As a young mom of two, Jellyn Echon was on a never-ending search for a diaper bag that was trend-forward, yet practical and in an on-the-go size for quick trips to the playground or doing errands. Turns out, it was a tall order, so she decided to create it herself. Having always had a penchant for fashion design, Jellyn sketched ideas of her perfect type of bag, which eventually became her best-seller—a sleek mini-backpack that’s trendy and functional for the modern minimalist mama. Named after her daughter, her company hi,aria now boasts that original diaper bag along with chic handbags and accessories for every phase of womanhood. We sat down with the Dumont mama to talk about how a car ride with her husband led to her launching her business, why learning to ask for help is essential, and her must-try North Jersey spot for authentic Filipino food.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Peter Bonilla
Tell us about your professional background. Did you always have an eye for design?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have always had a heart for creativity, whether drawing doodles, taking on art projects, or learning graphic design at such a young age. I even remember having a notebook where I would draw clothing designs. Ironically though, I didn’t pursue it in college. I originally majored in finance and switched to marketing my senior year after realizing I wanted to work in an industry where I could be creative. Most of my professional background was in marketing, social media, and events, which helped me launch my business. Designing bags was something I just taught myself through trial and error.
How was hi,aria born, and where does the name come from?
My company was born out of a conversation in the car with my husband. I was pregnant with my daughter, and we were coming home from the park with my son. I was complaining about how there isn’t a diaper bag on the market that checked all the boxes for me, and I was stuck using a toddler backpack to carry his stuff. I explained to my husband what I thought would be the perfect diaper bag for quick trips, and he said, “so why don’t you just create it?” So I did by sketching The Original Mini, initially named the On The Run bag. When deciding on a brand name, I knew I wanted it to be named after my daughter. I always knew Aria was the perfect name for her, but it took some time to convince my husband. Initially, it was supposed to be called “Aria Bags” but the Instagram handle was already taken, so I had to get creative. I landed on hi,aria—I added the “hi” as a form of welcoming her into the world. I love it, actually. I am glad that the original handle was taken, or I wouldn’t have come up with it.
What do you love most about creating your own products and being an NJMOMpreneur? What do you find most challenging about it?
The thing I love most about creating my own products is creative control. The fact that I get to draw a sketch and make it come to life is always a surreal experience, even more so when I see the final products I drew on my iPad. I also love the luxury of controlling my time and spending most of it with my kids. When I was working full-time, I lost a lot of watching my son grow up, so I wanted to find a way to provide for them while also spending time with them. Starting a business was the way to do that for me. But working with my kids around also has its challenges. Finding the balance between work and home is something that I am trying to accomplish since, right now, the jobs are scrambled into one. I often find myself not being present in moments when I should, and it has been a learning process.
Can you share some of your favorite products from the line and what makes them so special?
It is so hard, but my number one will always be The Original Mini. It is the first bag that I ever designed and the whole reason why I launched the brand in the first place—to provide moms with a versatile, trendy, and functional bag that is purposely designed for quick trips. The Original Mini has a permanent place in my lineup and will always come out in new colors, variations, and interior designs, which I am incredibly excited about. Another personal favorite is the CLEO bag. As a young mom, I have a lot of friends who aren’t moms yet, so I wanted to create a bag that would also cater to them. The CLEO was designed for every stage of womanhood.
What’s it like being a part of the baby industry, and how has your motherhood journey helped shape your business?
Being a part of the baby industry has been amazing! I have met many other mompreneurs, and I am so grateful to be a part of the community. It also is very competitive, like any other industry. Everyone is just trying to stay on top of the latest trends, but that also means catching some of your ideas being imitated and replicated. Being a mom has been the biggest factor in helping shape my business. A lot of the time, business owners struggle with ideas and try to get into the heads of their target audience. Lucky for me, I am a part of my target audience, so it helps tremendously in the brainstorming process. My everyday motherhood experiences help me determine the next move for the brand in terms of design, functionality, and style.
Tell us some of your favorite NJ spots to hit with your family and why you love them.
We’re big fans of the Turtle Back Zoo and Van Saun Park. We visit Van Saun Park all the time because there’s a huge park and my kids enjoy taking a ride on the train to relax after a fun day or making a short trip around the zoo to say hi to the animals. We visit Turtle Back Zoo at least once a year, and we love it because the kids can explore and learn about so many different animal species. If you’re ever in the North Jersey area, some local spots that are a must-try are Denaro’s, Raw Squeeze, and Tropical Hut, which has the most amazing Filipino food.
What do you hope your kids learn by watching you run your own business?
I hope my kids learn to never give up on their dreams. I have always believed with hard work and passion, you can achieve anything. I also hope they learn challenges and obstacles aren’t a sign of failure. Instead, they are a sign of progress. Those difficulties are there to help you grow.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for a fellow aspiring NJMOMpreneur?
The best piece of advice I can share is not to be afraid to ask for help. Remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. There are so many tasks that come with being a small business owner, and to do it on your own can be overwhelming. Add being a mom on top of it, and the list of things to do is almost endless. When you ask for help, you give yourself some air to breathe, which is essential for your mental health and gives you room for growth. You can’t grow if you find yourself constantly being too busy catching up.