The Vermont Community Loan Fund, a private, 501 (c)3, nonprofit, mission-driven lender, loaned over $960,000 to Vermont’s small businesses and child care programs in the 2nd quarter of 2017- helping create and save Vermont jobs and quality child care programs.
What, you might ask, are those pod-shaped kiosks adorned with adorable baby pics that keep popping up in airports, shopping malls and stadiums? You (particularly you new parents out there) will be interested to know they’re Mamava freestanding lactation suites. They’re making a case for nursing moms and babies on the go, and making a statement that can’t be ignored: nursing is a right, not a privilege.
Mamava co-founders Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson first met back in the 1990s, working at Burlington’s busy JDK design firm.
“JDK was always a very supportive workplace, and our office was experiencing its own baby boom,” says Sascha.
“So we knew a lot of nursing moms,” adds Christine.
With healthcare professionals recommending breastfeeding for at least six months, a new generation of parents was becoming aware of its significant health benefits. Pumping breastmilk at the office became another new normal for working moms.
Within a few years, their own children had arrived, and Sascha and Christine found themselves pumping breastmilk while working, en route to client meetings “at airports and in convention center bathrooms,” Sascha remembers. Not exactly the ideal, they admit, looking back on it now…
Then came the day they read a piece in the New York Times about mothers who discovered breastfeeding to be impractical, if not impossible.
“For (mothers) with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breastfeeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice…. But for lower-income mothers , including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers, and the military, pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breastfeed at all, and others to quit after a short time,” the article read.
That got them thinking.
Next, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated that employers provide employees with break time as well as appropriate space for pumping, “other than a bathroom”. Sascha and Christine saw that nursing moms needed new options, and Mamava was ‘born’. They began their business plan and sought financing.
“We learned about the Loan Fund through one of our business advisors,” recalls Sascha. She and Christine were particularly impressed with the Loan Fund’s quick response and flexibility. “We’re growing so rapidly, we’ve already tapped into a line of credit, paid it back, and now we need new resources,” Sascha explains. “If not for VCLF, I’d have taken out yet another mortgage on my house.”
Sascha and Christine worked with JDK to design lactation suites that would provide a clean and private place free from noise and distractions for moms to pump or breastfeed. Suites include electrical outlets for breast pumps, seating for mom and another sibling, gentle lighting and a changing table. Advertising space is available on the interior and exterior; part of Mamava’s business plan to generate additional revenue.
A free app enables moms to locate and gain access to Mamava suites at 250 sites across the country.
Initially, Mamava encountered criticism from breastfeeding advocates who felt the suites effectively ‘hid’ breastfeeding from view, but such comments have abated of late. “It’s the pumping mothers themselves who have asserted their personal experiences,” says Sascha. Those moms have countered the criticisms with praise for the convenience, privacy and lack of distractions the lactation suites afford them while pumping and nursing. “After all, the complexities of modern living are all about choices,” Sascha adds.
At this point, Mamava’s growth is in the double digits, and they’ve jumped from three to 16 full- and part-time employees in just two years.
“Every year, 3,000,000 moms initiate breastfeeding,” Christine says. “We’re extending our mission with more education, with community, with useful content and curated commerce, so we can bring a lot more to moms.” Learn more at www.mamava.com
Between April and June, the Loan Fund also provided financing to:
Center for an Agricultural Economy, Hardwick
Nonprofit Center for an Agricultural Economy owns and operates the VT Food Venture Center, a shared-use food processing facility and business incubator. They provide shared kitchens, storage, business advising, food safety training and more to entrepreneurs to help them reach larger institutional markets such as colleges, hospitals, schools, etc. with their farm products. They’ll use Loan Fund financing to purchase a blast freezer, for clients who produce frozen foods and/or freeze fresh foods to extend seasonality. The loan preserves eight jobs. www.hardwickagriculture.org
Danforth Pewterers, Middlebury
Danforth Pewter began making pewter candlesticks, tableware and other pieces in 18th century Connecticut. Early Danforth pewter is on display in the Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, and many other American museums. In 1975, husband-and-wife team Fred and Judi Danforth revived the dormant family business in Vermont, and have partnered with the Loan Fund many times since. They’ll use this most recent loan to help finance the opening of two new retail stores in Portland, Maine, and Washington, D.C. The loan will support costs of the stores’ design, construction, inventory and more, and will result in the preservation of 47.5 jobs, plus the creation of five new ones. www.danforthpewter.com
Horizon Early Learning Program, Brattleboro
Horizon Early Learning Program owner Melanie Zinn has been planning improvements to her child care facility since moving her program into a larger space in 2016. Horizon, a full-day, full-year licensed program, will use a new loan to refinance existing debt and to make those planned improvements to the center’s outdoor playground space. The new loan creates or preserves care for 22 children and four jobs.
Morristown After School Program, Morristown
A nonprofit 4 STARS-rated childcare program, Morristown After School Program used Loan Fund financing to purchase the real estate and program assets of Mud City Kids, an existing Loan Fund borrower. MASP had been operating at two sites, Morristown’s Graded Building and the Morristown Elementary School, but demand for their programming continued to outpace available slots. In 2015, MASP began leasing half of Mud City’s facility to accommodate more families. MASP will continue to serve Mud City families. Financing helps preserve or create 73 child care slots and 11 jobs. www.masp-program.org
Northern Reliability, Waitsfield
Northern Reliability manufactures electric power storage systems, servicing remote and off-grid locations throughout the world. They’ll use a line of credit from the Loan Fund to replace a previous line of credit. With a recent, sizeable uptick in sales, the new line will support continuing growth through a management transition. This financing will lead to the preservation of 15 jobs and the creation of five new ones. www.northernreliability.com
Vermont Natural Beef, Benson
Vermont Natural Beef raises approximately 150 head of grass-fed cattle annually on two adjacent farms across 495 acres, selling their beef throughout the northeast. They’re currently in the process of acquiring another adjacent farm property comprised of a house, two barns and 310 acres. With this acquisition, VNB will expand to 500 head of cattle annually, convert the home into a bed-and-breakfast and one of the barns into an events facility. They’ll use financing from the Loan Fund to purchase equipment (tractor, baler, fencing, and freezer trailer) and to support expanded operations, leading to the preservation of three jobs, with two new jobs anticipated following the opening of the B&B and events facility. www.vermontnaturalbeef.com
Vermont Quince Company, Newfane
Vermont Quince specializes in jams, mustards, syrups, vinegars and other specialty food items featuring regionally-sourced quince. They’re poised for expansion, so they approached the Loan Fund to help finance the purchase of raw materials, inventory, equipment, marketing and other costs. The loan results in preserving one full-time and one part-time job. www.vermontquince.com
Since 1987, the Vermont Community Loan Fund has loaned almost $100 million to local businesses, affordable housing developers and community-based organizations that has created or preserved 5,600 jobs; built or rehabilitated 4,000 affordable homes; created or preserved quality care for over 3,850 children and their families; and supported community organizations providing vital services to hundreds of thousands of Vermonters.