Tag: Social Innovation Lab

Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur: Lacstation Supports Working Mothers and Their…

Meet the Entrepreneur: Lacstation Supports Working Mothers and Their Babies

 

Meg Stoltzfus

Four out of five mothers breastfeed their newborns, but that number slips to two out of five after three months. A major factor for that steep drop off is a return to work, and it’s not just because of hectic schedules.

The coordinator of Johns Hopkins University’s breastfeeding support program, Meg Stoltzfus received countless phone calls from mothers who had forgotten a part to their breast pump. Though happy to help, Stoltzfus recognized that racing across campus to deliver missing parts wasn’t a sustainable solution.

Inspiration struck Stoltzfus while at an airport where she saw a vending machine selling electronics and wondered, “Why not breast pump supplies?” Soon after, Stoltzfus entered the Social Innovation Lab where she developed the startup Lacstation, a vending machine that provides supplies and support to breastfeeding moms.

Having solutions like these in the workplace decreases employee stress, lowers health care costs, builds the employer’s reputation as family-friendly workplace and keeps women in the leadership pipeline. Already in use at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Stoltzfus is aiming to have 10 companies install Lacstation vending machines by the beginning of 2018.

Below, Stoltzfus describes Lacstation and her journey as a Baltimore entrepreneur.

In 5 words, what does your company do?

Support breastfeeding moms at work.
 

What are your goals and how will you get there?

My goal is to have a Lacstation vending machine to provide breastfeeding and breast pumping supplies in every hospital and large employer in the country.

To get there, I have to prove to companies that supporting breastfeeding employees helps the company’s bottom line by increasing their ability to recruit and retain female employees and lower health care costs.

Health care organizations who implement this solution have the added benefit of being able to provide breastfeeding supplies to patients in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Why have you chosen Baltimore as your startup’s home?

Quite simply, because it is my home. My husband and I have lived and worked in Baltimore for 19 years.
 

What opportunities make it a good place for growing a business?

The cost of living and working here is low and the community is very interested in seeing successes come to life in Baltimore. I believe that social entrepreneurs can have such a positive impact on Baltimore’s reputation!
 

In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?

The number of world-class medical institutions that we have and their interest in developing solutions for both health and community challenges.
 

If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?

Seek out a community of entrepreneurs and innovators for support.
 

What book are you currently reading?

I am always reading at least five books at a time. The one on the top of the pile at the moment is
The Social Animal by David Brooks.
 

What innovator do you look up to? Why?

I look up to the moms who contact me with their stories about how they make breastfeeding work. They are amazingly innovative!

I recently talked to a mom who forgot her milk storage bags and the piece that attaches the bags to her breast pump. She works on a campus without a breastfeeding supplies vending machine, and she was able to engineer a solution using duct tape and a Ziploc bag.
 

It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?

Niwana. I live in Charles Village, and I love being able to walk to a restaurant for take-out.
 

What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?

Go for a walk to Sherwood Gardens or eat ice cream at The Charmery.
 

Click here to learn more about the Social Innovation Lab!

 

Meet the Entrepreneur

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nikhil Panu Connecting Communities Through Sports

Meet the Entrepreneur: Nikhil Panu Connecting Communities Through Sports

 

Nikhil Panu

Weekend warriors head to nearby courts and fields for exercise, competition and fun, but too often they find either long waits or too few players. That reality plagued Nikhil Panu as a high school student-athlete in San Jose, California and followed him across the country when he enrolled at The Johns Hopkins University. It also inspired a solution.

Panu—the most recent captain of the Johns Hopkins basketball team and a recent master’s graduate from the Whiting School of Engineering’s computer science program—is developing Squadz, a mobile app that follows principles from Airbnb and OpenTable to establish a facility and sports event marketplace.

The app allows people looking for a game, whether it be basketball, tennis, golf or nearly any other sport, to find teammates and competition at a nearby venue. By connecting athletes and coaches to players, events and venues, Panu believes he can make Baltimore’s communities stronger and more active.

Panu participated in the Social Innovation Lab’s 2016-2017 cohort, and the five-month accelerator for social ventures supported him as he launched a pilot program. In the pilot, Squadz produced encouraging results, including 130 bookings of facilities in recreation centers over only a few weeks. Those bookings linked people from across Baltimore, allowing them to gather through the positive outlet of sports.

Below, Panu discusses Squadz, Baltimore and the goals he has for his social venture.
 
In five words, what does your company do?
Enable and foster active communities.
 
What are your goals and how will you get there?
My goals are to get access to as many clusters of sports facilities in certain locations as possible and build a user base of active sports participants, coaches and league administrators in those areas. I am looking to partner with high schools, universities, community centers and independent complexes by going through governing bodies or organizations that run them in order to allow them to rent their gyms, fields and courts out to our users.

In addition to drawing existing visitors to these spaces, I will partner with current sports organizations and social leagues to encourage their active organizers to use our platform.
 
In terms of startups and innovation, what’s one thing that separates Baltimore from other tech hotbeds?

Having grown up and worked in Silicon Valley, the general willingness to collaborate is something I have noticed that stands out in the tight-knit Baltimore startup community. People are always willing to lend a hand or make an introduction because they have a genuine interest in helping fellow entrepreneurs.
 
What’s next for Squadz and why is Baltimore a good playground in which to grow this app?

Squadz screenshot

Currently, we are working with the city to activate their community centers and schools and bring them onto our platform. Once we have that solid base of venues ready to go, we will be able to officially launch the mobile app in Baltimore later this summer. We are also planning on launching in the San Francisco Bay Area in July with some of the partnering facilities we have developed there. Stay tuned for announcements on both upcoming launches!

In addition, Baltimore has displayed a tremendous interest in providing health and recreation opportunities to members of its various neighborhoods and communities. People want to stay active, and the city wants to help them do so. There are not many cities around the country that have such a dense distribution of community recreation centers. That has made working with the city seamless and has provided us the necessary support to grow the platform.

Although the interest is apparent, there are definitely processes and points that need improvement. That is where Squadz can help. There is a clear opportunity for us to make an impact in Baltimore by keeping local recreation centers operational.
 
If you could give your past self one piece of advice for creating a startup, what would it be?

As much as you want everything to be perfect, it’s impossible. It is so important to gather as much data through research and user feedback as possible to learn, improve and make informed decisions.
 
What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Shoe Dog by the Nike founder Phil Knight.
 
What innovator do you look up to? Why?

I have and will always look up to my dad, who built one of the fastest growing early SaaS companies. From a young age, he shared his experiences with me and let me observe what he did firsthand. He always led his employees with passion, dedication and integrity and constantly strived to innovate. He’s the reason I ever had an interest in starting my own company, and I hope to be half the entrepreneur he is.
 
It’s after a long day of work, and you don’t feel like cooking. What is your go-to Baltimore restaurant?

Chicken Rico is definitely my go-to place. They’ve got a great chicken dinner combo that always hits the spot!
 
What’s your favorite non-work-related thing to do in Baltimore?

As a student, a lot of my time outside of work was spent in the classroom or competing with the varsity basketball team at The Johns Hopkins University. However, when our team was out of season, I frequently played and still play pickup basketball at many of the local community centers like Madison Square, Virginia S. Baker and 29th Street. I also like to catch Orioles or Ravens games when I get the chance.

Click to learn more about the Social Innovation Lab!

 

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