One of my favorite things about entrepreneurship is when I see founders live through a difficult experience, learn a ton along the way, and then start a company to help others going through a similar experience.
Every now and then, I come across a founder who has this exact story. These founders are often rooted VERY deeply in their "why", and will break through all barriers that may get in their way.
A few months ago, at the D1F7 showcase, Shannan Clarke presented her startup to our audience of mentors and investors. I knew that she had a story that needed to be shared. Continue reading to dig into my Q+A with Shannan.
I’m on a mission to redefine support for breastfeeding mothers.
After returning to work just 10 weeks after giving birth with a commitment to provide breastmilk to my new baby for as long as possible, I experienced first-hand the roadblocks many mothers face in the workplace, which gave me the inspiration to create a solution to support breastfeeding mothers at work and beyond.
In 2018, I started Queen & Baby Box, a breastfeeding subscription box for working mothers.
Today, with experience and a more narrow focus, I’m working to create a new model for breastfeeding education for Black mothers and families.
I consider myself a multi-passionate activist and artist, so I’ve devoted my time to numerous national and international non-profit organizations spanning the arts, international affairs, social enterprise, and higher education.
I serve on the board of directors for the Boston Association for Childbirth Education & Nursing/Nursing Mothers’ Council and I’m a current Vital Village Networks Certified Lactation Consultant (CLC) Breastfeeding Scholar. Plus, I’m actively pursuing my International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) license.
Before Day One, I had recently completed two fellowships: Uptima Entrepreneur CoOp and Visible Hands, and was looking to continue building my network of fellow entrepreneurs and for something to be part of that would help keep me accountable to my next steps in building my company. I was introduced to Day One from a VH colleague who is now a Day One mentor.
Breastfeeding two children taught me so much. One aspect I kept coming back to was the absence of class instructors, mommy groups, or lactation specialists dedicated to or identifying as Black and/or African American. I couldn’t find materials with women who looked like me and shared similar concerns about maternal health and breastfeeding.
In 2018, I started Queen & Baby Box, a breastfeeding subscription box to support working mothers. In four years, we’ve evolved our offering to provide more comprehensive support at your fingertips. I am motivated by my vision of a future in which Black/African American communities are healthier and more resilient because we have support, resources, and respect.
It’s going great! We are working to build awareness of the company mission by engaging with Black lactation care providers, and jumping in on the conversations around breastfeeding and maternal health online and in collaboration with other startups doing similar, complementary work.
Convincing investors that Black breastfeeding outcomes and representation in lactation services are important. We know that, in America, we exist within a society where most of the financial resources are controlled by White men. My challenge is to increase their connection to the mission and goal of Queen & Baby.
We know that men have control over many of the resources required to get a business off the ground. People who identify as men and feminists might be the key to navigating these challenging systems which make it difficult for founders like me to continue to grow and scale.
That there is an entire universe related to it. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into but I now know there is so much to know.
One year ago, I was at the start of my new iteration, and I wish I had known more about what venture capitalists look for when considering making an investment.
At the time, I was deep in what I now understand to be customer discovery, and validation, but I stopped to iterate, but now I know I could have kept moving along that path to help prove out the concept while generating revenue! But everything is a learning opportunity.
So far, I’ve been really finding value in the community. I’ve had several great conversations over Zoom and have jumped in on some helpful threads in the Heartbeat app.
Why should Black breastfeeding outcomes be of concern to men?
You can visit our website at https://queenandbaby.com/.
The best way for people to help is to spread the word. Tell a friend, sister, or cousin about Queen and Baby and have them sign up for our newsletter or download one of our resource guides.
I’m committed to helping moms who have questions about breastfeeding even through this building stage. So please, share this with your network!
Some days as a solopreneur are challenging: there is always something to do and most times I feel pulled in so many different directions. But I’m loving this journey and everything it is teaching me.
Most importantly, I am deeply connected to my why, which helps me stay grounded and keep going on those days I really want to quit. So this one’s for anyone out there pursuing a goal, or trying to start something from nothing. You’re not alone and you can do this!
If you pin all your hopes on reaching the top of that mountain, your path up there will feel endlessly long and painful, and anything other than summiting will feel like failure. After countless trials and tribulations, I learned that starting a company isn't about getting to the top of the mountain—it's about becoming the kind of person who climbs mountains, no matter how steep they are.
She’s had a great deal of trauma in her life, but those experiences shaped her into who she is. We asked her if she’d go there in a conversation. And, to our surprise, she really, really went there.
My energy was a bit low for the first few minutes. I blame the weather. Then, Trupti jumped on and immediately introduced herself with a confidence and gusto that I haven’t encountered in months — especially on Zoom. Within seconds, I knew that we had someone special on our hands.