Janey Reilly is on a mission to prove having a newborn baby doesn’t mean you can’t be well-rested. As the founder of WeeSleep, Reilly and her team of sleep consultants have helped over 7,000 families experience the joy of sleep.
It all started when Reilly, like many, learned that no matter how much preparation you do, there will always be things you can’t predict with a newborn child.
“I thought, ‘I’ve got this baby thing locked down. I’m going to have a great schedule. He’s going to eat, he’s going to sleep. He’s going to be amazing.,'” said Reilly. “I thought I was really prepared for motherhood and I was very excited, but then I had him and he didn’t do anything that he was supposed to do according to my books.”
After many sleepless nights, Reilly and her husband at the time decided to seek help from a sleep consultant. After two days, her baby was sleeping through the night.
She was so inspired by the experience (and her ability to get some shut-eye), that she decided to do sleep consultant training so she could share the secrets with others. After leaving her corporate career and moving across the country with her six-month-old in tow, Reilly set up her own sleep consulting business.
While some may think that it sounds absurd to be able to start a business with a newborn baby, it was all made possible thanks to the very training she was sharing with other parents. Reilly had mastered her son’s sleep schedule. So, she had time to dedicate to growing the business.
Her service became so in demand that she began to train others in sleep consulting.
“I realized that if I had a business model where I could have more people, I could then help as many families as possible and I could share start some sort of sleep revolution,” said Reilly.
Today, WeeSleep has just under 20 sleep consultants who are helping parents across Canada and the U.S., and Reilly hopes to expand the team to 50 by the end of the year.
For this week’s Women Who Lead, Bay Street Bull spoke with Janey Reilly, Founder of WeeSleep, about leaving her corporate career, building a business as a new mom, and helping redefine what’s possible for new parents everywhere.
What was your background before becoming an entrepreneur and launching WeeSleep?
My life spun off into areas where I never thought I would be. I was a wine account director for many years. So, I got to travel the world and work with high-end hotels, spas, and restaurants. Then, I worked as a sales and marketing director, for a company called Sparkling Hill, which is a stunning Swarovski hotel. Then, I ended up as a marketing director and lead for an online kids game.
I really didn’t anticipate leaving the corporate world until I had my son. Afterward, I was like, “Gosh, I don’t want to put him in daycare. I don’t want to go back.”
How did WeeSleep come about? How did you build the knowledge and skills to create a whole business out of helping infants and toddlers build healthy sleep habits?
I have a very Type A personality. When I found out I was having a baby, I read every book and every internet site, and I talked to all of these moms. I thought, “I’ve got this baby thing locked down. I’m going to have a great schedule. He’s going to eat, he’s going to sleep. He’s going to be amazing.” I thought I was really prepared for motherhood and I was very excited, but then I had him and he didn’t do anything that he was supposed to do according to my books. Being Type A, I like to know what’s going on. I’m very structured and regimented. And all of a sudden, I had this beautiful baby whom I loved to bits but wasn’t sleeping or eating.
I would be under my covers on my phone every night hoping to find a solution. My husband at the time and I decided to hire a sleep consultant, and I didn’t even know they existed at the time. I was like “I will pay you whatever. Please just come to my house and help my baby sleep.” Within two days, my baby was sleeping through the night. And that changed my life.
I had a great experience with the consultant and my entrepreneurial and marketing brain started spinning. I loved how she helped us from a client perspective, but I also felt like there was a big opportunity from the business side of things. I envisioned all the marketing materials and these beautiful baby sleep plans, so I started researching how to become a sleep consultant.
I reached out to the person my consultant learned from and did a three-day training. I left the course thinking, “I’m going to start this business.” I moved across the country from British Columbia to Ontario with my six-month-old baby (and without my then-husband), got settled in, and set out to start this business. People thought I was crazy for leaving my corporate job, but I started in 2011 and by 2015, I couldn’t keep up with the demand. At that point, a woman approached me and asked, “How can I be on your team?”
That was actually my next question. How did it go from a one-woman show with all this expertise to having people work with you and share your techniques as a part of WeeSleep?
At first, I thought, “Oh, I don’t know,” but then another person asked me and I realized that if I had a business model where I could have more people, I could then help as many families as possible and I could share start some sort of sleep revolution [laughs]. I couldn’t do it on my own. So, thank goodness I have a lot of business background. I’m very business savvy, but there were a lot of other people who were at the same training course as me who didn’t succeed with their sleep consulting business.
My business model is that they take my training, but they stay on my team. It’s kind of like a licensee. I give them all the tools that they need and there’s no reason they can’t succeed. I’ve got a reputable brand. They can just hop on board. That’s how WeeSleep came to be.
You kind of touched on it there, about the doubts from people when you said you were going to leave your corporate job to launch a baby sleeping business. Did that ever cause you to doubt yourself? And if so, how did you overcome that?
When I made the decision to leave British Columbia and come here (Ontario) and start a business, I was leaving my family, because they’re all out west. So, it was really hard. People were like, “You’re doing what?” because of the stereotype of what happens here in Ontario (or what some call “Onterrible”) compared to life in B.C. where everywhere you look is beautiful.
I would get into my head like, “Oh crap. Can I do this?” So, there was a lot of fear, but if you don’t step into your fear, you’re never going to succeed.
Other founders have said, “the only time you really fail is when you stop.”
Yeah. That’s exactly it. We learn from our mistakes. You keep going and that’s how you become more resilient and you build more expertise and that’s how we learn—nothing’s handed to you, especially in business.
This is a business that was built around you, your time, your expertise, and your ability to give yourself to other people to share your knowledge. What was that like having a new baby while trying to grow WeeSleep?
It was hard, but it got easy because I’m so regimented. I was able to work while my son slept, so that’s what I did. I was present with my son—we did all the parks and things like that—but when he went down to sleep, I got on my computer or on a phone call. When he went to bed at night, I was consulting and working until the wee hours.
I worked my butt off. Was it hard? It sure was. But it was also extremely rewarding because I was managing it all. The feeling of greatness that it gave me and the joy of being with my son and working on something I created far outweighed any of the extra hours I put in or the stressful times.
Were there any major hurdles or “aha!” moments throughout your time building WeeSleep?
I am the biggest softie in the whole entire world and I did not realize I would have to have such a thick skin [as an entrepreneur]. There were times where I had consultants on my team that were bullies. They were mean to me and it really killed me to hear some of the things that they’d say about me. I wasn’t prepared for it, but women can be awful. So, one of my big learnings was that you need a thick skin and you need to trust in yourself and not take those things personally. I knew I was doing good business and I knew I was only trying to help everyone. So, I had to trust in that.
In terms of an “aha!” moment for me—and the pivotal reason for why I’m still so passionate about this—it was that being able to sleep as a new mom changed my life. Moms tell me that they don’t have time to shower or brush their teeth. They haven’t had sex in six months or they don’t do anything for themselves because of the baby. And it drives me crazy! Obviously, WeeSleep wants to help babies sleep and that’s what we do. But this is also for the moms and dads—the parents.
We’re better parents when we’re rested. You can be a better partner. You can be a better mom. You can be happier, healthier, and have time for yourself. I knew right away that it changed my life, but that “aha!” moment was that I could give this gift to people. For as long as I can, I will call people out on their message of “you’re never going to sleep if you have a new baby.” No, that’s not true. It is possible to get your life back. You don’t have to sit and wallow in the stigmatized “new-mom life.”
Speaking of, what has the response been like from parents? Do you have any favorite stories of feedback of how WeeSleep has helped new parents get their life back?
Oh my gosh. Yes. It’s funny, I can remember numerous consults where I’d do a video call with a mom and the dad would be in the background, rolling his eyes like, “Oh, great. My wife just bought this program of a lady telling us voodoo sleep magic.” They’re skeptical. I’m always like, “Just wait, I’m going to be your new best friend.” And sure enough, a few days later and they’re like, “Oh my God, Janey! We would’ve paid three times the amount for this. Why didn’t we do this sooner?”
So, the feedback from parents is awesome. Within my team, we share stories in our Facebook group and it’s all of these amazing, beautiful messages from parents. We are changing lives from our homes while wearing pajamas [laughs].
With everyone stuck at home these days, did WeeSleep seen an uptick in business due to COVID-19?
WeeSleep has primarily been a virtual business. We’ve always had in-home packages, but, most of our consulting is done virtually. So, we didn’t have to pivot too much in that sense, but we did find that more parents were reaching out because they had the time to dedicate to sleep training.
When people are in the corporate world, they’re out hustling out and about. We ask that they hunker down for 10 days to get the sleep thing done right. So, now that people are at home, they are able to do this [sleep train] better.
Also, I don’t even know what’s going to happen because so many people are getting pregnant during this pandemic! We’re going to see probably, hopefully, see an uptick for WeeSleep in six months [laughs]. It will be interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.
As someone who started this whole business from scratch as a new mom, do you have any other advice for aspiring entrepreneurs who are new parents?
I think it’s important that people really hone in on what they’re passionate about and do the research. I also think it’s really important that plan what your perfect week looks like. How many hours would you like to be working? What would be the ideal amount of money that you’d like to make? What does a perfect day look like? You can’t just get caught up with something that you see online that says you can make $4,000 in one week if it’s not something you’re passionate about.
Also, if it scares you and you’ve got this rumble in your belly, then do it. A lot of the girls on my team joined while still working a full-time job. They would join to be a consultant part-time, but then they’d see their business grow so much and they’d be like, “Oh crap. Should I leave my full-time job?” When they take that leap, they say it’s the best thing they ever did.
So, find a passion, something that you really want, and set a timeline and a goal. If it scares you, do it. I think you will thrive under pressure and knowing that you made this decision.
Is there a woman who leads in your life that you’re inspired by?
So many! I’m inspired by people like Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. I am inspired by influencers, like Sarah Nicole Landry, @thebirdspapaya. People that get out there and they’re real and they’re raw. I’m inspired by female entrepreneurs. I think it’s awesome what all kinds of women are doing in general—I love seeing what other people have built.