With the constant controversy surrounding breast-pumping in public, it’s hard to escape headlines about the topic—but maybe that’s a good thing. It was one of these headlines that inspired Sam Rudolph to create Babyation, a smart breast pump that aims to help moms return to work while allowing them to still breastfeed and pump as needed.
“I was on vacation with my husband and flipping through headlines on a lazy Sunday morning. One article posed the question, ‘Shouldn’t the breast pump be as elegant as an iPhone and as quiet as a Prius by now?’ Although I wasn’t yet a parent, I’ve always been attuned to the challenges of working moms. I was quite dismayed to read about the state of breast pumps and what women had to go through in order to use them. It felt like yet another thing in a long list of obstacles and challenges that new mothers face,” Rudolph says. She and her husband, an engineer, decided they could build something better and got to work right away. “It felt very much like a calling,” Rudolph says.
Today, Rudolph can relate to those obstacles and challenges first hand. She gave birth to her now 2-year-old son in 2015, just a few months after launching Babyation. The company’s website and blog act as an informational resource for women who are integrating parenting into their daily lives, and is filled with content that helps make the lives of new parents easier—whether that’s getting through weeknight dinners, adjusting to going back to work or even planning for baby’s arrival. The Babyation breast pump will hit the market at the end of this year.
Mom.me sits down with Rudolph to discuss how she balances being a new mother and running a new company.
What makes Babyation different from other breast pumps?
We have several differentiators, but the most visually apparent one is our form factor. We’ve moved the bottles off the breasts, which maximizes discretion. Our breast shields are much smaller, and the pump itself is quieter. My favorite thing, though, is our app. The design team hit it out of the park—it’s beautiful and offers features that have never existed before, like customized presets. I can’t wait for it to hit the market!
As a mother as well as the creator of Babyation, how do you make it all work?
I don’t sleep! I haven’t yet figured out how to make more than 24 hours in a day, and if I want quality time with my child and to bring this product to market, something has to give. So, for us, that’s sleep. Luckily, neither my husband nor I require much sleep in order to function. Beyond that, I’ve very consciously opted to focus on my son and my business, and not always in that order. Everything else falls in a “nice to have” bucket. I’ve had to train myself to be OK with that. It’s not always easy and there are definitely days I don’t make it work, and I’m OK with that too. Starting a business and raising a baby isn’t easy, and being hard on myself isn’t going to help—it’s only going to make life more difficult and I don’t have time for that!
When did you first feel successful?
When you have a startup, success is defined differently than it is in corporate America. It could be raising a certain amount of money from investors, being able to pay yourself a salary, achieving a certain volume of sales or being acquired by a bigger company. For me, though, the biggest milestone was the very first day that I successfully pumped milk with my shirt on using our pump. It represented so much hard work and it was indescribable to see our vision become a physical reality.
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are some ways that you want to teach your kids about "girl power"?
As the mom of a little boy, I have two parenting goals: first, that he grows up with high self-esteem while still being respectful and considerate of others; and, second, that he knows girls can do anything boys can do. I’m not joking when I say that this is something I’ve impressed upon him every single day since birth. I attended a rally for female entrepreneurs a while ago and one of the speakers brought her sons. It brought tears to my eyes when, as she was walking up to speak, one of her boys yelled, “Go, Mommy!” I think that’s such a perfect illustration of how we need to expose our children to what their parents do. Those of us are that are fortunate enough to bring our children to work have the opportunity to not only show what careers are possible, but also how people of different genders and races can excel in so many positions of leadership.
Has there been anything about creating Babyation that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
Without a doubt, the biggest inspiration has been other moms. We’ve been so fortunate to hear from thousands of incredible women. They’ve shared their heartbreak, their passions and all of the lengths they went to in order to pump. When I have a bad moment all I have to do is read one of the emails or Facebook messages and I am immediately motivated to pick myself up and try harder.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business?
Make sure it’s the right choice for you! No matter what kind of business you start, it’s going to be really, really, really hard—but also more rewarding than anything you’ve ever done! Being an entrepreneur isn’t for the weak. You have to really believe in what you’re doing and you have to make sure it fits into the life you want. You also have to truly thrive in chaos!
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and business owner to keep everything in balance?
My friends, my body, my house … just to name a few things! We literally relocated halfway across the country to move in with my parents in order to make Babyation a reality. We are putting everything we have into making this company a success while still being committed and present parents to our son—and that means that we have been willing to sacrifice and forgo pretty much everything else. But, at the same time, I have never felt more fulfilled, personally or professionally. I have never felt more passionate about my work. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else right now, but like everything else in life, there’s an opportunity cost and a trade-off.
Are there any new initiatives or products on the horizon for Babyation?
We’re laser-focused on launching this product, but we already have plans for additional breast pumps and other non-breast pump ideas! Our hope is that when you see Babyation on a product, you know it stands for innovation and quality—and that it was made for parents, by parents!