Industry: Global Health / Maternal and Newborn Health
Founding Student Names: Sahar Jamal, Kellogg MBA’19
Brief Description of Solution: Maziwa is the only breast pump specifically designed for working women in developing markets. By prioritizing features such as battery power, milk storage, and discreetness, the Maziwa breast pump alleviates the difficult decision mothers are forced to make between staying at home to feed their babies and going into work in order to be able to feed their families. We will also differentiate ourselves based on last-mile distribution and education by partnering with maternal and newborn health NGOs, public health groups, maternity clinics and hospitals, baby care centers, and employers. This simple intervention has the potential to make an exponential difference in a mother’s ability to prevent her infant from fatal diseases, protect her own health and sustain her family’s economic well-being.
Funding Dollars: $132,500 total in grants and donations
What led you to launch this venture? Last summer, I joined a lean, scrappy team at Jacaranda Health, a maternity health clinic and social enterprise based in the peri-urban outskirts of Nairobi. I learned about the life-saving benefits of breastmilk and the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life, which can reduce the likelihood of infant death by 14 times. Unfortunately, I discovered that many mothers, who are compelled to return to work shortly after giving birth, begin to wean their baby off breast milk early and resort to substitutes like other milk, other foods, or baby formula. Only seven percent of these moms use a breast pump to express breastmilk, compared to 75 percent in the U.S., because they lack access to appropriate products and awareness of how to use them. These insights led me to develop the concept of Maziwa.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with your venture? Maziwa has benefited from significant support from Northwestern University and Kellogg School of Management. Notably, I was fortunate to receive the 2019 Kellogg Social Entrepreneurship award of $70,000 seed funding for the launch. This will support research and product development and make it possible for me to pursue this business full-time.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? The Kellogg MBA program has been pivotal in helping me launch Maziwa. Kellogg School’s Zell Fellows Program and Northwestern’s Garage Residency program for student entrepreneurs have been critical in supporting me with mentorship, funding, and resources to pursue my business idea this year. My leadership roles with Kellogg’s Net Impact Club surrounded me with a community of like-minded, impact-driven business students and supported my career search in this sector. The financial support for students pursuing entrepreneurial ventures and social impact internships made it possible for me to intern at Jacaranda Health and gain unique exposure to the in-market realities of operating a social enterprise, informing my career endeavors in this sector. Finally, pitch competitions such as VentureCat gave me experience pitching to investors and prize money to support my full-time launch. This social entrepreneurship journey can be a challenging and lonely road. However, my Kellogg experience has provided me with a robust support network to build my entrepreneurship toolkit and a strong community of fellow social entrepreneurs, which have been a catalyst for my career in this space!
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? While I have been surrounded by several inspiring founders through the entrepreneurial community at Northwestern and through my experiences in East Africa, the most influential founder in my life has been my father. After volunteering at an Afghan refugee camp and hearing heartbreaking stories of children seeing their fathers murdered, frightened women giving birth in mountains, and families trekking barefoot for days in search of safety, my dad decided to give up his two successful accounting practices to start his own business at the age of 45. His career change was not always easy for our family, but his experience taught me that dedicating your life to a cause that you are passionate about, while difficult, can be the most fulfilling experience. He is now an author, an executive coach, and a motivational speaker who has reached an audience of more than a million people.
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Professor Kara Palamountain’s Medical Devices in Developing Markets class was the most influential MBA class at Kellogg School for building my start-up. This encouraged me to travel to Tanzania in support of the NEST 360 project, which was awarded a $15 million MacArthur Foundation grant to improve neonatal care in Sub-Saharan Africa. This experience led to my decision to intern at Jacaranda Health over the summer and eventually inspired the concept of Maziwa.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Maziwa was founded on the belief that nothing should stop a baby from receiving the life-saving benefits of breastmilk. While Maziwa will initially launch in Kenya where I have a strong network in the maternal and newborn health space, my long-term goal is for the Maziwa breast pump to be used by working women in lower-resourced settings all over the world.