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SME Diaries: Co-founding a startup amid Covid-19 was a leap of faith, but I wanted to help other breastfeeding mums

In this instalment, Ms Vivian Lee, 35, recalls how the challenges she faced as a breastfeeding mother working full-time led her to co-found a firm that aims to help mums in the same situation. Ms Lee took this leap as a first-time entrepreneur during the pandemic and, with support from some agencies, has built a successful startup. 

 

SME Diaries: Co-founding a startup amid Covid-19 was a leap of faith, but I wanted to help other breastfeeding mums

Ms Vivian Lee took a leap as a first-time entrepreneur during the Covid-19 pandemic and, with support from some agencies, has built a successful startup.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which form 99 per cent of businesses in Singapore, have felt the impact of Covid-19 keenly. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts from SME owners and managers on the highs and lows of running a business in the pandemic.

In this instalment, Ms Vivian Lee, 35, recalls how the challenges she faced as a breastfeeding mother working full-time led her to co-found a firm that aims to help mums in the same situation. Ms Lee took this leap as a first-time entrepreneur during the pandemic and, with support from some agencies, has built a successful startup.

2020 was a year of awakening for me.

Juggling full-time work in business development for a medical company and breastfeeding often left me stressed out when I was unable to find a private space to express milk or breastfeed on-the-go.

I soon realised many mums faced this problem.

Motivated by people who lost their jobs in the pandemic yet bravely started something new, I took a leap of faith to start Go!Mama, a business providing practical solutions for breastfeeding mothers.

We faced obstacles, some amplified by Covid-19 disruptions, notably the lack of physical interaction to build relationships.

It was also challenging to build a new product because local factories faced manpower and resource shortages while visits to overseas factories became almost impossible amid travel restrictions.

I attended various courses and made endless calls, but still could not progress. In desperation, I cold called door-to-door in industrial areas and found my answer.

Amid Covid-19 hygiene concerns, we developed our lactation pods so that all interior fittings including the floor, seats and worktop, are non-upholstered for easy wipe-down cleaning.

An automatic ultraviolet disinfection process prevents cross-contamination after each use, a unique feature.

Our research shows that 99 per cent of Singapore mothers will attempt breastfeeding but many give up after a few months, as they find it difficult to breastfeed or express breast milk on-the-go.

Having to deal with using non-secure or unsanitary places, such as the toilet, server room, pantry or meeting rooms has led to mothers feeling distressed, wanting to go out less, and somewhat detached from their social circle.

Go!Mama hopes to raise awareness on this issue and encourage more firms to support mothers.

We launched a free mobile app with a comprehensive listing of all lactation spaces in Singapore, including public nursing rooms and Go!Mama lactation pods. We hope to build a platform where mothers come together to support each other with information such as new or suggested nursing rooms or those undergoing maintenance.

It has been a year filled with hopes and uncertainties, of learning and unlearning for me since launching Go!Mama.

I am grateful for all the support I got, including from government agencies.

For instance, I applied to the Startup SG Founder "Train” track venture building programme supported by Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and conducted by NUS Enterprise for first-time founders to undergo entrepreneurship training.

We were awarded the “Start” track grant from ESG to kickstart product development.

Go!Mama has started a pilot of five pods on Sentosa under the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s Pro-Enterprise Panel’s First Mover Framework.

Since our December launch, we’ve had positive feedback. We will be introducing more pods into sports complexes, institutions and transit stations.

Many challenges lie ahead for Go!Mama and any businesses striving to grow amid the pandemic.

I have learnt over the past year to just focus on what’s possible and work hard at it while being honest if an idea or business plan needs to be reviewed, pivoted or abandoned.

ABOUT THE WRITER:

Ms Vivian Lee, 35, and co-founder Ms Eunice Lim, 40, started Go!Mama in early 2021 with a mission to make breastfeeding less stressful and more manageable. The company is hiring to add to its team of five.

Related topics

SME Diaries entrepreneur motherhood Covid-19

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