That saying about necessity being the mother of invention? Pennsport resident Amberlee Venti is living it.
The 36-year-old Drexel grad is a mother, who needed something…so she invented a solution. A self-described “mompreneur,” Venti turned her disappointment with the dearth of easy, portable breast milk coolers into a brand new business.
Her vision for Pippy Sips — and its signature all-in-one storing and cooling flagship product, Maia — is that it can revolutionize breastfeeding for modern women.
Philadelphia is actually a relatively friendly city for breastfeeding parents. In 1997, it became the first major metropolitan area in the United States to legally protect the right to breastfeed in public, and last time Billy Penn checked, there were over 43 changing rooms and nursing-friendly spaces around the city.
But widespread support doesn’t make pumping any more feasible or less awkward, especially in the workplace.
Minimalist, fashionable and durable
Venti came up with the idea after her own struggles with the size, reliability and accessibility of the storing and cooling options available to her at her job delivering direct clinical care at a mental health outpatient facility in Kensington.
After she had her baby in February 2016, she discovered it was difficult to a) find the privacy to pump and b) unobtrusively grab bottles from the shared fridge at the office. And whether helping with psychiatric emergencies or regular counseling sessions, Venti was expected to be agile and make decisions at all hours of the day, which made it hard to carry around a clunky portable cooler.
That summer, she found herself staring at a S’well bottle and realizing that’s exactly what she needed — but for breast milk.
“I just thought, why don’t we make something minimalist, fashionable and durable that can keep this precious substance cold for at least the average workday?”
Along with her husband Joe Venti and Boston-based design and engineering firm Pragmatc Innovation, LLC, she started the crude prototype phases of the Maia in the summer 2017.
Throughout the process, the team invited real-life feedback — and it ended up adding a crucial design element.
Beta tester Renata Strychaz, a friend who lives in South Africa with her two children, does NGO work at an office that does not have a dedicated maternity room. She’d often have to pump in either a bathroom or a server room, or in a company van outside when on field visits.
“I quickly became annoyed with all the many things I had to think about and plan,” Strychaz said, “in order to pump and then keep my milk cool.”
In terms of look and feel, Strychaz liked the beta version of Maia, but it didn’t hold temperature that long and, without a thermometer, there was no way to know whether or not the milk had gotten too warm.
So now a digital display on the cap of the Strawberry Starburst-hued bottle lets parents and caregivers know the milk’s temperature throughout the day.
Crowdfunding for women entrepreneurs
The Maia is currently available for pre-order via iFundWomen, a flexible crowdfunding platform and accelerator program that helps female entrepreneurs by offering expert coaching, campaign-design and video production services.
Venti heard about iFW when the City of Philadelphia and StartupPHL announced their partnership with the platform. She joined in December of last year, and since then, has raised $10,640 toward her $35,000 goal. Backers can pre-order a “Maia” for $130 or a package of two for $220 (the campaign ends on Feb. 22).
Pippy Sips’ first product also features
- A vacuum-insulated stainless steel shell
- A nested, BPA-free storage bottle that connects to most brand-name pumps
- A unique design to optimize cooling speed and duration, keeping the milk at the average temperature of a fridge (between 35°F to 40°F) for up to 10 hours