Mom Entrepreneur: Helen Anderson
Milkies is the creator of the Milkies Milk Saver, an innovative product that collects leaking milk from the non-nursing side during a breastfeeding session so no “liquid gold” goes to waste. Started by a mother/daughter team in 2007, the patented design allows moms to breastfeed anywhere without worrying about embarrassing leaks or uncomfortable nursing pads. The Milk Saver is slim and portable and allows mothers to effortlessly store their extra breast milk. More information can be found at www.MyMilkies.com.
What inspired you to start your business?
When my second son, Henry, was brand new I was filling up burp rags and nursing pads with leaking breast milk. I had the same experience when I nursed my first little baby boy. I was commiserating with my visiting mom about my present milk-soaked condition. She said she had the same problem so I started talking to other mommies and realized how many others did too. We looked for a product that could help keep me dry and collect my leaking breast milk. There was nothing out there so we decided to develop a product that could keep me comfortable and help me store more breast milk.
How long have you been in business?
What did you do in your past work life?
My mother Renee and I are both registered nurses. Renee has been a nurse for over 35 years. I worked in the Emergency Room in my local hospital. Currently, we both work full time at Milkies and breastfeeding advocacy. We had no previous experience in business so we have had quite the learning curve! When Milkies was a start-up it was really tough but we got through it and learned so much. I still pick up an occasional ER shift if the timing is right!
Describe your ideal workday.
My day starts early so I can get a running start on the day. I address the most pressing matters of the day before my kids wake up in the morning so I can focus on breakfast and getting them to pre-school. While they are in school I go to the office and make my phone calls and schedule meetings (that’s my only quiet time!). I pick them up from school, have lunch and work in my home office until mid-afternoon.
I try to involve my kids in my work throughout the day- little things like bringing me faxes or taking packages to the UPS driver. They are only 3 and 5 years old but they love to help mom around the office.
What have been some of your major successes?
I wish I could say we had a big success one day and everything changed. However, that’s just not reality. We have little successes every day. Each new retail store that carries Milkies is a little success. I love hearing from moms that have used our product, they share stories of milk saved and healthy little babies- what a great job I have!
What have been some of your major challenges?
Oh so many to choose from! Our lack of business experience was a big challenge, we spent way too much money in the beginning without really having a plan for a return on investment. We are much tighter with our budget now.
Introducing a new product like the Milk-Saver was a challenge in itself. The idea of a product to collect and save leaking milk was new and took a while for people to become accustomed to the concept. Now Milkies is familiar to moms and the product is much more easily accepted.
On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?
The Milkies Mission. Breastfeeding is important but it’s not always easy. Milkies supports and encourages mothers to learn about breastfeeding and stay committed. The Milk-Saver helps a mom feel more confident about her supply and store milk in early post-partum, increasing her chances of having a successful breastfeeding experience. It is a truly helpful product for many moms. In my heart I am a nurse and I want to help babies get a healthy start in life, breastfeeding is a great way to make that happen.
Of course my kids are a great motivator; I want to be a good role model for my boys. They see me working hard, making mistakes and trying again. I want them to try difficult things, follow their dreams and realize it’s alright to fail.
Do you have a motivational quote?
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
-Henry David Thoreau
If there was one piece of advice you could give to your children about running a successful business, what would it be?
Learn from others that have been in your position. Ask for advice and watch what works and what doesn’t for companies in your industry.
What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?
It’s a work in progress, but I try to stay on top of things (easier said than done!) and avoid procrastination. Procrastination can often result in a crisis; which looks unprofessional and is tough on the family life if I am stressed about a project I let spiral out of control.
To avoid unnecessarily stressing my husband out about every bump in the Milkies road, I try not to share problems or vent about frustrations until I have slept on it and mulled it over a while. But if something great happens I tell him right away.
Do you have a favorite business tool and/or resource?
Pick up the phone and call an expert. I have called professors, material engineers, Washington lobbyists. If I need an answer, I google an expert and call them. People are the best resource and they usually love to help out. Don’t be afraid to ask for the information you need
What is next for your business?
We are expanding the Milkies line to include other innovative breastfeeding products. Milkies has such high standards for any product with our name. Our new products are user friendly, low cost and durable. Look for them near the end of 2011.
Your two cents sales pitch?
The Milk-Saver collects milk from the non-nursing side during a breastfeeding session. It keeps you dry and collects milk from the very first day it comes in. Instead of absorbing your milk into a pad and throwing it in the trash, you save it and get much more milk stored for your precious little baby.
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