Last week Mamava went to D.C. for a series of meetings and to participate as one of 10 finalist companies in the SBA’s InnovateHER competition. Among our co-finalists was Cassandra from Once Upon a Farm, a breastfeeding mother of a four-month-old. As Cassandra navigated security at the White House with her breast pump, and strategized break time during our various sessions, I was reminded once again of the very real challenges of being a breastfeeding – more specifically a breast pumping – mother away from her baby. Cassandra was dealing with the very problem that we were there to highlight at InnovateHER.
While InnovateHER was the primary motive for our travels to D.C., we made the most of our trip to Washington including meetings with key contacts in congress, as well as the FAA and the GSA (agencies key to the successful workings of our business) to discuss the big picture and policy initiatives that involve breastfeeding support.
With but 72 hours, we managed to meet with representatives at Senator Bernie Sanders office, sit down for an interview with Vermont Congressman Peter Welch, and to meet with representatives from Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s office (who introduced the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act), Congresswoman Eleanor Norton Holmes’ office (who introduced the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act), the Surgeon General’s office, as well as folks from the Consumer Electronics Show (who next year will showcase our pods so as to avoid this saga again!).
All meetings were overwhelmingly positive. Not only did people want to support our business, but in literally every one of our meetings, someone could relate. Whether they themselves were pumping, or they had an employee down the hall who was struggling to balance new mom and work life, the very real challenges of breast pumping on the go was felt by all. In more than one of our meetings we were asked, “how soon can we get a suite?” Like for Cassandra, the need was clear and present for these women.
And so, while it was a bit of a shock to us that we did not place among the winners at InnovateHER - even after Erin Andrews the U.S. Small Business Administration’s assistant administrator for women’s business ownership opened the event with a talk about breast pumps and Cassandra was among us toting about her pump - we were able to swallow our pride and walk away assured that we would be alright, with or without that $40,000 grand prize. The silver lining is that InnovateHER got us to DC, and it was there that we made invaluable connections and contacts that will last a lifetime.