Moms are master MacGyvers when it comes to fixing problems on the fly. From using rubber bands to keep kids from locking themselves in bathrooms to removing crayon marks with WD40, there’s nothing moms can’t finagle to keep their days running as smoothly as possible.
But St. Louis mom and entrepreneur Sam Rudolph took problem-solving a giant step further by recognizing an issue all of us moms face, creating a smart solution, and building a business around it. Through their company Babyation, she and her husband Jared Miller have introduced a streamlined and stylish breast pump that reduces the noise and inconvenience that have tagged along with traditional pumps for years.
With The Pump by Babyation ready for launch in the next few months and moms already lining up to reserve theirs, a dream has come true for this entrepreneur. And she’s taking what she’s learned to help aspiring business owners follow their own.
Entering the baby product field
Just a few years ago, Rudolph was a 30-something professional with a successful career in media broadcasting and business development who had never given breast pumps a second thought. But as she looked toward motherhood, she came across an article in The New York Times that blasted the lack of innovation in the breast pump market.
“I saw my future before my eyes,” said Rudolph. “As someone who knew she wanted to have a career and breastfeed her child, I didn’t like what I was reading. You don’t have to be a mom to understand how inconvenient pumping can be. Jared’s a gifted engineer, so when I showed him the article, his response was, ‘Oh, that’s not that hard. I can build one.’”
“Well, the joke’s on him!” she added with a laugh.
What started as some simple back-and-forth ideas between the couple evolved into design mode as the two strived to create a smarter, quieter breast pump with a sleek design, discreet breast shields and tubes, and virtually zero suction or thumping sounds.
A $50,000 grant from Arch Grants allowed the couple to move from Connecticut back to Rudolph’s hometown of St. Louis – a city she considers a hot bed for entrepreneurs – so they could focus on The Pump’s development full-time while a $80,000 Kickstarter campaign helped finalize the design.
Said Rudolph, “The support we got from moms was one of the most important things to the development of The Pump. While getting feedback from moms was required by the FDA for medical device approval, it also opened our eyes to things we didn’t think about. And their participation in our Kickstarter campaign showed us they want to pump on their terms – they don’t want to hide in a corner any longer.”
How a mom’s struggles turned into innovation
The birth of son Exton in 2016 also helped this first-time mom refine The Pump to better address the challenges she was experiencing first-hand.
“I’d leave the house with my pump and then forget a piece at home so I couldn’t pump at all. I did it a few times, and it started to become embarrassing. Creating the ideal breast pump is literally my job! As a new mom, it’s exhausting trying to remember everything.”
Those challenges turned into product enhancements as Rudolph and Miller refined The Pump’s enclosure, allowing it to hold every part, bottles and ice pack. When Rudolph became frustrated that she couldn’t determine how much milk she was expressing in the moment, they improved Babyation’s sensors and real-time production tracking app. And when she struggled with speeds and functions settings on other pumps, they perfected the customizable presets, allowing moms to set and save different settings.
The Pump is set to ship later this year (with Kickstarter backers getting first dibs), and Babyation is currently accepting reservations at www.babyation.com. Moms can also join Babyation’s #ImAlsoAMother social media campaign at www.babyation.com/iamalsoamother to celebrate all the incredible things mothers do each and every day at home, at work and in their community.
Advice to other new entrepreneurs
Rudolph admits launching her own company has been “the craziest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” Her suggestion for other budding entrepreneurs is to take the leap, but to be prepared for the rocky road that comes with getting an idea from paper to market.
“Make sure launching your own company is what you what you want to do. It’s cool to think, ‘I get to set my own hours and have more flexibility in my life,’ and that’s totally true. But you may be working 20 hours a day and in the middle of the night. If you aren’t prepared for that burden right now, run. But if it’s one of those things you can’t stop thinking about, you should probably be doing it. It’s one of the most terrifying and exhilarating journeys you’ll ever go on.”
According to Rudolph, there are three things to consider before moving forward with a business idea – Can you get other people to buy into the idea? Will people actually use it (will it solve a problem that’s out there)? And, can you execute it better than anyone else can? If you can answer yes to all three, it may be time to consider taking the next step – to help make life easier for others and to make your own dream come true just like Rudolph and Miller did.
“Despite the challenges I’ve faced the past couple of years, nothing is more rewarding than having a mom reach out and tell us how the pump will change her life and her child’s. It’s what I need to pick myself back up and realize this journey’s not about me – it’s about this mom and the millions of other moms out there. Breastfeeding can be difficult and even heartbreaking at times, and to be brought into this special time in a mom’s life is a responsibility we take very seriously.”
Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL