Updated: Mar 2
After finding it incredibly difficult to find safe, clean places to pump milk after returning to work, Inge Plautz and her husband, Steve, decided that no women should have to endure that same experience - so they set out on a mission to build an on-the-go solution that provides quick, comfortable places for women around the country to pump and make it just a little bit easier to adjust to the new journey of parenthood.
by Alexis Wheeler, Marketing & Creative Social Media Intern
Alexis: What was your journey to starting Pump Hero?
Inge: As a nursing mother, with a deep desire to breastfeed for as long as I could, I was shocked, frustrated, and deeply challenged by the limitations in mobility and sheer lack of safe, secure, and comfortable accommodations for a pumping mom. I had to be mobile as my role as director of sales and business development demanded it. The lack of dignity that pumping moms are subjected to, I recognized, was going to be a derailing factor in my pumping journey until an advocate stood up. My husband! Upon learning that I had to pump in my car, in a downtown parking structure in mid-winter in WI during a corporate conference, he declared:
“if there is no solution for providing nursing mothers with a safe and dignified place to pump, we will create it! I did whatever I could, washing bottles and parts, stacking and organizing bags in the freezer, and making sure that she stayed hydrated. Yet, seeing her struggle to find safe, clean and comfortable locations to pump while she was out of the office was concerning, shocking, and frustrating. I decided then and there: this needed to change. So, I created that change by creating PumpHero.”
- Steve Plautz, Co-founder, President, PumpHero
In addition to the safety aspects, husbands are doing everything that they can to provide a positive journey for mothers. This was one way that Steve could ensure that I was safe and had what I deserved when we were apart.
Alexis: Why do you think a solution like PumpHero doesn’t already exist?
Inge: This is the question I asked for the first two weeks after the “Let’s Build It” declaration. And the answer is - because moms are so focused on everything other than what they truly deserve. Their baby, their family, their career, others' opinions. Yes, there is a lack of advocacy, the topic of breastfeeding and pumping is very personal and moms are ashamed to ask for the accommodations that they deserve. We are a virtual community of moms that empower, equip, and engage our mamas so that they can reach and exceed their personal milestones with dignity and choice.
"Thanks again for showing us your world and what you’ve been working so hard to do! It’s a great idea that will benefit so many moms!"
-Lindsay Vitse, Senior Account Executive, Bader Rutter
Alexis: Tell us about the Pump Hero app. How does it serve women like yourself?
The app was born as a function to support moms that are on-the-go, empowering them with the tools to plan their pump around their day and not their day around their pump. The app does this by geo-locating PumpSites near moms that are safe, secure, and comfortable. These locations are nationwide and include coworking, retail, and mothering rooms. Moms can also search and map out their desired locations when planning a trip and schedule their time. As we continue to grow we have now added additional features and services to support mom in her journey of motherhood. Services include virtual health with our partner, Sonder Health, milk shipping with Milk Stork, interior design with TRP Design, and a new mindfulness partnership. We serve mom first so that she can nourish baby and SELF.
Alexis: How do you think COVID-19 changed the way women work and have a need for a service like Pump Hero?
Inge: I believe that women are working harder now than ever before, and the focus on mom and her self-care has become increasingly difficult. Two major developments that we are PumpHero have experienced and witnessed are the following: 1. The ability to find clean, safe, and secure places to pump is critical and never more real than in this time of the pandemic. Moms are still on-the-go, whether traveling via car, running errands, or working. She, now more than ever, needs a place that is clean and safe. 2. We have never had a better opportunity to support mom wherever she is at home, at work, or out and about. We are touching our moms in ways that we never could before because mom may be confined at home and looking for support. Our partnership with Sonder Health in our virtual health has allowed us to come to mom because a safe place can be someone - a lactation consultant!
Alexis: How can a solution like PumpHero be used by other businesses and organizations who are trying to support women after they go back to work – especially those who are looking to enhance their family workplace benefits?
