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August 12, 2021

Kittery lactation-support startup launches $1.15M seed round, project with state

person with bus COURTESY / AMY VANHAREN Kittery entrepreneur Amy VanHaren launched a $1.15 million seed round to grow her lactation-support company, Pumpspotting. She's seen here on a stop in New York City during a promotional tour.

A Kittery startup that's using technology to assist breastfeeding parents on Thursday announced a $1.15 million seed financing round and a partnership with the Maine Bureau of Human Resources to extend lactation support to 31,000 employees.

Pumpspotting, founded in 2015, said it expects the seed investment to fuel the company’s growth in the business-to-business channel, helping employers, retailers and brands to provide the support and develop settings for breastfeeding. 

The financing round is led by MooDoos Investments, with participation from the Maine Venture Fund, Maine Angels, Launchpad Venture Group, Opus Ventures, Crystal McKellar and strategic investor Punchbowl Inc.

Since its founding, Pumpspotting’s platform has attracted over 40,000 working parents. The company is collaborating with employers, retailers, universities and other businesses to extend breastfeeding benefits and accommodations.

It has positioned itself as an attraction and retention benefit for employers. Businesses recently signing on to the platform include Portland-based Tilson Technology.

Pumpspotting founder and CEO Amy VanHaren said in a news release that companies and parents gain from breastfeeding programs.

“We know that breastfeeding has a myriad of benefits for babies and parents alike, and that businesses benefit when they support breastfeeding as well: reduced absenteeism, improved customer loyalty, and more than 600% ROI on their lactation programs,” she said.

In the release, the company cited two studies that suggest the market potential for its services.

• According to a recent Aeroflow survey, half of women said they felt the need to choose between breastfeeding and work, with the average woman spending 35 hours a week breastfeeding. One in five breastfeeding workers report having felt pressure from their companies to stop. 

• According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, companies that provide lactation benefits have better retention rates, a 50% reduction in absenteeism, and savings in medical claims for mother and baby, with 83% of parents feeling more positive about the company. 

State partnership

The partnership with the Maine Bureau of Human Resources will kick off with an employee survey to establish existing employee attitudes about current breastfeeding support.

The state then plans to install Pumpspotting’s software and services, followed by a second employee survey to measure change.

The initiative will serve over 11,000 state employees while also extending new lactation support benefits to an additional 20,000 employees of state-affiliated agencies. 

“We look forward to our home state being a model for breastfeeding supportive climates nationwide,” VanHaren said.

Pumpspotting will provide the state with evidence-backed ways to anticipate breastfeeding employees’ needs through facilities, policy, procedure, culture, access to experts, encouragement and community.

State employees, as well as their partners and spouses, will receive access to the Pumpspotting mobile app, which allows them to tap into a community of feeding parents and provides evidence-based content, a crowdsourced map of places to nurse, one-on-one support from board-certified lactation consultants, and other help.

The state will receive employer guidance on how the program is working and how to improve support, including an internal communications campaign to promote adoption and insights into its user community. 

The work Pumpspotting is doing with the state of Maine is part of an academic project, led by a team from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, to research the topic of breastfeeding support in the workplace.

Early Adopter Program

The partnership came about through the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Early Adopter Program. Launched in April, the program allows three selected Maine companies to partner on a project with an appropriate state office, which helps take the company’s new product or technology mainstream.

Pumpspotting, OpBox and Acadia Composite Materials were the three selected companies, out of 13 applicants.

“Small businesses statewide are using their ingenuity and imagination to transform the way we do things,” the department’s commissioner, Heather Johnson, said in a separate news release. 

Each company was awarded a project contract with specific goals around how the effort would move the company forward.

Together, OpBox and Acadian Composite Materials will explore how their high-tech modular storage units, built with composite, structurally insulated panels from recycled plastic bottles, can be used for mobile pop-up businesses and community infrastructure, such as for disaster relief.

Both companies were founded by siblings Emily and Ben Davis, who were named to the Mainebiz Next List in 2018. OpBox manufactures its units in Nobleboro out of recycled plastic panels created by Acadian Composite Materials.  

The Department of Economic and Community Development will continue to host quarterly opportunities for up to three selected Maine companies.

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August 12, 2021

Maine is leading the way to support baby-feeding workers! I'm so proud to be a Mainer!

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