We had the good fortune of connecting with Jillian Rothe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jillian, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I’ve spent the last 15 years of my day job on planes (pre-covid, of course) so when my daughter was born in 2015, we had quite the learning curve if we wanted to breast feed. The two biggest hurdles were the logistics of the cooler and pump added to my luggage and then making sure my partner and nanny had everything they needed to manage the stash of milk back home. We lived in Singapore at the time so put our engineering background to good use figuring out how to cram a week’s worth of milk into our tiny tiny freezer. We made our first Freeze It Flats out of Daiso supplies and then prototyped a few more for friends. I had enough requests from friends for freezer help and Q&A about travelling, that we eventually set up a website and made things a little more “official.” After getting everything in order to protect a patent, we officially launched in 2018 and it’s been really surreal to watch our little Japanese dollar store contraption morph into a real thing to help so many parents navigate travel and save more space in their freezers. After three kids and almost four years of heavy travel, it’s been a proud accomplishment to have never needed formula through this journey and has been extremely humbling to have become somewhat of an expert in a very niche market to help others do the same.
What should our readers know about your business?
When coming up with the name for the business, we knew our goal was to help other parents achieve what we’d done ourselves — to take some of that stress and anxiety out of the otherwise confusing or complicated mess of breast milk storage and logistics. So we called it MAMMaway; for when the MAMMaries have to be AWAY. The Freeze It Flat is just the first of many product ideas I have to help with breast milk storage! When we first started the company, we were punching out individual plates for the Freeze It Flat with a 12-ton hydraulic press in our garage (imagine a big cookie cutter and a flat sheet of plastic) and hand sewing straps from material we got at Michael’s. I hadn’t touched a sewing machine in years, so the first few were comical to say the least. 🙂 As of 2021, we now have injection molding and silicone straps! (For the non-engineers out there, that’s dork speak for “It looks really cool and professional now!) It’s been a slow process to get to this point, but having bootstrapped everything from product development to marketing on our already kid-filled nights and weekends, it feels like we’ve arrived. The hardest and most real lesson we’ve learned was having gotten knocked off by someone on Amazon. (Psst – that’s not us!) I’m trying to see it as plagiarism being the sincerest form of flattery, but I know we’re the real deal and I know as soon as we get in front of enough parents, the market will realize ours company is in it for the long haul to support as many parents as we can.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We moved to Colorado in 2019 when I was 7.5 months pregnant and we all know how 2020 turned out. Not sure I’m the one to go to for recommendations quite yet! … That said, we’ve taken all three kids up Mt. Evans and have yet to find a hiking trail that doesn’t have a breathtaking view. So a weekend agenda would be finding somewhere gorgeous to hike or bike and then either Sushi and a Whiskey Flight at Izakaya Den or Papaya Salad and Pineapple Curry from Udon Thai. Mild + please! For a longer trip, our bucket list includes (but is far from limited to) the Manitou Incline, Great Sand Dunes National Park in the spring, hiking to Hanging Lake, or teaching the kids to ski. Along with hitting as many local restaurants and breweries as possible.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
None of this would be possible without my partner, best friend, and husband, Steve. Somewhere between the unrelenting support, love, and encouragement on all my crazy business ideas is a guy that also knows the true value of a partnership in life and trying to raise these small humans. Since starting this business, we’ve lived in five different houses, moved across the planet once and then again across the country. We’ve both switched day jobs. And we’ve done it with 3 kids under 5. No one takes on that much change solo and lives to tell about it. Sanely. Ginny and Janelle – my Singapore Dou-lahs helped me better understand that my skills were needed in the new-parent market. My brothers stateside helped with the early stages of prototyping. And numerous friends have poured their time into the testing and testimonials to help me believe this was more than just a hobby. Shannon, Dawn, Shara, Styna, Jamie – the early on encouragement was huge in deciding to go for it. Thank you! It takes a village to raise a child. I’m the child in this part of the story!