Following the birth of her first child, Priska Diaz, Designer and Creator of Bare Air Free Baby Bottles, realized that there was a serious need for a better baby bottle. She worked to create a bottle that would dispense milk and formula free of air in order to reduce gas buildup and acid reflux and increase comfort during feeding. Launched in 2013, Bittylab has grown to become a popular alternative to traditional baby bottles, and many moms love the product. Bittylab recently won the Canon MAXIFY Printers Small Business Grant Challenge, and Diaz talks about how this has affected her business.
Have you received the Canon MAXIFY Printer and what is your opinion of it?
Yes, I received it shortly after the contest. I wasn't expecting an ALL-IN-ONE. It definitely came at the right time. It is compact enough and the printing quality is great. As we design our own product, we have photo printer and a black-and-white laser in-house. While the photo printer is great to show new ideas, the paper we need for it is very expensive. As such the usage is very limited. Our black/white printer does everything, but color. Now, thanks to the Canon MAXIFY, we can have affordable color prints for our presentations, and meetings.
Have you received the prize money and have you used it yet for your business?
Yes, I have received a check for $10,000. We are using it for an outreach campaign to pediatric offices. We're sending a package with information about our product, the research we did and samples of our product. We have collected a few hundred Pediatric contacts and continue to seek out the best ones. We have already sent a few of our packages and have gotten the Doctors very interested. Some were already recommending Bare® Air-free to their patients who suffer acid reflux symptoms and some learned of the product thru the outreach and will be recommending Bare. Some Pediatricians are interested in collaborating on future clinical studies research for treatment and prevention of Acid reflux in infants. We have had to opportunity to speak directly with several doctors who have expressed serious concerns about prescribing harsh drugs which are known to be in-effective and may cause harmful side effects (FDA, AAP).
Did the Canon MAXIFY Printer Grant Challenge win help your business?
Yes. Our marketing budget is very tight. The $10,000 grant is helping with a very important outreach. It is giving us the opportunity to "educate the educators," so they can disseminate the knowledge to the end user. We are also learning that finding a better, more effective, non-pharmaceutical solution for infant reflux is an urgent priority in the pediatric community. Our research and outreach is very well-received due to an abundance of evidence and our clinical study.
What motivated you to start your business? What is the best thing about being a business owner? What aspects do you enjoy most?
As a mother and big proponent of breastfeeding, I was set to exclusively breastfeed my first son. Low milk supply was causing malnutrition. My baby's doctor told me my baby was underweight and instructed me to begin supplemental feedings with formula using bottles. I tried all the leading brands of baby bottles that have unnaturally shaped nipples and employ air-vents that allow milk to mix with air and dispense milk without any effort. Every time I bottle fed my baby he turned into a bag of gas resulting in endless sleepless nights of crying. Soon after introducing the bottle, my baby stopped latching when I tried to breastfeed and began to prefer the bottle due to nipple confusion. I realized that baby bottles weren't working for my baby or myself. That's when the idea for Bare® Air-free Baby Bottles was born. I created a unique technology, similar to a syringe that allows the parent to expel the air from inside of the bottle before feeding the baby, and as the baby feeds, a plunger — called Air-plug® — slides up to keep the milk always air-free. Bare has proven to be far more effective at reducing air-swallowing and helping babies with the most severe cases of acid reflux as well as gas and colic.
The best thing about owning my own business is that I can have my own schedule and can be close to my children. It's very rewarding when I receive letters from parents of babies with severe gas or diagnosed acid reflux that are no longer in pain thanks to my invention. A most recent message on our Facebook page was from Erika W. where her 4-week son was tongue and lip tied and for this reason had difficulties feeding. Every bottle she had tried produced her baby hours of inconsolable crying, gas and vomit. Her Doctor had diagnosed him with GERD and he was losing weight. A few more days of this and her Dr. would have had to use a feeding tube to prevent starvation. Erika discouraged by the experience, walked the stores and found Bare Air-free and decided to give a try. At the first feeding, her baby feed a full 4oz meal. His vomiting went down dramatically, he's happy after the meal, alert and —for the first time— smiling. As I was reading Erika's emotional letter, I became very emotional too. Knowing that my invention is changing lives is really an amazing feeling. We have written a blog post about her story.
Do you believe it is hard or easy to run a business in your state? Can you share something that you think might be harder here in your state?
Running a business in New York has allowed me to tap into the vast array of resources for startups and small businesses. One of the most successful engagements we had is with our local Westchester SCORE. Our Advisor is Marty Levine and he was extremely instrumental in helping us getting a conventional business loan with the New York Community Capital, New York Business Development Corporation and Key Bank to order inventory and finance purchase orders from Babies R Us. Grants like the Canon MAXIFY Printers Grant Challenge are a tremendous help, since we can use that money to help us build awareness by supporting marketing, sampling and education.
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