Amberlee Venti already had experience as a working mom when she took a promotion at her outpatient mental health clinic five years ago, but the addition of her second daughter exacerbated challenges faced by many working parents.
Because she needed to be available to her staff nearly all the time at work, pumping proved difficult. And once she had, the community fridge in the clinic’s community counseling room wasn’t an opportune place to store it. The other option, she said, was an outdated camping-style cooler that would often leak water as it lost its chill.
“I remember one really crazy day at work, I looked at my Swell water bottle, and just had the idea,” Venti said.
Venti talked to her brother-in-law, who’d just graduated from business school, about her idea for an insulated milk cooling canister that would allow you to pump, cool and store milk without access to a fridge. He connected her with classmates who had just made a heated canister for tea, and she began researching what it would take to pull her vision off.
Five years later, the Drexel University graduate has just launched the Maia under the brand Pippy Sips, working with a small team of her and her husband, plus consultants. She’s worked with Boston-based design and engineering firm Pragmatc Innovation to engineer the canister and add a temperature-reading puck that “recharges” in the freezer overnight and cools milk. The canister will keep 10 ounces of milk cool for about 16 hours.
It works like this: The pumping parent will grab the rechargeable temperature puck from the freezer before they head out for the day, and as they pump and add to the canister, it will cool the milk down to a refrigerated temperature and maintain it for hours. Double tapping the lid will show the current temperature, a feature Venti added after hearing feedback from a user who had a hobby of beer making and had her own experience with bringing a substance to the right temp.
“Sometimes it gets called a thermos, but the Maia isn’t about maintaining temp, our product is cooling and then maintaining,” Venti said.
In the last few years, Venti has refined the product through a course of accelerator programs, including a current stint in SKU, a consumer products accelerator based out of Texas. She was also in the University City Science Center‘s Launch Lane program in 2020, where she said advisors helped her become “investment ready.” The company has received funding from various accelerator programs, crowdfunding and through Bucks Built.
Last month, the Maia launched for ecommerce sales through the company’s website, and Venti said they’re planning a pop-up shop on Oct. 1 at Fishtown boutique Minnow Lane. She’ll also be hosting a product launch party at Venture Cafe on Sept. 22. The in-person events will be crucial to seeing how customers interact with the product now, Venti said.
The initial design of the Maia was for that busy, working parent, Venti said, but the customer group has grown wider than she initially thought. They’re seeing fast-paced moms — whether they be working or stay-at-home parents who want to head to a beach, a concert or a night out without their baby — buying the product.
“Were really getting an understanding of our consumer,” Venti said. “And that’s the most rewarding part, hearing the user experience and how much freedom it offers the user.”
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