VCLF's Six-Month Lending Exceeds $5.56 Million
What, you might ask, are those pod-shaped kiosks adorned with adorable baby pics that keep popping up in airports, shopping malls and stadiums?
You (particularly you new parents out there) will be interested to know they’re Mamava freestanding lactation suites. They’re making a case for nursing moms and babies on the go, and making a statement that can’t be ignored: nursing is a right, not a privilege.
Mamava co-founders Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson first met back in the 1990s, working at Burlington’s busy JDK design firm.
“JDK was always a very supportive workplace, and our office was experiencing its own baby boom,” says Sascha.
“So we knew a lot of nursing moms,” adds Christine.
With healthcare professionals recommending breastfeeding for at least six months, a new generation of parents was becoming aware of its significant health benefits. Pumping breastmilk at the office became another new normal for working moms.
Within a few years, their own children had arrived, and Sascha and Christine found themselves pumping breastmilk while working, en route to client meetings “at airports and in convention center bathrooms,” Sascha remembers. Not exactly ideal, they admit, looking back on it now…
Then came the day they read a piece in the New York Times about mothers who discovered breastfeeding to be impractical, if not impossible.
“For (mothers) with autonomy in their jobs — generally, well-paid professionals — breastfeeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. But for lower-income mothers , including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers, and the military, pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breastfeed at all, and others to quit after a short time,” the article read.
That got them thinking.
Next, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated that employers provide employees with break time as well as appropriate space for pumping, “other than a bathroom.” Sascha and Christine saw that nursing moms needed new options, and Mamava was born. They drafted their business plan and sought financing.
“We learned about the Vermont Community Loan Fund through one of our business advisors,” recalls Sascha. She and Christine were particularly impressed with the Loan Fund’s quick response and flexibility. “We’re growing so rapidly, we’ve already tapped into a line of credit, paid it back, and now we need new resources,” Sascha explains. “If not for VCLF, I’d have taken out yet another mortgage on my house.”
Sascha and Christine worked with JDK to design lactation suites that would provide a clean and private place free from noise and distractions for moms to pump or breastfeed. Suites include electrical outlets for breast pumps, seating for mom and another sibling, gentle lighting and a changing table. Advertising space is available on the interior and exterior; part of Mamava’s business plan to generate additional revenue. A free mobile app enables moms to locate and gain access to Mamava suites at 250 sites across the country.
Initially, Mamava encountered criticism from breastfeeding advocates who felt the suites effectively ‘hid’ breastfeeding from view, but such comments have abated of late. “It’s the pumping mothers themselves who have asserted their personal experiences,” says Sascha. Those moms have countered the criticisms with praise for the convenience, privacy and lack of distractions the lactation suites afford them while pumping and nursing. “After all, the complexities of modern living are all about choices,” Sascha adds.
At this point, Mamava’s growth is in the double digits, and they’ve jumped from three to 16 full- and part-time employees in just two years.
“Every year, 3,000,000 moms initiate breastfeeding,” Christine says. “We’re extending our mission with more education, with community, with useful content and curated commerce, so we can bring a lot more to moms.”
Between April and September, 2017, the Vermont Community Loan Fund also provided financing to:
316 Flynn, LLC, Burlington
The 316 Flynn affordable housing project is located in Burlington’s south end, within walking distance of many amenities, and nearby to many local employers and businesses. Despite the commercial growth throughout the neighborhood, there has been little housing constructed there in recent years. Loan Fund financing will be used for construction of 30 apartments, four of which will be permanently affordable rentals. The loan also created 37 construction jobs.
Cathedral Square Corporation’s Allen Brook Residence, Williston
The need for affordable memory care is greater than ever, as dementia diagnoses rise and lower-income Vermont families find few available options. With VCLF financing, Cathedral Square Corporation, a statewide nonprofit housing and aging services organization, has purchased and is refurbishing a Williston respite home to serve as an affordable licensed assisted living memory care facility for 14 Vermont seniors. Loan Fund financing helped create or preserve 25 jobs. cathedralsquare.org
Cellars at Jasper Hill, Greensboro
Renowned cheesemaker the Cellars at Jasper Hill (CJH) frequently works with Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC) as well as the Loan Fund to finance various projects. NCIC recently requested that VCLF purchase a majority interest in an earlier loan provided to CJH for equipment purchases. This financing results in 80 jobs preserved or created. www.jasperhillfarm.com
Center for an Agricultural Economy, Hardwick
Nonprofit Center for an Agricultural Economy owns and operates the VT Food Venture Center, a shared-use food processing facility and business incubator. They provide shared kitchens, storage, business advising, food safety training and more to entrepreneurs to help them reach larger institutional markets such as colleges, hospitals, schools, etc. with their farm products. They’ll use Loan Fund financing to purchase a blast freezer for clients who produce frozen foods and/or freeze fresh foods to extend seasonality. The loan preserves eight jobs. hardwickagriculture.org
Champlain Housing Trust/St. Joseph’s School, Burlington
