Cox Business’s small business accelerator event highlighted area’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
By Entrepreneur Media Corporate Communications
TULSA—The J.M. & H.C. Hall Store. Frisco Depot. Tulsa House Hotel. Reed & Perryman Store and Post Office. Jeff Archer Store.
The year was 1882 and these were the very first business buildings constructed in Tulsa, Okla. Then, through much of the 20th century, the focus in Tulsa’s economy on the energy industry. The city became known as the “Oil Capital of the World.”
Fast-forward to today and Tulsa’s economic landscape has blossomed and diversified, and includes industries like finance, technology and telecommunications. While big business remains, small- and mid-size businesses now power a significant portion of the city’s economy.
One of the city’s vibrant, growing startups was recently honored at Cox Business’s first-ever HackON: A Small Business Accelerator event. Stephanie Conduff, the 33-year-old founder of Leche Lounge, received a $10,000 prize package for winning the competition.
“The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well all over the country, including places like Tulsa, Providence, R.I., and Gainesville, Fla. — in places you wouldn’t necessarily think,” says Ken Kraft, senior vice president of marketing for Cox Business. “We have a strong focus on the startup community. The goal is to create a forum for entrepreneurs, in markets we serve, that allow them to network, share ideas, and meet with experts.”
Produced in partnership with Entrepreneur Media, the two-day HackON invited local small companies to submit their biggest business challenge and let a group of area business and community members help find (or “hack”) a feasible solution. The judges included an Entrepreneur editor, a community leader, a Tulsa business owner and a Tulsa business executive.
The event was hosted at the Cox Business Center as well as 36 Degrees North, a basecamp for entrepreneurs in Tulsa’s vibrant Brady Arts District.
Out of four companies that competed, Leche Lounge’s solution and mission stood out from the others. “Our issue was how to create monthly recurring revenue for Leche Lounge,” Conduff says. “We found that we could redesign our space to be a functional billboard — wrap the outsides, incorporate digital media and price them for short-term leases instead of all direct sales.”
Founded in May 2015, Leche Lounge aims to provide new mothers with a clean and comfortable place to pump breast milk while in public spaces like stadiums, convention centers, universities and workplaces. The “lounge” is a customizable room that includes a hospital-grade breast pump, footstool, mirror, device-charging ports and surface areas made from Corian-like materials so that they can be effectively wiped down with antimicrobial wipes.
Leche Lounge’s roster of clients includes the Oklahoma State University Health Sciences Center, the U.S. Air Force and the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.
Conduff, a mother of two, says she plans to use the winnings to work with the Oklahoma State University New Product Design Center to finalize her instruction manual and help scale the product.
“This is the momentum we needed to meet our 2017 product goals,” she says. “We are constantly learning from all we observe and the HackON process has given us an opportunity to reevaluate a refreshing recurring revenue model.”
Source Article: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/292876
We are thankful for the financial support and incredible mentoring we receive from New Mexico Community Capital and the Native-Entreprenuer-in-Residence Program.
You can read more about what we do here: LLspecsheet6.14
Leche Lactation suites are portable units that can be placed temporarily or permanently on site for pumping and nursing mothers. Fulfilling the requirements of pumping laws, Leche Lounge goes above and beyond coming equipped with a hospital grade breast pump. The pumps are proven to express milk faster, getting moms in and out quickly. Other convenience features include a USB charger, fan, food-grade seating and a mirror to readjust clothing. The units are stocked with cleaning wipes for pump parts and calming lavender wipes for refreshing the space between guests, ensuring quick and easy clean up. Provisional Utility Patent Pending for a “Portable Lactation Suite with Built-in Hospital Grade Breast Pump for Nursing or Breastfeeding Women in Public Place and in the Workplace”.
Stephanie Conduff is inventor, founder and CEO of Leche Lounge, a startup at The Forge in Tulsa. Leche Lounge provides a solution for companies that need to provide breast-pumping space for employees. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
In Stephanie Conduff’s office stands a life-size poster of a mother, shirt pulled up outside a bathroom stall, pumps attached to her breasts.
It reminds Conduff of the indignity she herself had to experience while expressing milk.
“Until we’re successful, this is going to be the norm,” said Conduff, 32, referring to the image. “We have to do better than this being the norm.
“As a mom who traveled, worked for a law firm, went to a lot of client meetings, I found myself in cars (pumping). Even in the courthouse, there is no place to pump.”
Conduff’s new startup, Leche Lounge, seeks to fill that void.
Allowing CEOs and governments to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which mandates that employers accommodate nursing mothers by providing a private space other than a bathroom, Leche Lounge provides units that can be placed permanently or temporarily on site.
