The winning business of the regional InnovateHER Challenge has a focus on women and infants at the most basic level.
The Reno-based International Milk Bank buys human milk from women who produce more milk than their own infants can handle, allowing them to provide for critical ill infants or those whose own mothers can’t provide milk for them.
It’s the only human milk bank that pays mothers for the milk they contribute.
IMB buys the milks at $1 to $2 per ounce.
“Before we came on the scene no mothers were being reimbursed for providing breast milk to milk banks,” said IMB CEO Glenn Snow. “We innovate ‘her’ by serving the needs of mothers so they can stay home with their babies longer.” In turn, the mothers can provide more milk for other infants.
She benefits, her baby benefits and babies in the hospital benefit, he said.
The enterprise began after Snow’s wife Chelly gave birth and found she had more milk than her baby needed. She discovered a network of mothers’ milk exchanges online, including on Craigslist and eBay.
Snow began the Web site, Only The Breast, Inc., several years ago to help women with excess breast milk and those seeking it to connect in a less risky environment.
Recently, he formed International Milk Bank to meet the needs of hospitalized infants. IMB’s human milk sterilization plant is expected to open in 2016.
“It will meet the highest standards in the industry for neonatal care,” Snow said, adding that the plant will also meet international regulations.
“It’s really a game changer, massive,” he said.
Human milk is in short supply, and because of that, “we have significant hospital interest,” he said.
IMB has donors from all over the United States, who are screened before becoming a milk provider. The company provides the equipment so the mothers can ship the milk safely to Reno.
Snow said he was invited to pitch IMB at the Reno InnovateHER Challenge, which was hosted in Reno by The CUBE at Midtown.
The Small Business Administration competition is in its second year.
“The challenge is looking for companies that are doing something significant to impact the lives of women and families,” said Karol Hines, director of programs at The CUBE.
“We were really really pleased with the turnout and the quality of the entrants and the quality of the judges,” she said.
The Reno competition had representatives from eight entrepreneurial businesses make 10-minute pitches promoting how their businesses helped women and families.
Competitors were judged based on three factors: 1) Has a measurable impact on the lives of women and families; 2) Has the potential for commercialization; 3) Fills a need in the marketplace.
Judges included Irene DeHuff, the chapter president of SCORE; Jill Tolles, an adjunct professor of communications at the University of Nevada, Reno; and Kelly Northridge, an instructor of entrepreneurship at UNR.
Second place when to Crowded Reality, a Reno company that’s developed a crowd-funding platform for televised reality shows, with a focus on positive programming.
Ten finalists from more than 140 regional winners, of which IMB is one, will pitch their businesses March 17. Prizes totaling $70,000 will be awarded to the top three businesses.