Ever wish your problems could be solved with a cookie? Emily Kane, mother of three and the CEO and founder of Milkmakers, thought the same thing to herself seven years ago when she was pregnant with her youngest child.
“My milk supply started to go down and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to provide enough milk for my baby. A lactation consultant told me about lactation cookies and I was amazed by the results,” Kane says. This revelation sparked Kane’s idea to fill the underserved market of lactation consumables. Although her company started as a passion project based out of her own kitchen, it quickly evolved into something much bigger.
Milkmakers officially launched in 2010 with a simple but powerful mission: to empower women through breastfeeding. They offer delicious lactation cookies and teas to support mothers during what is often a very challenging time. Their products are preservative free and crafted with only premium, all-natural organic ingredients.
Kane sits down with Mom.me to discuss how she and her family have made it their goal to make sure mothers and babies around the globe have access to quality maternal care and guidance … and cookies.
As a mother as well as the CEO and founder of Milkmakers, how do you make it all work?
I'm a big believer in the idea that you can do anything, but you can't do everything—at least, not all at once. I don't believe in “leaning in” (sorry, Sheryl Sandberg) because I don't think you can always just fake it ‘til you make it. Sometimes, it's important to acknowledge when something isn't working for you and it's perfectly OK to say no. I know for me, it's been crucial to determine what to say yes to and what to say no to, and you have to make sure the timing is right too. I've gotten really good at saying no to things that do not add value to me or my family's life. I also have an amazing support system at work and at home. My husband, Matt, is a great partner and parent. My parents live close by and are always there for us (I couldn't have launched Milkmakers without them). Over the years, we've also had several great childcare providers who have cared for our kids with love and kindness. And, from the beginning, I've had an incredible team at Milkmakers who work with me to support other moms on their breastfeeding journey.
When did you first feel successful?
Early on, when Milkmakers was still relatively new on the market, a mom stopped me while I was out and about to say she recognized me from the back of Milkmakers' cookie packaging. She shared how Milkmakers had helped to increased her milk supply, but more than that she shared how Milkmakers products and messaging had encouraged her as a mom. The fact that she would take the time to stop me and share that with me meant the world to me. And, I considered that moment (and many others like it since) to be the biggest determining factor in my success. I set out to help other moms, and I now know that I've accomplished that goal!
Has there been anything about creating Milkmakers that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn't expect?
Supporting other moms on their birth and breastfeeding journey has always been a passion of mine. But, since founding Milkmakers, I have grown more and more deeply committed to making sure all moms and babies have access to quality maternal care. I've increasingly dedicated my time and money to great organizations like Open Arms Perinatal Services (here in my hometown of Seattle) and Clinic at a Time, a maternal health initiative in rural Ethiopia. Last summer, I traveled to Ethiopia with my two daughters, to see the work Clinic at a Time was doing firsthand. It was an incredible experience to see the work of this amazing organization and to be a part of it in some small way.
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are some ways that you want to teach your kids about "girl power"?
A big reason why I founded Milkmakers was for my family. I want my kids to see that they can do anything they set their minds to—and I don't want to just tell them that, I want to show them that! I talk openly and often about what I'm working on at Milkmakers and I've invited my kids into the process at every step of the way. My kids have gone with me to the Milkmakers' bakery, to business meetings and conventions and even accompanied me on my trip to Ethiopia to work alongside me in volunteering with Clinic at a Time. My experiences as a business owner are not in spite of the fact that I'm a mom, they're because of it! I want them to see and know that women (and mothers, in particular) have so much to offer the world, precisely because of their unique perspectives and experiences.
What's your advice for moms who are looking to start their own business?
Just do it! I love to encourage other moms who are looking to get their business ideas off the ground. The world needs your creativity, your passion and your perspective. I would also say you need to find your own network or your team. For me, it's a group of other moms who are also entrepreneurs with breastfeeding related products (we refer to each other as the “titty committee”). We all started our businesses around the same time, and we've spent the past 10 years sharing insights, industry knowledge, support and resources with one another. Just a few weeks ago, I hosted some of the “committee” moms and their families at our beach house on Camano Island. It was so much fun to spend time together as families and to relax and reflect together on how far we've all come personally and professionally.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and business owner to keep everything in balance?
Over the years, there are seasons where I have had to put my social life on hold—where I've had to work long hours, work late into the night or work weekends. I don't necessarily see those things as “sacrifices” because I love what I do, but it does take a lot of resources (financial and otherwise) to get a product off the ground. I believed in, and continue to believe in, Milkmakers. So, for me, those sacrifices are absolutely worth it!
Are there any new initiatives or products on the horizon for Milkmakers?
Supporting new moms has always been such a huge part of what Milkmakers is all about. We've always looked for new ways to help moms with the latest and greatest breastfeeding resources and expert advice. This past spring, we launched a new podcast for new moms called “Momrepublic.” I'm really excited about it, and I hope every new mom reading will check it out. I am also so excited about a new flavor that will hit the shelves this fall—let's just say, I'm addicted! Stay tuned!