Vermont Startup Serving Nursing Mothers Meets Rising Demand with CDFI Financing
Client Location: Burlington, VT
CDFI: Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF)
CDFI Service Area: VT
In the 1990s when co-workers Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson were new mothers, they frequently traveled for their jobs, complicating their shared goal of breastfeeding their infants. Healthcare professionals recommended breastfeeding babies in their first six months, at the very least; pumping breastmilk at the office had become a ‘new normal’ for working moms.
While Sascha and Christine didn’t find the common practice of slipping into the corporate ladies’ room to pump especially comfortable, they realized other new moms faced an even more difficult situation. They’d come across an article in the New York Times which addressed a dilemma experienced by lower-income mothers:
“For (mothers) with autonomy in their jobs—generally, well-paid professionals—breastfeeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice… But for lower-income mothers, including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers, and the military, pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breastfeed at all, and others to quit after a short time,” the article read.
Not long after, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated that employers provide employees with break time as well as appropriate space for pumping “other than a bathroom.” The time was right for Mayer and Dodson’s big idea: free-standing lactation suites, mobile and compact—a private, quiet place for nursing moms to breastfeed and pump while at work or on the go.
Sascha and Christine developed a detailed business plan and led a design team to create the Mamava ‘pod’. Soon the idea caught on with the Burlington International Airport in Vermont, who purchased one of the first lactation pods. As interest in Mamava lactation suites quickly grew, and after providing significant financing on their own, Mayer and Dodson began searching for a line of credit to meet the rising demand.
Learning about Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) from one of their business advisors, and impressed by VCLF’s flexibility and quick response, Sascha and Christine applied for a line a credit. In April 2017, they closed on a $350,000 loan to help take Mamava to the next level and continue growing the business sustainably.
“We were growing so rapidly… If not for VCLF, I’d have taken out yet another mortgage on my house,” Sascha shared.
Currently Mamava’s growth is in double digits, and they’ve jumped from three to 16 full-time and part-time employees in just two years.