The 2021 Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grants cast the net wide to find Australia’s most innovative new businesses who deserve a boost to help them go global. An expert panel chose five winners – let’s meet them.
After finding herself on the wrong end of a breast pump a week after giving birth, Alexandra Sinickas created Milkdrop to provide softer, more comfortable solutions for mothers.
Two years ago, Alexandra Sinickas was trying to figure out breastfeeding after her first child was born. Meanwhile, she turned to a breast pump for help in extracting her milk into a bottle, only to find the experience uncomfortable and painful. “I dreaded each time I had to use it,” Alexandra tells Kochie’s Business Builders. “Unfortunately for me that was about six times a day.”
After speaking with other women, Alexandra admits she was both surprised and indignant that something so useful that was used several times a day was so uncomfortable. “After stewing a while, I convinced some friends to help me completely rethink how breast pumps work and feel. I wanted to create a pump that was soft, silent, wearable and elegant that left women feeling good afterwards.”
The business idea: Soft, comfortable breast pump products
Alexandra, who has a background as an engineer, founded Milkdrop in 2019.
Two years later the first product – an ultra-soft, jelly-like silicone cushion that fits over most current breast pumps – launched online including on Amazon Australia just a couple of months ago.
According to Alexandra the cushion inserts are 10 times softer than pump heads and flanges. “This means they mould to the nipple and areola, and because of the design, prevent the nipple and areola from being over-sucked into the pump shaft,” she explains. “In our pilot, the median comfort score rose from 5/10 to 9/10, and nipple swelling and redness all but disappeared from 6/10 to 0.5/10.”
Unlike most other inserts, Milkdrop is designed to last. It is reusable, lasting the entire length of a woman’s breast pumping journey (for one baby), avoiding the need to buy replacements and reducing environmental waste.
Milkdrop is made in Australia from medical-grade silicone, free from BPA, plastic, additives and phthalates.
Listening to women
Even though Alexandra had her own uncomfortable experiences with breast pumps, she knew that every woman is different and was keen to learn what potential customers genuinely wanted before rushing to create products.
“We listened as hard as we could to what women were saying about their experience pumping,” she says. “We believe that women should be deeply involved in the design of products that affect them.”
The Milkdrop team also listened to clinicians, including lactation consultants and GPs to find out what problems they were seeing. “We then matched that with what we could actually design and manufacture in terms of technology and funding, and then made sure it was produced safely and ethically,” says Alexandra.
One of the main challenges, she notes, was designing something that works for all women.
“The human body is so wonderfully varied, and we needed to work extra hard to design something that will work for all women,” says Alexandra. “The way we manage this is by designing with a really tight feedback loop – we designed, 3D printed, tested and changed that design about 20 times until we had something that worked for as many women as possible.”
Redesigning the breast pump “from the nipple up”
Reactions to the silicone cushion in the first couple of months since launch have been overwhelming positive, according to Alexandra.
“For many women, it’s changed the way they feel about pumping,” she says. “We’ve met women who say that they would have otherwise given up providing breastmilk to their babies, others who say they don’t have to pump as long to get the same amount of milk, and others who say they wish they’d had it earlier.”
Being of service in this way is what fuels Milkdrop’s mission to “change how women feel about pumping, by redesigning the breast pump from the nipple up”, says Alexandra.
The company plans to expand the sales of its silicone cushion to the US and continue to move through research and development of its breast pump. In keeping with its philosophy of listening to customers, in the next couple of months it will open a special research group Milkdrop Labs to invite women to contribute their experience, insight and ideas to the design.
And the startup is about to receive a boost to its e-commerce presence through Amazon Launchpad. Milkdrop has been selected as one of five Australian businesses to win an Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grant – a $200k package comprising advertising and marketing support, $20,000 in cash, and mentoring from ecommerce industry experts.
Amazon Launchpad is Amazon’s program to help startups and entrepreneurs grow their business online. It helps with inventory management, order fulfilment, customer service, and marketing support, allowing brands to focus their efforts on the innovation that results in more unique products.
“Being part of Amazon Launchpad means that we can learn best practice from other businesses who’ve been here before,” says Alexandra. “It also means we can reach more people than we would otherwise be able to, especially as we start to look to exporting. The mentoring and network from Amazon Launchpad is invaluable for us as such a young company.”
Meet the other Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grant winners:
Find out more about how new and emerging brands are growing locally and scaling globally on Amazon Launchpad.
This article is brought to you by Kochie’s Business Builders in partnership with Amazon Launchpad.