Across our three decades, the Loan Fund has partnered numerous times with affordable housing developer the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) to create and preserve perpetually affordable housing in northwest Vermont. In this most recent collaboration, Loan Fund financing helped purchase the St. Joseph's School building in Burlington, now home to the O.N.E. Community Center, and to install a new elevator in the building. The building is also home to the Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, the Association for Africans Living in Vermont, the Family Room parent/child center and the City of Burlington’s Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department. The O.N.E. Community Center alone serves 3,950 Vermonters; all told, the organizations combined provide services to tens of thousands of Vermonters. getahome.org
Danforth Pewterers, Middlebury
Danforth Pewter began making pewter candlesticks, tableware and other pieces in 18th century Connecticut. Early Danforth pewter is on display in the Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, and many other American museums. In 1975, husband-and-wife team Fred and Judi Danforth revived the dormant family business in Vermont, and have partnered with the Loan Fund many times since. They’re using this most recent loan to help finance the opening of two new retail stores in Portland, Maine, and Washington, D.C. The loan will support costs of the stores’ design, construction, inventory and more, and will result in the preservation of 48 jobs, plus the creation of five new ones. www.danforthpewter.com
The Drawing Board, Montpelier
The Drawing Board, artist supply store and long a fixture on Main Street in Montpelier, is transitioning to new ownership. Longtime employee and minority owner Jody Brown will now purchase the business in full, using financing from the Loan Fund to do so. The loan preserves five jobs. www.thedrawingboardvt.com
North Branch Nature Center, Montpelier
A nature reserve and education nonprofit, NBNC has grown steadily since transitioning from its former iteration as a program of the Vermont Institute for Natural Science ten years ago. Driven by growing staff and expanding programs, they came to the Loan Fund for financing to help complete construction on the new community facility space, serving 3,000 Vermonters annually. The loan helps preserve 12 jobs. www.northbranchnaturecenter.org
Horizon Early Learning Program, Brattleboro
Owner Melanie Zinn has been planning improvements to her Horizon Early Learning Program since relocating to a new, larger home in 2016. A full-day, full-year licensed program, Horizon will use a new loan to refinance existing debt and to make improvements to their playground. The new loan creates or preserves care for 22 children and four jobs.
Morristown After School Program, Morristown
A nonprofit, 4 STARS-rated child care program, Morristown After School Program had been operating at two sites, Morristown’s Graded Building and the Morristown Elementary School, but demand for their programming continued to outpace available slots. They used VCLF financing to purchase the real estate and program assets of Mud City Kids, a program (and Loan Fund borrower) long serving the community; MASP will continue to serve Mud City families. Financing helps preserve or create 73 child care slots and 11 jobs. www.masp-program.org
Northern Reliability, Waitsfield
Northern Reliability manufactures electric power storage systems, servicing remote and off-grid locations around the world. They’ll use a line of credit from the Loan Fund to replace an existing, high-cost line. With a recent, sizeable uptick in sales, the new line will support continuing growth through a management transition. This financing will lead to the preservation of 15 jobs and the creation of five new ones. northernreliability.com
Vermont Natural Beef, Benson
Vermont Natural Beef raises approximately 150 head of grass-fed cattle annually on two adjacent farms across 495 acres, selling their beef throughout the northeast. They’re currently in the process of acquiring another adjacent farm property comprised of a house, two barns and 310 acres. With this acquisition, VNB will expand to 500 head of cattle annually, convert the home into a bed-and-breakfast and one of the barns into an events facility. They’ll use financing from the Loan Fund to purchase equipment (tractor, baler, fencing, and freezer trailer) and to support expanded operations, leading to the preservation of three jobs, with two new jobs anticipated following the opening of the B&B and events facility. www.vermontnaturalbeef.com
Vermont Quince Company, Newfane
Vermont Quince specializes in jams, mustards, syrups, vinegars and other specialty food items featuring regionally-sourced quince. They’re poised for expansion, so they approached the Loan Fund to help finance the purchase of raw materials, inventory, equipment, marketing and other costs. The loan results in preserving one full-time and one part-time job. www.vermontquince.com
Vermont Switchel Company, Hardwick
The Vermont Switchel Company specializes in crafting this traditional Vermont beverage flavored with locally-sourced maple and apple cider vinegar. At this early stage in their company’s growth, the Switchel team will use SPROUT (VCLF’s low-interest, deferred-payment working lands loan program) financing to cover costs of new hires, inventory and equipment. The loan helps create or preserve two jobs. www.vtswitchel.com
Wild Wood Vermont, Hinesburg
Wild Wood Vermont custom-crafts wooden travel mugs from solid wood with a stainless steel liner and cap. They sell these high-end specialty items at farmers markets, on Etsy, Shopify, and other venues. They approached the Loan Fund to help finance bulk purchase and shipping of stainless steel liners. The loan preserves one job. www.wildwoodvermont.com
Since 1987, the Vermont Community Loan Fund has loaned over $100 million to local businesses, affordable housing developers and community-based organizations that has created or preserved 5,600 jobs; built or rehabilitated 4,000 affordable homes; created or preserved quality care for over 3,850 children and their families; and supported community organizations providing vital services to hundreds of thousands of Vermonters.