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Enterprise

How two women made business out of hobby baking for lactating mums

Hannah Murage and Karen Mrema founders of Lactacare Kenya
Hannah Murage and Karen Mrema founders of Lactacare Kenya where they make cookies and muffins initially as a hobby as a boost production of breast milk then turned into business. PHOTO | COURTESY 

When Hannah Murage, 33 had her bouncing little baby girl, she was unable to breastfeed well because her milk supply just couldn't meet demand.

At four months old, the baby needed about 150ml of milk in a sitting and Ms Murage panicked that she needed to express more milk for her child.

“In a mission to boost my milk, I researched on how to naturally boost my breast milk. It was when I discovered the herbs "galactagogues" that promote better lactation results. Coincidentally, several people had shared advice and research on these herbs that have been used for centuries to boost milk naturally,” says Ms Murage, a science consultant and market researcher with extensive experience in Biotechnology and Biomolecular Biology.

However, the experiments to replicate the lactation treats were not as successful as she had anticipated.

She then decided to involve her long-time friend and child's God mother, Karen Mrema, 34, to help her figure out how to bake "edible" lactation cookies.

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“I have always enjoyed baking and readily accepted the challenge to prepare Hannah's grass tasting cookies. With time and putting in combined effort we not only came up with lactation cookies but also came up with lactation muffins. We went further to flavour up the different options and grew our "order menu," says Ms Mrema who founded Lactacare Kenya with Ms Murage.

Ms Mrema, who is is an environmental scientist and a communications expert with experience in programme and project management, adds that the cookies and muffins were initially meant to benefit her friend but later they started sharing them as gifts with friends who had delivered.

“You know trying to be more unique with our gift giving. Slowly our friends too would share with other friends and we started getting calls more people making orders. At the time neither of us thought this would become our full-time business. The rest as they say is history and that's how Lactacare Kenya came to be,” Ms Mrema says

After taking orders, they dived back into research to find an alternative that would be more readily available than the pre-ordered baked goods, with less sugar and fat content.

“After tireless experiments Lactacare lactation tea was formulated, it was tested and finally launched the tea in October 2018,” Ms Mrema says.

Ms Murage notes that their company was formed to also create a safe community for breastfeeding mums. For instance, they help mothers confidently walk their lactation journey even when they are not purchasing their products.

“Helping mothers confidently walk their lactation journey is rewarding. In my lactation journey I was surrounded by so many myths and false information. With this experience and hearing feedback from our clients we decided to also make it a hub of lactation information. We are now able to not only help get your supply up but we help in troubleshooting lactation problems. We are a community of mothers for other mothers,” she says.

Lactacare individually bakes for each mum according to her allergies or aversions and Ms Murage says their products do not contain any preservatives.

“We personally use our products and test them first-hand ourselves. Currently one of our team member is nursing and tests our products for quality assurance,” Ms Murage adds.

The company started the company on a small budget of Sh20,000 and the founders say their aim was to put in as little money as possible to avoid disappointment of a failed start-up.

Lactacare sells products like lactation tea, cookies and muffins. These products contain a cluster of galactagogues that are known to boost breast milk supply.

Through their tagline that says eat, breastfeed, repeat! They target mothers who are about to embark on their breastfeeding journey and those who are already breastfeeding.

“The reception so far has been good, especially the fact that we have tried and tested the products ourselves,” adds Ms Murage saying that they use social media like Instagram and Facebook to market their products.

Also, they bank on referrals, client testimonies and influencers to sell their products. Despite the positive feedback, Ms Murage says the business has faced a couple of challenges.

“Being new in the market is never easy and our main challenge was having a lot of people who were very sceptical about our brand and the products we produced. We believed in what we were offering, and that’s all that matters really. We continued to let the testimonials speak for themselves, and with strategic marketing, slowly by slowly people began believing,” she adds.

Furthermore, they focused a lot on their post-sales strategy, and followed up as much as possible with clients.

Increase in demand has seen them sell their products all over the country and beyond like Uganda, Tanzania, Canada, the USA, Denmark, just to mention but a few.

“We struggled to find shipping solutions to some of the locations but somehow our dynamic team came up with answers,” Ms Murage says.

Ms Mrema adds that they have also had to deal with power outages in the middle on baking.

“We literally had to shift kitchens to ensure we delivered to our clients on the day as promised. Luckily, as the company has grown, we have found ways to mitigate this.

But all in all, these challenges have been such a great learning experience because they have helped us grow a community of trusting mums,” Ms Mrema adds. The duo says the business is doing great and has earned them fortunes that has enabled them to create employment to a few people.

The entrepreneurs hope that they will soon begin distributing their products to supermarkets countrywide.

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