Penn Center for Innovation

I-Corps Blog: Maternité

Posted on July 17, 2015 — Kat Hinkel

Week 1

Motherhood is one of the most joyous and special occasions of a woman’s life. Momcares’ vision is to make the whole experience more convenient and comfortable for the mother, through its products.
Our first product will be a bra for nursing mothers that will make the pumping process easier, by using warming and/ or massaging technology in the cups.

Pumping milk can be an uncomfortable process due to delay in expression of milk, and to relieve that generally women use techniques like using warm moist compression and hand massage on the breasts, before pumping. While travelling, at workplaces and basically for any outdoor use, these processes are cumbersome and can be made easier by integrating technology in the nursing bra’s cup itself. Especially in women with Mastitis, a painful swelling of breasts, this need is more pronounced.

We are trying to develop a better nursing bra that will have an on-demand warming/ massaging mechanism. Getting the technology right, safe and make it aesthetic are the three tech challenges.

Week 2

Having a cool product idea is one thing, but developing it into a product that is really needed in the market is another, is a tough lesson we have learnt, thus far. Our team started with an idea for a bra for lactating mothers that could make the process of pumping milk more convenient than it currently is by integrating an on-demand warming mechanism in the cups.
While our initial conversations from potential customers were positive, this program encouraged us to not ask leading questions and try to understand the customer’s real pain point and their willingness to pay for it.

By talking to 5 potential customers each week, we have come to realize that – wanting a cool product is one thing and actually willing to pay to make a pain go away is another.
While warming and massaging before pumping milk is a common need and many mothers do it using conventional ways, trying a new technology ( and paying for it), is a need only strongly felt in women with Mastitis, a painful condition involving swelling and infection in breasts. This reduced our total addressable market size by a factor of 10 because only 10% of all breastfeeding moms in USA get mastitis. Our target segment now stands revised to – Breastfeeding Moms with Mastitis.

Also, warming and massaging are just ways to provide relief and Mastitis requires usage of anti-biotics and medical intervention most times, so getting our product claims and messaging right is an issue we would also have to consider in the long run.

Another important factor, that came into light was that Mastitis (and hence the need to buy our product), is a one-time occurrence in the lives of most lactating mothers (that we have spoken to till now), so we will have to take this usage frequency factor too into account while analyzing the profitability of the product.

When we started, we were focusing on just warming as a need, but after talks, we realize massaging is also a need and now we have to test the technical feasibility of using both in one product, in a way that is aesthetic since a bra still is innerwear and can’t look bulky.

Week 3

We have been researching patents on the Google Patent search engine. We are pleased to see that no one has thought about our idea so far. Of course, many hold patents for nursing bras. However, our particular technology is nowhere to be seen. Our next step is to find an affordable way to write our own. We are discussing options. In any case, we know it will take a long time and will have to go hand in hand with the product development phase.

Week 4

“Maternite” is not a trademark in the US so we are free to register the brand for our Company. Ludivine also checked if it was a trademark in France, as it is a French word, and it turns out that it is not, at least not on a standalone basis. We know that it is very optimistic (delusional?) to think about when we will sell our product in Europe. However, it is nice to know that we may be able to use the brand across countries.

We are still interviewing more mothers. A lot of them complained about the current heating devices that are on the market. All use a microwavable thermal component. Besides the necessity of having and using a microwave right before pumping/breastfeeding, the temperature is rarely right and they often end up burning themselves or waiting 5 minutes before finally being able to use the device safely. It is clear that current solutions are impractical and time consuming, if not even a bit dangerous.

Week 5

Last weeks’ interviews with new moms (potential customers) were very heartening as we got a lot of positive feedback for the need and the desire to buy a product like ours’ in general. The previous week, most moms we talked to were not so keen to pay for something like this. We believe since we are just using convenience and snowball sampling, our sample set might be skewed either ways and is not quite representative of the general breastfeeding moms’ population. We need to devise a more structured and elaborate market research strategy to get an accurate sense of the % of customers likely to need and buy this product.

We also moved a bit closer to the technology and discussed the design feasibility and next steps ahead.

We also identified that support groups of new mothers over FB or web-forums are the best way to reach them. While lactation consultants are a key influencer for our customer base too (to recommend to try our product), moms rely a lot on recommendation of other moms that they get in support groups. We will definitely use this channel to market and test our product.

We also realized an unmet customer need during the interview process that we plan to take advantage of, while designing our final product. A lot of moms complained that nursing bras currently available in the market, provide little or no support. They can’t use underwire bras because doctors advise not to use metals, because it might restrict milk flow. With our insert, which is like a pad, if we design the bra properly, it could offer the extra support and shape the new moms want as they resume their lives outside the house.

Looks like an exciting time ahead !

Week 6

We are now about to incorporate our Company. We talked about different options, C-corp vs. LLC, and are settled on starting an LLC. We are also working on our shareholders’ agreement. We have come to realize that it is not easy discussing ownership share, especially when we will be involved in this entrepreneurial venture in different manners and at different pace. While both are very important to the success of the product, the efforts and length of involvement of the Product Developer are very different from these of the Sales and Marketing Director. Hopefully we will come to an agreement that everybody can leave with in the next week.

Category: i-corps, i-corps-team-posts