Mompreneur Name: Helen Anderson
Please tell us about Milkies.
My mom and I started Milkies in 2007 after my second son Henry was born. Since both of us are registered nurses, we know how important breastfeeding is for babies. I breastfed my first son, Colton, so I knew breastfeeding could also be challenging. I worked 12 hour shifts in a busy ER when Colton was nursing so I didn’t always have time to pump or enough milk at home for my husband to feed him. Although I planned to breastfeed for a year or more, I only made it to 10 months.
When Henry was born, I was more prepared. I wanted to get breast milk in the freezer right away, and lots of it! During Henry’s first month, he ate constantly. I would start each day with a pile of clean towels and burp rags. By the end of the day they would all be soaked with milk. I wanted to store milk but Henry ate so often, there wasn’t an opportunity to pump. I searched for a product that would help me collect the two or more ounces I leaked each time I nursed. There was nothing out there to do the job. I talked to my friends and many of them had the same problem staying dry while nursing. I commiserated with my mom about it one day and she suggested we develop a product to solve the problem. We did just that and a year and half later we were ready to put the Milkies Milk-Saver on store shelves.
What did you do before Milkies was created?
I was, and still am a registered nurse. I have always enjoyed the patient education aspect of being a nurse. At Milkies, we believe in the importance of educating families about their choices so they can make decisions based on reliable information. We call it evidence based parenting.
What have been some of your greatest successes?
Starting and building Milkies has been a sequence of small victories that adds up to really great results. I would love to say that things happened quickly, but that’s not reality. Milkies is sold in a few larger chains now, Buy Buy Baby and Baby Depot, but that didn’t happen overnight. We’ve added one store at a time and gradually sales have grown. The Milk-Saver is now available on six continents and 30 countries around the globe.
Now that our business has enough cash flow, we recently moved all manufacturing from Asia to our home state of Oregon. This was a major undertaking. One of our goals from the beginning was to reduce our carbon footprint and bring jobs to our local economy. Accomplishing that goal was a major success.
What have been some of your greatest challenges?
Oh my-where do I begin? We are nurses, not MBA graduates! Our lack of experience running a business made for a steep learning curve in the beginning. When we were starting out we spent a lot of money on things that we didn’t need to. We are much tighter with our budget now.
Another challenge was the introduction of a new product to the marketplace. In one sense, the lack of competition benefitted us. We were, and still are, the only product that is designed specifically to collect breast milk during the breastfeeding session. In another sense, a new product requires some education and may take a while for people to accept. Three years ago, moms and lactation consultants were skeptical about this new product called the Milk-Saver. Now moms can read hundreds of user reviews and testimonials online. Lactation consultants show the Milk-Saver in their breastfeeding classes and recommend it to clients.
How do you manage your daily schedule of being a MomPrenuer and a mom?
It is tough to get everything done- I get up early, stay up late and keep the lattes coming. My boys are little- three and five years old so they need a lot of attention from me. They are with me all the time, except for a few hours of pre-school in the morning. I get up early to read and write emails and get my day started before they get up. That way I can focus on our morning routine without worrying about what’s waiting in my in-box. We also live on a 10 acre farm where we raise our own meat, eggs and veggies. As you can imagine, our days are full.
Work is spread throughout the day with breaks for mediating a fight over a toy, making lunch and other similar pressing matters. My guys have jobs around the office, moving boxes or bringing me faxes. Milkies has an office and warehouse but I prefer working at home with them most days. They can see the everyday challenges of running a business first-hand, the good, bad and ugly! Milkies has been a part of their lives since before they can remember, it’s a normal part of our daily routine.
For moms “Me time” is hard to come by… what do you do during your “Me time”?
Me time? What’s that? (kidding). I go for walks on the mountain roads around my house in northwest Oregon and I read downloaded books on my mp3 player – they are the best for letting my mind wander and decompress. I am currently listening to the latest Dan Brown novel. Downtime is important to all moms to maintain perspective on our challenging lives.
What’s next for Milkies? Any big plans for 2011 or 2012?
We are so excited for the end of 2011- we have a new product coming out that is just as revolutionary as the Milk-Saver. We are currently in the midst of the patent process so I have to keep it under wraps for a few more months. It is an awesome new product for breastfeeding moms that is consistent with our philosophy of earth friendly, simply useful products.