Meet a Mom: Lyerly Spongberg Tuck of Little Moonjumper! | Greenwich Moms

This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Lyerly Spongberg Tuck, a Greenwich Mom mom of six who founded the Little Moonjumper blanket brand in 1997. Along the way, Lyerly’s adorable, soft creations have been featured in InStyle magazine, on The Today Show and on the sets of Sex and the City and Parenthood.  Today, you can buy Little Moonjumper blankets on littlemoonjumper.com in 25 different patterns, in baby, crib and stroller sizes. We spoke to Lyerly about growing her brand, new designs created during COVID, her Greenwich life and more.

Can you please tell us a bit more about yourself?
I moved to Greenwich in 2018 from Larchmont, where I lived for nearly 20 years. We chose Milbrook as we loved the location and it felt a lot like the neighborhood we left in NY; very green and walkable to town and the train. I have 6 children, 2 from a previous marriage and 4 stepchildren from my second marriage.  Lauren (32) is due later this month with her first child and lives in LA. Amanda (30) lives in Hawaii. Jake (27) is recently married and lives in Greenwich. Olivia (24) works and lives in LA. Daphne (22) works and lives in NYC and Will (22) is working and living at home.

Wonderful! What else contributed to your choice of the Millbook area?
We adore the Milbrook community and have found our neighbors incredibly friendly and inclusive. We love walking through the neighborhood and being able to walk to town to grab coffee, a meal or go shopping. We joined the Milbrook Club shortly after moving here as my husband and I are both avid paddle and tennis players and the Club is right down the street. We spend a lot of time there and have gotten to know many of our neighbors through the Club. I have since joined the Club’s Board and serve as one of the Membership Chairs.

Where did the name Little Moonjumper come from?
The name was inspired by the logo which began as an illustration in one of my first classes of Graduate Design school at the Portfolio Center in Atlanta. The illustration is based on the children’s nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon…” When I was working on branding the blanket company a few years later, it seemed like a natural fit. The name “Moonjumper” refers to the cow in the logo. A year or so later when I went to incorporate as a company and register the name and trademark I had to add “Little” as there was a bouncy castle company called Moonjumper in Chicago…

Why did you decide to launch?
Like most things, necessity was the mother of invention. When we moved from Atlanta to Chicago in October of 1996, my 10 month old daughter, Olivia, was not accustomed to the bitter cold. Inspired one afternoon, I went to the local fabric store bought some fleece and got out my trusty Singer sewing machine, a gift from my mother years earlier. I have always loved working with shape and color and the process was inspired by. Our soft and cozy personalized blankets are hand-sewn in the US of colorfast, machine washable, durable fleece and are perfect for cribs, car seats, strollers, tummy time and wall hanging.  Appliquéd with simple shapes in bright colors, our adorable blankets are designed to appeal to a baby’s developing eyes and can help toddlers learn to spell their names as they grow older. They are inspired by Matisse’s whimsical cutouts, which I was lucky enough to hold when I worked as an interior designer in NYC in the late 80s. (One of our clients had purchased a set from Sotheby’s – it was an amazing treat to see them close up!)

Do you remember the first blanket you made?
The first blanket I made was a version of what is now the Mary Mary stroller blanket. I made each letter of Olivia’s name into a flower with a stem and leaves, added some butterflies and then cut and pinked scalloped edging which I sewed around the blanket. Not long afterward someone stopped me at the nearby Lincoln Park Zoo and asked where I got the blanket. A friend had just opened a children’s clothing store and offered to carry them on consignment. I started making blankets for friends’ babies and then they asked me to make them for their friends. Not long afterwards I reached out to a few catalogs and one of them started to carry two of the earliest patterns, Mary Mary and the Moonjumper. At that point I was cutting each shape and letter of every blanket. When sales started to pick up I would pin all the blankets and deliver them to a local seamstress who helped me sew the blankets as blanks. As orders came in via FAX (before the internet!!) I would hand-cut each of the 4” high letters, sew them onto the blanket blanks, wrap, package and ship them myself. During this time my daughter Olivia was often playing nearby or under the table where I was cutting and sewing.

So special! Little Moonjumper has been featured in magazines and on television – how did you get recognized?
After my blankets were in a few stores and catalogs, I realized there was a market for my unique designs. Few other blankets then, or now, feature baby’s names in large letters. Most personalized blankets embroider names into a corner within a few inches whereas Little Moonjumper incorporates the name into the design. Parents anguish over choosing a baby’s name and by the time he/she arrives they want to announce it to the world, what better way than with a blanket babies use daily.

I decided to set my PR sights high and reached out to a friend in PR and asked for advice on writing a press kit. Once I had created that, I bought all the baby magazines I could find, looked up the appropriate editor, I relentlessly called, wrote, and often sent a personalized blanket, preferably with a staff member’s baby’s name on it for extra impact. This was all before email and the internet so we usually spoke on the phone, which I find preferable to sending emails into cyberspace. After sending a blanket and press kit to InStyle, which I thought was a longshot, I got a call from the gift editor one day when I was at the playground with Olivia and my second daughter Daphne. She told me they wanted to feature Little Moonjumper in their Spring gift guide. I then had to scramble to ramp up production, get an 800# and find a service to take phone orders. By 2000 I had designed and launched my first website though ecommerce hadn’t been invented yet so all orders had to be taken by phone. I sold so many blanket the first week the magazine came out and was overwhelmed with orders. I had to put a notice up on my site asking customers to be patient with deliveries as I was still cutting and sewing each letter and shipping each blanket from my home. I was on a first name basis with all of the UPS delivery men!

