Founded in June 2018, Maziwa aims to provide middle-income working mothers with an efficient and convenient breast-pumping option. Founder Sahar Jamal said she hopes Maziwa will be on the market in 2020, starting in Kenya before broadening to other countries. The Garage sat down with Sahar to learn how and why Maziwa prioritizes expanding discreet, hygienic and affordable breast-pumping solutions to more women.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What inspired Maziwa?
I was working in Nairobi, Kenya over the summer for my internship through Kellogg. [I was] working with a lot of pregnant and new moms and doing research around the importance of breastfeeding in the first six months of a child’s life.
Unlike in the US, maternity policies [in Nairobi] aren’t really respected. There aren’t lactation rooms at office spaces. Many American-made breast pumps rely on electricity of a certain voltage. They assume that the mom has somewhere to put the milk after she pumped it, and they assume that there’s a lactation room where a big, bulky, electric breast pump would be able to fit. In reality, if [mothers in Kenya were using a breast pump], they’re most likely doing this on the toilet seat or somewhere public in their workspace.
As a result, we decided to develop Maziwa, which is a tailored breast pump for low-resource settings in developing markets. We’re really addressing key feature challenges such as discreetness, efficiency, hygiene and affordability in our design.
How does Maziwa hope to fix these problems?
The first main differentiator that we hope to rely on is our in-market partnership. Because I worked in Kenya over the summer, I have a lot of contacts there, and I’ve established strong partnerships with maternity clinics, early childhood care centers, employers and government bodies like The Kenya Association for Breastfeeding.
From a product feature point of view, we’re building out three packages that set three of our key assumptions, which are that moms care about storage, efficiency and discreetness.
What are the steps you’re taking before 2020?
The biggest milestone that’s upcoming is our trip to Nairobi at the end of March. We’re doing quite a bit of research there. Once the research is complete, we’re working with our engineers to develop a product and build in some of those features we’ve heard moms prioritize. By the end of the year we should have a working prototype. I hope to go back into the market after I graduate to see whether there is interest in the product we’ve developed. Based on that, we can go into our final design process and start working on the process for FDA approval and manufacturing contracts.
Tell me about the name.
‘Maziwa’ is the Swahili word for milk, and ‘ziwa’ actually also means breast. I thought it was quite interesting, and I decided [to use a] play on words and make that my business name.
How has The Garage helped you?
The Garage has been extremely helpful. I just joined in January. It’s been an amazing community. The family dinners are awesome. It’s a good checkpoint to see how people are doing [and] the challenges they’re facing. You don’t feel as alone when you hear people are going through the same things as you.
Northwestern and Kellogg have both been extremely helpful in this process. [Maziwa] is kind of the trifecta of challenges: It’s global health, it’s in Kenya [and] it’s a medical device. The support in the community has really given me the courage to keep going and the resources I need to do so effectively.
Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.