When Kate Torgensen returned to work with seven month old twins who, until that point, had been exclusively breastfed, she learned quickly of the compromises and trade offs working women had to make in order to breastfeed. Add “traveling” in front of “working mom” and breastfeeding became almost impossible. So Kate decided to go ahead and change that.
Kate launched Milk Stork in the summer of 2015 as the first and only breast milk travel solution for working moms, providing safe (read: refrigerated) overnight shipping of your milk back to your babe when you’re traveling for work. How so, you ask? Here’s the short version: mothers prearrange for a Milk Stork cooler to be shipped to their hotel. The coolers come in 34oz and 72oz sizes and include a pre-labeled and post-paid shipping box. Most hotels will arrange a FedEx pick up right from the hotel lobby for your milk to be overnighted home. No melting gel packs, leaky milk bags, and stressful security checks necessary. (To read more about how it works, click here.) To date, Milk Stork has shipped over one million ounces of breastmilk for 10,000 working mothers and has become and employee benefit for hundreds of companies across the US. Like we said, Kate is changing the landscape for the working breastfeeding mom.
We had the chance to learn a little more about Kate and what her journey from problem to solution looked like, how she manages life as a working mom, and what she loves most about her work:
What’s your best piece of advice for a mom with an idea? I have 2 pieces of advice: 1) Focus on what excites you the most (in the beginning) and 2) move from “ideation” to “making” as quickly as possible.
Starting a business consumes most of whatever precious “me time” you might have as a mom. To keep the momentum going through sleep deprivation and endless dirty diapers, I think it is important to focus on the elements of your idea that excites you the most. In other words, if writing a business plan at 10:30pm after the kids go to bed doesn’t excite you, then I wouldn’t start there. But if product design is something that you find yourself thinking about at 10:30pm, then start there. By starting with the things that excite you, your business won’t become another chore – this will help your idea get lift in the early days.
Equally important… once you’ve decided to pursue an idea, it’s important to “wrap up” the exercise of questioning its validity, and start a process of making it real. Whether that is something as big as developing a prototype or something as small as trademarking a name and logo, the goal should be to get the idea out of your head and into the world. By making it real, you will become accountable to it and that will create momentum. Afterall, if not you, who? And, if not now, when?
What’s something you want the world to know about Milk Stork that they might not glean from your website or social media? There is a movement taking place within the workplace to support working families and women. We see this with our moms and in the companies we support. The majority of women using Milk Stork are being supported by their employers. And, of the 300+ companies that offer Milk Stork as an employee benefit, the majority do so because one of their breastfeeding employees asked for support. Now is a great time to ask your employer to support you with Milk Stork and other family-friendly benefits.
What’s your favorite story/testimonial you’ve heard from moms using Milk Stork? One of our moms is a sales manager. Before Milk Stork was offered as an employee benefit at her San Francisco company, she was faced with a multi-destination business trip – first a meeting in New York, and then the next day, a meeting in the midwest. Back at home her baby was out of breast milk, so she flew back to the West Coast in between the meetings to hand off the only breast milk she had left–the milk that she had pumped during the trip.
A few weeks later, her company began offering Milk Stork as an employee benefit. When she heard the news she said “I almost broke down in tears I was so excited”. This mom’s story demonstrates the lengths moms will go to maintain their commitment to breastfeeding and the difficult tradeoffs they face. I am so thrilled that Milk Stork can solve the logistical nightmare that this mom had to face.
You’re a mom of 3. What’s your absolute favorite baby product? aden + anais swaddle blankets. When the kids were babies, these blankets always provided cozy and secure swaddles – no arms escaping! They are also multifunctional – I used them for breastfeeding, sun protection and changing pads. But, what I love most about these blankets is that even as my kids have grown (twins are now 5 years old and my oldest is 8 years old), they remain attached to these blankets. To this day, my oldest calls his aden + anais blanket “Super-Soft” and he sleeps with it every night.
What are the most important elements in your life that allow you to create boundaries and balance?
The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur and a mom is that neither has an “off switch” – I have days that have the semblance of “balance” and other days that are complete chaos (and sometimes it’s only moments of balance or moments of chaos). For me, that’s the reality of working parenthood. That said, I have a created a 3 rules for myself to help maintain the boundaries:
- Mornings: I do not check my phone/email until I am sitting at my desk at work. Answering work emails while trying to get three kids off to school is a recipe for disaster and frustration.
- Nights: I don’t work at night anymore. When I first started working on Milk Stork in 2014, I had a full time job and 3 kids, 3 years old and under. The only “free time” I had was at night when the kids were asleep. And so, I worked every night until midnight for three years. One of my New Year’s resolutions last year, heading into 2018 was to stop working at night. A year later, my life and my stress-level are so much better for it.
- Sundays: On Sundays I’m 100% mom and 0% CEO. On Sundays I flip the “off” switch – I don’t work, I don’t send or respond to emails, I don’t even crack my computer on Sunday.
Thanks, Kate. You are a true inspiration!