Soon after that issue, a producer on the Today Show called and said she had seen the blanket in InStyle and wanted to feature them on their baby gifting segment. I have images of Katie Couric on the Today Show Plaza with the Mary Mary design, something I never would have dreamed of when I sewed that first blanket three years earlier.

In addition to reaching out to editors I scoured print and TV in search of celebrities with new babies, or TV shows whose cast members were having babies. I researched publicists and set designers and started gifting blankets. My efforts paid off when the blankets were placed on the sets of Friends, Sex and the City, Parenthood and Up All Night and in the nurseries of many celebrities. One day I was watching the news and Access Hollywood came on afterwards and there was Cindy Crawford giving a tour of her nursery. One of our blankets was on the wall above the crib—I had no idea!

I figured I had nothing to lose but the cost of a blanket and found that organic, word of mouth marketing was by far the best and most long lasting. I think this is still the case as I see so many repeat customers and recipients placing new orders.

As the years have passed and social media channels have taken precedence over traditional print, I have tried to pivot as best I can. We have a presence on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, on mom blogs and I reach out to influencers and have participated in organized celebrity gifting. Personally, I find managing social media very tedious and miss the days of print and direct mail as I find it more impactful and long lasting. I recently designed a mailer to include with our shipments.

 

What does your daughter, the original inspiration for your brand, think of it? Is she involved at all?

Olivia is 24 and I asked her to answer in her own words;

“I am the #1 fan of the brand and I’m very proud of what my mom has been able to achieve. It seems like yesterday that she was using my tiny finger to tie the perfect bows on the gift wrapping (she used to do all the gift wrapping and shipping from our Larchmont home before outsourcing to her small Massachusetts factory!). I love that my mom was an early adopter of direct-to-consumer e-commerce and that she was able to grow the brand through gifting to celebrities, reaching out to Magazines and getting her blanket placed in “Friends” in the pre-social media days. She has been direct-to-consumer since the brand’s inception which is so cool and unique because she’s now starting to have returning customers that are buying the same blankets for their grandchildren as they bought for their own kids. I’m starting to gift them to friends that are having babies too!

I am not involved in the day-to-day, but if I had to describe my involvement I would say I’m Little Moonjumper’s in-house (literally in-house) strategic consultant. I help her think about how she can continue to grow the brand and adapt to changing consumer behavior and preferences and will randomly text her ideas I have for LMJ! But she doesn’t really need my help!”

Daphne, 22, has helped me with social media for the past few years after graduating with a degree in strategic communications from Elon University in 2020. She also helps me come up with ideas for new patterns and I often ask her advice on images and posts for Little Moonjumper’s Instagram.

What’s next for you and your brand?
During COVID I created 3 Limited Edition blankets, Snowman, Sunny Day and Felix the Fox. Not only was it a creative outlet for me during lockdown, it forced me to get my scissors out again and get to work. For these limited editions of 25, I cut all the pieces myself and send them to my factory to be sewn. All of my other designs have corresponding patterns which are cut in bulk. I plan on continuing to create these small batches. I also recently made some blankets of Organic flannel. I’d like to figure out some more organic styles where I add personalization in bold letters like my other designs.

Anything else you’d like to share?
It was always important to me to have Little Moonjumper blankets made in the USA. A few people pushed me to manufacture overseas and cut production costs as sales grew but I was adamant. It took me a few tries to find the right manufacturer which I finally did near my hometown in MA. The blankets are cut and sewn by hand in Fall River, MA by a company that is a 2nd generation manufacturer.

One day I received a photograph from a mom who had her daughter’s 13th birthday cake made into the shape of her Honeybee stroller blanket as it was one of her favorite possessions. I love that she not only had that cake made, she took the time to send me a photo. I am proud that Little Moonjumper customers ordering blankets today that purchased their first when they saw them in that first InStyle article 21 years ago. I know many of these customers by name and am always happy to see them spreading the Little Moonjumper love around the globe.

We love to support local businesses. What you please share your favorite local place to:

Go for date night – Le Penguin is my favorite, especially for birthdays!
Eat dinner as a family – Sadly, we rarely have our entire family home for dinner except during the holidays which we enjoy at home. We love takeout from Kira Sushi, breakfast at the Granola Bar and lunch at Meli Melo. During the summer we love to order lobster from the Lobster Bin.
Go shopping for yourself or your daughter – We love to walk along Greenwich Ave, though like most people, we order nearly everything online.
Go shopping for gifts – My favorites are Hoaglands, Splurge and The Drawing Room.
Workout – I used to run and loved the classes and facility at Equinox but after COVID and lockdown, I switched to at home workouts on my Peleton
Get your nails done – I like Coco Nails in Riverside.
Get your hair done – Salon Greenwich
Go for coffee – Turkish latte at the Granola Bar is a family favorite!
Have fun as a family – Our family enjoys time together by our pool in the summers, on the paddle court in the winter and we love to have family shuffleboard competitions at the Milbrook Club.

This story contains sponsored content. 

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