Trends in the breastfeeding world are changing for the better. Noreen Sablotsky is the founder and CEO of Imalac, a medical technology company and creator of Nurture, a breast massage system for nursing mothers that provides gentle compression to replicate hands-on pumping. Nurture significantly improves the quality, efficiency and practicality of milk expression. Sablotsky began her professional career in the ﬁeld of marketing and sales for Ciba- Geigy Pharmaceuticals before co-founding Noven Pharmaceuticals in 1986. Sablotsky continued her professional career as Vice-President of Portfolio Development for Jacobs Investments, LLC. Her responsibilities included: strategic counseling, business modeling and deal negotiation for the various for medical startups in the portfolio and is a limited partner at NGT3 Medical Accelerator in Israel. We had a chance to interview Noreen and asked about her story, how she started her business and the future of Imalac.
Tell us your story. Why did you start your business?
I was an investor and board member of a company at a startup accelerator in Israel that was working to create a solution for breastfeeding mothers. My daughter Rachael was nursing her first child at the time and volunteered to be a beta tester. Unfortunately, the company was not able to create a working prototype and then failed for a variety of other reasons. The company’s goal resonated with both of us so when Rachael got pregnant with her second child, she convinced me that we needed to create a solution ourselves.
How did you come up with your business name?
Ima means mother in Hebrew and Lac is for lactation.
Tell us about your products and services. How do you help clients?
Nurture is a breast massage system for nursing mothers that replicates hands-on pumping. To begin a pumping session, the woman slides Nurture’s massage cups into the bra’s easy sliding channel, fastens them to the bra, and connects the controller. Massage parameters can be adjusted to personal preference for force, speed and hold time and can be saved for future sessions on Nurture’s smart phone app.
Nurture by Imalac helps lactating/breastfeeding mothers increase the volume and caloric content of expressed milk, as well as decreases the incidence of breast engorgement, and the occurrence of clogged milk ducts and mastitis. Using Nurture while pumping has also shown a reduction in pump time by 50% and full emptying of the breast, correlating to up to 30% more milk per pumping session.
Nurture by Imalac will be brought to market in 2019 in a variety of bra/cup sizes and will help nursing mothers express their best.
What makes you unique? What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?
Nurture by Imalac is the world’s first device to mimic hand expression when used alone or while pumping. Today, with all the pumping bras available that are supposed to make the experience easier, there’s nothing on the market that truly eliminates the need to use your hands. With Nurture, your hands do not need to do anything besides hook it up and take it apart. Not only does this make pumping more efficient, but it allows you to multitask at the same time.
Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years?
I am fully focused on two goals in the next 3-5 years. The first is to bring a high-quality product, Nurture by Imalac, to market while also growing Imalac into a fully integrated, financially solvent company with high standards for success in all facets of our business. Also, continuing research and development, as well as adding to our product line, developing excellence in our manufacturing processes with high-quality assurance and finally, developing B2B and B2C relationships that will produce sales growth and ensure customer satisfaction.
The second goal is to focus on maximizing the ROI for our investors. As such, we are developing relationships with strategic partners with the goal of a licensing agreement, possibly a M&A or an IPO if the business model moves in a direction that warrants it.
Any advice you would give to entrepreneurs and business owners?
Make sure that your idea is innovative and has great market potential. Then, get busy surrounding yourself with a great team. Network, network, network.
What is your favorite business quote and why?
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people.” -Steve Jobs
Every person has their strengths and weaknesses. You need to be intimately familiar and honest with yourself and know what they both are. Trust your skills and decision-making process in areas in which you excel and actively search for people who will fill in the gaps of your weaknesses. This requires a great deal of humility and the ability to delegate with confidence. I am constantly assessing the team and I’m quick to pivot when necessary. If you have confidence in your team, you can let them do their work and focus on your job. I also seek mentors who will give honest feedback and check in with them often to make sure I’m not missing something.
What have been some of your achievements that you are most proud of? Why?
My achievements can be placed into different buckets. Personally, I am not sure that raising children is an “achievement” because so much of their success is their own doing but, the four well-rounded, loving, independent and educated adults that I parented, are the source of my greatest pride.
In business, it has to be the role I played in co-founding Noven Pharmaceuticals, a fully-integrated specialty pharmaceutical company, and taking the opportunity to co-found Imalac with my daughter, RachaeI.
In the community, I have played many leadership roles. The one I am most proud of is chairing the University of Miami Hillel and helping to revitalize the organization, while at the same time building a new, state-of-the-art facility. My financial success has given me the ability to be philanthropic, which has been one of the greatest blessings in my life.
Anything else additional you want to tell our readers?
Most people that I meet in the “startup“ community are younger than me. I would encourage people to stay engaged and not let age stop them from starting a new company when the opportunity presents itself.
I took 12 years off after Noven Pharmaceuticals before returning to work. In the startup accelerator in Israel, I saw people of all ages participating in this vibrant community. I was anxious at first about all the changes that had transpired in the workplace and worried if I would be able to catch up and contribute. I found that all of the skills that had led to my other successes in life were still there and what had changed was easily accessible through the Internet.
In addition, to female entrepreneurs, I advise you to have confidence in your ability and learn to proactively communicate it. Statistics show that female entrepreneurs and their companies attract significantly less money from investors and are often valued lower. You need to be aware of the environment you are operating in and advocate for yourself accordingly. Information is power!