Seventy-seven percent of women attempt breast feeding, and 67 percent of employers are not compliant when it comes to mothers who are nursing or expressing breast milk, Conduff said.
“It’s a priority for it to be a great user experience and then a very great experience for the businesses that are going the extra mile to provide the accommodation,” said Conduff, who has a 2-year-old daughter. “For us, we need the solution to be easy and as cost-effective as possible and to make sure employers understand that it will reduce absenteeism of their employees.
“It has a direct correlation to the health and wellness of the family, which can save in health insurance costs, especially those employers who self-insure, which we have a lot of in Oklahoma. And it improves morale.”
At roughly 35 square feet, the Leche Lounge model ensures an ample turning radius for wheelchairs and offers space when a mother may need to bring luggage to the airport or a stroller to the zoo. The Leche Lounge Petite Suite is about a 4-by-4-foot area that provides a solution for businesses in employee dining areas or break rooms with limited square footage.
Other features of the units include a hospital-grade pump, digital media, USB charger, ventilation and small fan.
Conduff and her company are attracting attention.
She recently returned from Orlando, Florida, where she attended the “Dolphin Tank” Pitch Contest, sponsored by the International Conference on Business Incubation. Founded in May, Leche Lounge was among only eight companies chosen from worldwide incubators for the opportunity, which provides entrepreneurs with knowledge from industry experts, she said.
The Tulsa startup, 125 W. Third St., is a tenant of The Forge, an incubator of the Tulsa Regional Chamber that is sponsored by Tulsa’s Young Professionals.
“Getting feedback on your pitch, getting feedback on your business, hearing the questions that people ask, you can learn a lot from,” said Conduff, whose mother, Elena, also works at Leche Lounge. “I continue to learn from all that I observe. Each place that we go, each person that we talk to takes us to a different place in our business. We’re very coachable in that way.”
A member of the Cherokee Nation, Conduff is securing the help of Native American and Oklahoma companies to perfect and carry out her business model. She is working with the Chickasaw Nation and the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville to place a Leche Lounge there in May, and she also is working with the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences-Tulsa to provide a space for women to pump on campus.
Among Conduff’s supporters is New Mexico Community Capital, a community development financial institution that backs native-owned businesses. Cheryl Hill, who owns Hill Manufacturing in Broken Arrow, serves as one of Conduff’s mentors through NMCC’s Native Entrepreneur in Residence program.
Hill praised Conduff’s passion and determination.
“This girl has a drive and an intelligence that is uncanny,” Hill said.
Conduff has traveled the country — and world — serving and enlightening others.
She has been a reporter at newspapers such as the Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Tulsa World. A practicing attorney and graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law, Conduff has worked for tribal governments in Washington, D.C., contributed to a United Nations report from Bogota, Colombia, and worked for the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa.
But it is from her quaint Tulsa office that she hopes to effect the most change.
“To create social change, to empower women, to meet them where they are and the challenges they have, it’s pretty rare to have that opportunity as an entrepreneur,” Conduff said. “To do that while creating jobs in northeastern Oklahoma … you can tell that it’s a very strategic mission.
“I feel that I’m living my values. I feel like that I’m setting the example I want for my daughter.”
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Native Woman-Owned Business Launches Leche Lounge for Breastfeeding Mothers
Stephanie Conduff’s infant daughter, named for Cherokee leader Wilma Pearl Mankiller, was the inspiration for a business that has brought her family together in a creative effort to enhance the lives of other women and children.
“After I had my daughter I was pumping breast milk in the bathroom at my university. The janitor walked in and saw me. It was a really awkward moment for us both,” says Conduff, Cherokee.
“I thought, ‘Is this really the best we can do for communities? Is this the best we can do for working women?’ I called the tribal government and asked where women employees go to pump [breast milk] at the casino. The answer was, ‘They close their office door.’ But what cocktail waitress has a door? It made me want to do something for women who were returning to work after their babies were born.”
So Conduff, with her mother, who now runs the day-to-day operations of the business, and her brother, head architectural designer at Nike, invented and are now perfecting the Leche Lounge—a self-contained, lockable portable enclosure fitted with a hospital grade breast pump for mothers who want to express breast milk. “It wasn’t until I had a personal problem and needed a solution that I became the entrepreneur I am today,” says Conduff, who is also a full-time practicing attorney.
The feature that makes theLeche Loungeunique is the integrated breast pump. “This is important because not many new moms have an extra copy00 for a high-end pump,” says Conduff. “We include it so all they have to do is buy a $30 to $40 hookup and they have the most efficient pump in the marketplace provided for them. It shows employees that they are respected.”
Or a mother can use the space to nurse her baby.
