One of the most exciting and empowering aspects of motherhood is breastfeeding. But for some women, the whole process of breastfeeding can be challenging, even difficult. Moreso when the new mom is returning to work, as Emily Kane experienced.
When she came back to work, Emily realized that she needed help to keep up her milk supply. The stress of juggling motherhood, work and pumping for milk during a busy workday has caused her milk supply to go down. Afraid that she may not be able to provide the needs of her baby, she figured that there may be certain types of food that can help boost the milk supply of a woman. Emily comes from a long line of bakers, so she experimented with traditional remedies and recipes to create delicious baked goods that she can enjoy eating while helping increase her milk supply.
She knew that she’s not alone in her situation: women everywhere are faced with the constant challenge of keeping their breast milk supply adequate. Some women are even forced to stop breastfeeding because their milk supply runs low, and not because they want to stop.
This led to her eureka moment, and created her Seattle-based business, Milkmakers. Today, Milkmakers http://www.milkmakers.com makes and sells lactation cookies to help moms boost their milk supply, using only premium, all natural ingredients. In 2010, Milkmakers was awarded the 2010 Best of Seattle’s “Most Enterprising Mom-Preneur Product”.
WomenHomeBusiness.com interviewed Emily about the inspiration and goals for her business Milkmakers:
Can you describe your business?
milkmakers are lactation cookies that support nursing moms in their efforts to provide an abundant supply of breastmilk to their babies. The combination of oats, brewer’s yeast, and flax seed provides the calories a nursing mom needs to make milk and helps boost milk production, making it easier to pump when away from the baby and breastfeed when together.
milkmakers are also a delicious, healthy treat for everyone in the family. They tastes decadent but are filled with nutritious ingredients (oats, flax seed, brewer’s yeast) that have health benefits for everyone of all ages.
milkmakers cookies are available in two varieties: mouth-watering organic oatmeal chocolate chip and dairy-free oatmeal raisin spiced with cinnamon and clove.
What inspired you to start your business? What need did you see in the marketplace?
When I went back to work after my first daughter, Isabel, was born, I found myself in a new situation – trying to manage work life, home life, and fitting in the time to pump during an already busy day. My milk supply started to go down and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to provide enough milk for my baby.
I tried a number of lactation remedies, none of which worked for my on-the-go lifestyle. Then I heard about lactation cookies. I come from a long line of bakers so I experimented with different recipes in order to come up with a recipe of my own that tasted perfect. But taste isn’t the only important thing. I talked with a nutritionist to make sure that I was creating cookies that I would feel good about eating.
Once I created my recipe and baked the cookies, I noticed an immediate increase in my milk supply. The key ingredients I used (brewer’s yeast, oats, and flax seed) are traditional remedies for increasing milk supply and they provide the vitamins, amino acids, and omega-3s that nursing mothers need. It was so easy to increase my own milk supply that I became determined to make these cookies available to all moms and their families, as the nutritional value of the cookies can also benefit the non-nursing members of the family.
Moms who use milkmakers have similar experiences to mine. I am so privileged to be able to hear these amazing stories of these mothers, so full of the raw emotion that reflects the moms’ desires to provide their babies with breastmilk. I get A LOT of feedback filled with gratitude for milkmakers. Just one example is Elizabeth, who had been supplementing her baby with 20 ounces of formula a day. With milkmakers, she no longer needs to use any formula.
I also hear a lot of stories about moms who have trouble keeping the cookies for themselves! Everyone in their families, including husbands, partners, and other children, all love them. And with the health benefits of oats, whole grains, flax seed, and brewer’s yeast, moms can feel good about giving their families milkmakers as a snack.
What was your biggest challenge in starting the business?
At first, the biggest challenge was figuring out how to do the initial financing. In the end, that financing came from my personal accounts.
Moving forward, I quickly found the biggest challenge to be the work-life balance. I officially launched milkmakers just one month before my third child was born. So not only was I trying to figure out how to manage caring for a newborn and the exhaustion inherent in that while also taking care of my other two very young daughters, but I was launching a brand-new business at the same time. Talk about challenging!
How did you finance your business?
milkmakers has been self-financed with my personal savings.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in terms of entrepreneurship?
It may seem trite, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to trust my instincts. Go with your gut and respect what your instincts tell you. I’ve seen the truth of this play out so many times in a lot of different situations. The truth is that while you can (and should) do all your research and due diligence and analyze all your options, in the end it comes down to taking a leap of faith and trusting yourself.
What do you find most exciting about being an entrepreneur?
Everything about this enterprise is exciting! (At least, everything but the mundane administrative tasks.) I love seeing an idea that was just living in my head actually come to life and really help other people in ways beyond what I could have ever anticipated. It’s exciting to see the decisions I make affect others in a positive way. And, of course, it’s energizing to watch milkmakers continue to grow and flourish.
How are you balancing your family life with your business?
It’s never easy! My children are now 4, 3, and 1 ½ years old. I’ve chosen to work non-traditional office hours so that I can spend some of my day being with them. I do have a babysitter some days so that I can work with fewer interruptions, but even then I frequently check in with the kids to see how their day is going. I will also continue to work at night after the kids are in bed.
Navigating this delicate and ever-changing balance continues to be my largest challenge. By choosing to spend more time with my family, milkmakers is growing a bit slower than if I could give it my full attention all day, every day. But the rewards from spending time with my family more than make up for it.
Do you work at an office or from home? What are the positives and negatives of this arrangement?
I work from home. The biggest positive for me is the ability to integrate my life as a mom and an entrepreneur. The main challenge is, of course, the distraction of having my kids around all day!
Where do you see your business 5 years from now?
My focus is on continuing to grow my business. I’m always looking for new ways to get the word out about milkmakers. Once people try the cookies, they’re hooked!
I will also continue to support breastfeeding advocacy and outreach. This is core to the milkmakers brand.
What advice can you give other entrepreneurs?
Do your due diligence. Owning a small business is a leap of faith, and your definitely need to trust your instincts, but you still need to do thorough research to understand what all your options are.
Think about what’s important to you in terms of financing and understand that taking on outside investors means a drastic change in how you run your business and make decisions.
Ask for help. Actively network, online and locally. Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and ask for what you need, and give to others who need help. I’m constantly surprised at how much others are willing to give to help out, if you’re only willing to ask.