An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Christine Dodson (co-founder and COO) of Mamava, which was honored in our:
- 2023 Best Tech Startups in Burlington (Vermont)
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Vermont
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Burlington (Vermont)
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Vermont
Tell us the origin story of Mamava – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
When I was breastfeeding, I was also working and traveling a lot. Even though I had a supportive employer and space to pump at work, I found myself pumping breast milk in bathrooms, supply closets, and borrowed offices when I was traveling. My co-founder, Sascha Mayer, and I worked together at a design studio at the time, so we knew that design could solve problems, but no one was even talking about the lack of lactation accommodations at that time. So, we set out to first name the problem and then solve it by designing a flexible lactation space that provides a private space to pump or nurse, while also being an easy-to-install (and move) owned asset for facilities and employers. We were confident that once employers understood the challenges, they would want to provide the support their employees needed.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
When Sascha and I began incubating the idea for Mamava in 2010, there was a serious lack of education around what it takes to continue breastfeeding when parents return to work after having a baby. So, in the early days of Mamava, we had to educate potential customers around the physiology of breastfeeding and the logistics of pumping (which involves equipment, sanitary spaces, and break time). Helping employers and facilities understand the problem was a key part of our mission to normalize breastfeeding and destigmatize talking about it at work and in public, and one way you do that is to make lactation accommodations an expected necessity in workspaces and public places, like a bathroom, that are available wherever breastfeeding parents go. And they go everywhere!
What does the future hold for Mamava?
Public policy has finally caught up with the reality of so many working breastfeeding parents and, thanks to new federal labor law, The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, employers are required to provide breastfeeding employees with break time and a private, non-bathroom space to pump at work. This legislation expands legal protections to all categories of workers in this country, and our flexible lactation spaces are a simple and speedy way for organizations to come into compliance. In September 2021, we acquired our manufacturing plant in Springfield, Vermont. This vertical integration has not only contributed to our profitability, but allowed us to bring products to market more quickly. Additionally, as we continue to scale our plant operations, we are bringing more jobs to Vermont and helping fuel economic development in the region.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Burlington?
It’s really wonderful to be a part of such a vibrant and innovative community of entrepreneurs. Over the last 10+ years that we’ve been building Mamava, there’s been a notable change in the number of tech companies that call Burlington their headquarters. The growth of this sector can be attributed to the infrastructure and support now available to these startups from incubators to accelerators and venture capital. It’s amazing to see how tight and supportive the network is.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Use all of your resources and network, network, network…it’s a small, engaged community here in Vermont. Take advantage.