all honesty, every part of creating Lully was difficult; from designing the bear with exact specification to working with the music industry enabling me to use the beautiful songs. Also in making sure it was a quality product. My next challenge is to bring the product to people’s attention!
Your dream of Lully is now a reality! How does that feel?
It feels fantastic, we have had so much wonderful feedback and so many mums, dads, carers. They all say that this is the first time their babies/children have slept all night. And they are singing along to the songs as well. One little girl recited her times tables as she had been listening to inchworm every night! Another stood up in the theatre when watching Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and said my Lully Bear sings that! There are many older children using it too so it’s a product that can be used for many years.
What are the plans for Lully’s growth?
I have lots of ideas for products along the same theme. And I am very lucky to have a very musical family so we can keep it in house. My son is a music producer and songwriter (he has just written and produced the latest BTS song Dynamite). While my daughter is a singer/songwriter; and my husband a musician/actor. So lots of creativity at home!
I would like Lully to become a great brand! And of course I have ideas for books, accessories and more. I feel there is a big gap in the market for a differentiated baby shower gift. I think Lully fills this gap perfectly!