Inge: PumpHero is a platform on which employers can truly support the journey into parenthood. Many mothers and women who are returning to work are going to be more selective about who they work for, what is expected of them, and what type of benefits the employer is offering. Not only the benefits but how they are delivered. The ability to effectively recruit and retain women in the workforce will become a defining factor of business success and, more so, the empowerment and advocacy of family wellness. The business case for breastfeeding is well documented, retention is much higher, the absentee days are lower and prescription costs are less. What is more, now companies that do not have adequate space or that have employees working remotely or traveling can offer a solution to keep their mom employees safe and advocate for them via an app.
Alexis: How are consumers' lives changing as a result of having the Pump Hero app?
Inge: The PumpHero app is available to all moms that need a safe, secure, and comfortable space to pump. One mom, in particular, reached out to ask for support. She worked in a grocery store with no private space, when she asked HR for a solution they directed her to “pump in her car” her response was that she used the bus for transportation.
In her moment of helplessness and a sheer lack of advocacy, PumpHero worked with a business near the store and provided our “Hero” a PumpSite, and a safe place to be a mom.
PumpHero is committed to eliminating anxiety when it comes to planning your day as a pumping mom. Now, with an app, mom can find a comfortable place to be mom, nourishing baby, and self.
"I could not be more grateful for the work that PumpHero did in creating a temporary 'She-Suite'. Attending the conference was critical to my professional and personal development and just knowing that I can attend and maintain my pumping schedule made me a forever fan.”
- Anonymous, American Heart Association Conference
CFO and HR Director of a small Milwaukee company, Core Creative, had three new moms return to work at the same time. Other than a computer server room, there was no space in the small office of under 50 employees. PumpHero became their go-to solution as we identified a suitable location in a shared office building. Now, the three employees have a comfortable and dignified room to use multiple times a day, instead of an unsecured, server room and a plastic chair.
"PumpHero helped me out of a jam this morning! Even after daycare starts, working mothers who breastfeed have to do extra planning to make sure babies are fed and milk supplies stay up. Thank you, Inge Plautz, for your ingenuity!"
-Johannah Karstedt St. John
Alexis: How are you leveraging unique partnerships to build a suite of services that affect women in their journey?
Inge: Motherhood is multi-dimensional and so are the services that PumpHero offers. We have partnered with great companies that are mission-aligned in serving mom with the highest caliber and providing a curated experience for her in her journey. Our most meaningful partnership has allowed us to meet mom where she is, by offering virtual health in the form of virtual lactation consulting with Sonder health. We would never have been able to build a solution for our mothers of this caliber in the time that we needed to support mothers during a pandemic. Additionally, we partner with other great organizations that can help design a quiet space in the office, at home, or a temporary solution with our partnership with TRP Design. Lastly, we know that traveling with breastmilk is strenuous and stressful so we have a great partnership in MilkStork. The needs that moms have in their journey into motherhood are fragmented and complex; we are creating a platform where mom curates her journey with dignity and delight!
Alexis: How important is having a niche space to your business growth?
Inge: It is everything; when we refer to a “niche space” we think of our mom, the one that we are committed to serving. If we focus on her journey, her needs, her struggles, and what brings her joy we will continue to be successful.
Alexis: What is your favorite part of this business? What do you find most challenging?
Inge: Connecting with other business owners that serve moms. Other founders and advocates are committed to creating a better village for our moms to come. Most challenging: not being distracted by the shiny objects.
Alexis: When did you feel like an entrepreneur?
Inge: I believe that we all have an entrepreneur inside of us, the moment that we let our ideas manifest is when we ignite that creativity and allow ourselves to grow and expand in ways we never thought possible.
Alexis: What is something you want our readers to know about you?
Inge: I am passionate and deeply committed to advancing equity in all levels of business, particularly as it relates to girls and young women. I also deeply believe that we as women have the opportunity now to change the way that work is conducted and have the chance to place our fingerprints on the new norm. We, as moms and women can have it all, we just need to engage and be the architects of our new reality for ourselves and those to come.
Because Moms deserve better and because all moms are heroes.
-Inge Plautz, Pump Hero