Startup ‘Lactation Innovations’ wins prestigious Wolff New Venture Competition
John A. Elliott, dean of the School of Business; Greg Wolff, managing member of Wolff Financial Group; Michelle Cote, instructor and director of strategic partnerships at CCEI; Jayme Coates, alumna and co-founder of Lactation Innovations; Jennifer Mathieu, executive director of CCEI and Rory McGloin, professor of communication.
When Jayme Coates ’07 MS, ’10 MBA was about to be discharged from the hospital with her first-born child, she discovered that her breastfed son was malnourished and dehydrated.
The experience both terrified and motivated her.
On Monday, the startup that she co-founded, Lactation Innovations, won the School of Business’ Wolff New Venture Competition and a $25,000 prize. Lactation Innovations’ Manoula Sensor is a device to help breastfeeding mothers know exactly how much milk their baby is receiving,
“This is a big win for new moms and babies,’’ Coates says. “All the competitors did an amazing job, and I’m honored to have been selected. I’m very happy that we were able to show the judges one simple way that we can help mothers who need our support.’’
Lactaction Innovations offers an easy-to-use, non-invasive technology that involves putting a small, button-like device in the pocket of a baby t-shirt over the child’s belly. The device uses infrared technology, similar to what is used for a pulse oximeter, to detect the amount of protein from the milk that is in the child’s stomach and calculates how much the baby consumed. The results can be read on a mobile device.
More than 3 million mothers breastfeed in the United States, but some 50 to 60 percent of them quit by the second week, primarily over fears that their child isn’t receiving enough nutrition. Other companies offer solutions, but they involve wiring and other contraptions to monitor breastfeeding success.
“I would say the major differentiator for Lactation Innovations is that we’re moms and we’ve designed this for other moms,’’ says Coates. Her startup co-founder is Brittany Molkenthin ’17 (NUR). The product is expected to be on the market in 2024.
Hundreds of Businesses Have Launched Because of CCEI
All five of the startups competing in this year’s Wolff competition participated in the School of Business’ Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s (CCEI) Summer Fellowship, which helps prepare UConn-affiliated startups for market.
“This year is a bit special for CCEI as we are celebrating our 15-year anniversary,’’ says Jennifer Mathieu, executive director. “As I was reflecting on the pitches at the Wolff New Venture Competition, I couldn’t help but think back to the hundreds of businesses we have helped to launch, and, more importantly, the thousands of entrepreneurs we have had the privilege of working with. I am grateful to be a part of this ecosystem and to have a hand in the success of our startups.’’
“The five teams that pitched at the Wolff New Venture Competition this year are a great showcase of the startups we have supported over the years. We have heard pitches from undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and alumni entrepreneurs. They ranged in industry from consumer products to software to medical technologies,’’ Mathieu says.
“They have come a long way in the time that they have been working with CCEI, both with their businesses and individually,’’ she says. “I am proud that at CCEI we don’t just build companies, we inspire the next wave of entrepreneurs who are going to change the world.’’
The other UConn-affiliated finalists in the competition included:
In celebration of its 15th Anniversary, CCEI is planning a day-long event on Dec. 2 at the GBLC campus in Hartford. Speakers will be announced shortly. More information will be available in the coming weeks at ccei.uconn.edu.
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