After designing her picture-perfect bed during a home renovation, Missy Tannen, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, decided it was time to design the softest, most comforting sheets and created Boll & Branch. Missy’s company is now the largest purchaser of Fair Trade Organic Cotton in the world, and a top designer and retailer of luxury home goods that are ethically-made. She’s dedicated to providing products that make the world better for those that use them and for those that produce them, supporting the livelihoods of thousands of textile workers around the world. We’re inspired by her ability to take a risk by jumping into the textile industry and dedication to mandating fair wages and business practices. This intuitive businesswoman sat down with NJMOM to discuss her career as a teacher and some of her favorite places to spend time around New Jersey like Long Beach Island.
NJMOMpreneur & Founder of Boll & Branch, Missy Tannen
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Missy: Boll & Branch is a leading designer and retailer of luxury home goods, all of which are rooted in quality, ethically made, and sustainably sourced. The Company is noted globally for its steadfast commitment to bringing sustainable business practices to the luxury home sector. In just four years, Boll & Branch has become the world’s largest consumer of Fair Trade Certified(TM) organic cotton and has supported the livelihoods of thousands of textile workers around the world, by mandating fair wages and business practices. As a result, the company has become one of the largest e-commerce-first luxury home brands ever and counts hundreds of thousands of Americans, including US Presidents and countless celebrities, as its customers. There are lots of DTC bedding companies on the market now, but we truly care about providing a product that makes the world better for those that use it and those that produce it.
To get your feet off the ground, you have to free yourself from the idea of “failing”. Starting your own business is definitely not the easy way, and there are so many hats you will wear that you may not feel comfortable putting on.” – Missy Tannen, Founder of Boll & Branch
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Missy: We were renovating our bedroom and at the end of the project, I was excited to design our picture perfect bed. However, several trips to the mall ended in a lot of confusion in deciding what made really great sheets, and how much they should cost. So we set out to make the best quality sheets in the best ways possible.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Missy: The best part of our business is that as our company grows, so does the impact we have around the world. After being in business for five years, we are now the largest purchaser of Fair Trade Organic Cotton in the world.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Missy: While my background is not from the textiles industry, I spent over a year learning everything I could… and I continue to learn every day. I believe that experiences from my entire life have helped shape the person that I am today. I was a consumer first, so I want people to love how their bedding looks, but I’m just as detailed on how the products are made and where the raw materials come from.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Missy: I am most proud of being able to take a risk in starting our business. There are always a million reasons not to do something, but we believed in ourselves and “went for it”.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Missy: Now that Boll & Branch has built a national reputation, people are always surprised to learn that I spent the first portion of my career as a 3rd Grade teacher at Van Holten School in Bridgewater. I had always dreamed of being a teacher and was hired at Van Holten just after graduating from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As a 22-year-old moving to New Jersey (I grew up in Cincinnati), the Van Holten community became my unofficial family and I loved every minute of teaching. When our daughter was born in 2004, I decided to stay home with her (and her twin sisters that followed in 2007) which I did until starting Boll & Branch in 2013.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Missy: Throughout my life, I’ve always been passionate about working with children. This led me to professionally become a 3rd-grade teacher in Bridgewater, and personally to volunteer in a variety of ways with young people. I love providing new experiences for children and being part of their growth and development.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Missy: Professionally, we are looking to grow our Instagram following because it’s a great way to connect with our customers. I’m going to face my fears of public speaking and I’m going to be appearing in more Instagram Live broadcasts (@bollandbranch). Follow along to see some exciting updates in the coming months.
Personally, while we travel to India often, my husband, Scott, and I will be taking our youngest daughters for their first time in the Spring. They will be able to visit our factories and get to meet the people who make our products. They have also been pen pals for five years with the children of our first partner, so it will be exciting for them to meet in person!
NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Missy: My sister, Ali. She is the best mom and friend anyone could ever have. Ali is the most thoughtful and caring person I know and brightens everyone’s lives. No matter how busy she is, or what she has going on in her life, she is there for her family, friends, and community.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Missy: My dad always said, “if you want a job done right, do it yourself.” I grew up understanding, that if you want something done, that you need to put your whole effort and attention into something. You cannot sit back and wish that something would be done…. You need to get out there and do it yourself! I believe that’s what we’ve done with bedding. Scott and I found a void in the market and decided to do something about it.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?
When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” – Steve Jobs
I am both blessed and cursed to come from a long, long line of perfectionists. Details matter and I obsess over them. I’ve always loved this sentiment because I think it symbolizes everything I’ve worked to build at Boll & Branch. Our products are perfect in every way and sometimes it is the details you can’t see that make all the difference.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Missy: We love the beach and spend as much time as possible in the summer on Long Beach Island.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Missy: Every part! I just love spending time with my three daughters. All three are soccer players, so we spend a lot of time watching them play on weekends, but more than anything I just love being with them. Whether it is helping them on a school project, going out together to do our nails for a special day, or just snuggling on the couch while watching a movie, I try to cherish every moment. It certainly goes by quickly!
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Missy: I love Harvest Bistro (formerly On A Roll), in Madison. I’ve been ordering the exact same thing for over a decade, the On A Roll sandwich! The best!!! Sally Tracy Cakes. Sally’s a local mom, preschool teacher, and baker whose creative talents and baking skills have earned her local namesake of “The Cake Lady.” Everything tastes as delicious as it looks! The Bagel Bin in Bernardsville. Scott grew up in Bernardsville, and his dad was their first ever customer about 30 years ago. I have to agree with Scott that Sari and the team make the best bagels in the world.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Missy: My family and I live in Chatham and we absolutely love it. While Chatham is aesthetically beautiful, it is the people that make it so special. From the day that Scott and I first started dreaming about what would become Boll & Branch, our neighbors and friends in Chatham have been 100% behind us. In good times and tough times, the incredible community in Chatham supports its own and we’re very proud to call it home.
We love to spend as much time as possible during the summer on Long Beach Island. LBI is my family’s `happy place.’ When we travel over the causeway, we all seem to leave our problems on the mainland and enjoy our family time. On LBI, life is simpler, slower and more laid-back. If there is a more perfect family vacation spot out there, I sure haven’t found it!
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Missy: To get your feet off the ground, you have to free yourself from the idea of “failing”. Starting your own business is definitely not the easy way, and there are so many hats you will wear that you may not feel comfortable putting on. Success isn’t an endpoint… it is every single day that you put into starting your own company. When you look back, you’ll realize that you’ve challenged yourself, learned something new and grown as an individual in ways you never knew you could.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Missy: Let’s all support one another! Be there for your friends trying to start something on their own, and help encourage them to keep going.