“We understand that [some] women choose to breast feed in public and we honor and respect that tradition as well. But sometimes, I know with my own daughter, we needed a distraction-free zone. We needed a space where we could go because it was hard to get a good feeding in if there was a lot of commotion or a lot of things going on in the environment,” says Conduff.
The units are available in two sizes, one a small 4-foot-by-4-foot enclosure for tight spaces, such as a Starbucks or McDonald’s, the other a larger unit that can accommodate a wheelchair.
“In most work environments, children are with grandmothers or with sisters or a child care facility, so a lot of the mothers just need a clean, safe place to pump. We provide that. But the space is large enough so a stroller could come in if you have a couple of children and you need to keep everyone together while you are breastfeeding or pumping,” says Conduff.
The market for this product is huge. Conduff explains that theAffordable Care Act mandates that employers with more than 50 employees provide a space for women to express milk for up to one year after their babies are born. Many employers do not even know of the requirement, and oftentimes those who do have not recognized how best to meet it. “The mistake that you see in a lot of public lactation spaces is that they will put in a comfy soft chair like you’d see in your home, but that’s really hard to clean.” The Leche Lounge is made of food-grade materials that are very easy to wipe down, and the company does the maintenance on the units to ensure they consistently meet hygiene standards.
The first unit the company made, says Conduff, was designed for function. Since then, they have been refining the design to provide the best possible ventilation, sound insulation and comfort. The unit even includes a USB port so mothers can charge their phones. Talks are underway with content providers to explore the feasibility of adding TV.
Units will be installed soon at Oklahoma State University and the Chickasaw Nation. “At OSU the units will be out in an open foyer type space so anyone can access them, whether it’s an employee or if it’s someone who’s coming on site for a conference or a meeting or an immunization follow-up. You’ll be able to have a safe, comfortable, beautiful space to pump or to breast feed if your child is with you.”
Leche Lounge will be at RES Las Vegas 2016 March 21-24 with New Mexico Community Capital, who has invested in the company through the Native Entrepreneurs Residence Program. The rest of the money has come from Conduff and her family, who own 100 percent equity in the business. “I work, I save money, I invest it in the company,” says Conduff.
“This venture exists because we saw a need in our community and we wanted to do something that was significant to create change for women and families,” she says. And for the community: “We try to source each component through a tribally-owned business or a Native-owned business. We want to create jobs in Indian country, to continue to support the economies that we live in.”
“Going back to work is hard,” says Conduff. “Women shouldn’t have to go back and ask the HR director where’s the storage closet that she can shut and lock the door, which is what so many mothers do.”
Forge #FailForward Lunch Series
July 26 | 11:30am-1:00pm
36 Degrees North | 36 E. Cameron St.
$10, lunch is provided
Big fails, lessons, and wins. Join us for stories of turning mistakes into stepping stones, climbing the learning curve mountain, pivots and adapting to the market, and forging ahead despite all odds from The Forge startup incubator graduates and current clients. The series will hold events in May, July, and September.
Job Pact recently secured national partnerships with Indeed, Monster and Beyond and launched a new product called Spotlight. Stephanie Conduff with Leche Lounge was a 2017 Women of the Year Pinnacle Awards Winner.
The Forge is a startup incubator in downtown Tulsa that provides low cost office space, one on one customized support, mentorship, industry connections, and tax benefits.www.theforgetulsa.com
Thank you to our generous sponsors:
Leche Lounge joined theSkimm and Chase Bank for Detroit Start-Up Week!
We have installed a beautiful Leche Lounge that features a hospital grade pump, a fan, food grade seating, an air purifier, a pull out ottoman and a place to charge a phone.
For businesses, we incorporate digital media to create reoccurring advertising revenue and we can track usage on both the unit and the pump. Call us today to find out more!
We want to share our excitement! We were selected into the Bridge to Success Peer Mentoring and Entrepreneurial Exchange program. We are among only five businesses in our state selected to be part of this unique opportunity. The program is put on by ONABEN, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council and the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma.
Our Founder was also selected to present to our colleagues.
Participants from El Paso, Tulsa and Alburquerque will join Bobby Cook, TheC3Group and Stephanie Conduff, Leche Lounge, to join in identifying your client and the clients of those in the Bridges to Success program. We will introduce easy-to-use tools that can create the affect of cloning. This helps you dedicate a concentrated time on marketing and schedule it for the upcoming month. The Take Action Series ensures that you do something today to benefit your business – instead of just talking about it.
We will discuss the benefits of:
- Website Plug-ins
We want to ensure you know our NAICS Code is 54321 for prefabricated structures a scaffolding and wood product manufacturing or prefabricated wood building manufacturing.