The idea for Lovevery came from research Rolph did after her second child was born.
“I really am not somebody that has a lot of ideas,” she said. “I was not a child with a lemonade stand.”
Her experience as a founding partner at an organic baby food company helped her understand her first baby’s nutritional needs, but not necessarily his cognitive developmental needs.
“There's so much happening in brain development between birth and age three; Eighty percent of the brain is developed [then],” Rolphe said. “But I didn't have a roadmap or have a path. And so I found myself with one of those plastic flashing lights, toys…. And all this is happening. And I wondered, ‘Is this actually helping him?’”
Rolph did some research and discovered a doctoral thesis on infant brain development that helped her understand how her child was developing and what might help him thrive. She wanted to make that research easy and accessible for a large audience, just as her first company, Happy Family, had helped parents understand infant nutritional needs.
“We were able to translate all that nerdy research into something that was a mass appeal brand,” she said. “So I wanted to do the same for Lovevery.”
Rolph spent five years piecing together the business idea before co-founding her business with entrepreneur Rod Morris.
Based on her previous business experience, Rolph said she knew how important it is for co-founders to be aligned. She knew that having a female CEO in the baby industry was important, but she said working with Morris was critical to thinking through the early stages of Lovevery.
“We often like to think of the one founder. The one that did it; the one with the idea and the vision and the brilliance to make it happen,” she said. “And it's so often a partnership or a team.”
They started with educational toys including a popular play gym, but they wanted to foster a more direct relationship with their customers, beyond their products.
“Our real vision was not to be a toy company, or a one-off product company,” Rolphe said. “Our real vision was to have an ongoing direct relationship with our customers. So the Early Learning Program was our ultimate vision.”
Lovevery combined developmental research with play kits, creating a series of courses to help parents understand their babies’ development.
“I wrote the first guidebooks in partnership with our writers and our product development people.”
Rolphe said she worked with influencers and regularly talks with customers—including walking up to potential customers and offering them coupons in exchange for their thoughts—to tweak the company’s ideas and bring their offerings more in line with what customers need.
“I don't want our customers to become numbers,” she said. “And then of course we have a really rigorous research process at Lovevery that I'm very involved in—in understanding place studies and engineering designs and really getting to the root of what parents and children really need from us and how we can best serve [them].”
dot.LA Editorial Intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.