A tribute to working mothers: Kellogg’s MBA is changing the lives of African women


Sahar Jamal, left, at work in Nairobi. Courtesy picture

Sahar Jamal’s mission is to empower mothers so they don’t have to choose between career and family.

Jamal’s Kenya-based company, Maziwa, offers East Africa’s first-ever bespoke breast pump, designed to help women balance work and breastfeeding. Maziwa targets women in developing markets.

Since Poets&Quants spoke with Jamal last year, the company in the Northwestern Kellogg MBA 2019 has made significant progress: the company has hired six part-time employees in Kenya and two technical contractors in Chicago, launched the Wema breast pump in August 2021 and expanded the product to South Africa in January 2022, with plans for growth across the continent.

Perhaps the biggest thing that grew: Jamal’s passion for supporting working mothers. “Working mothers are among the most important – but often the most marginalized – members of society,” she says. “My vision is that we transform our societies and our systems to celebrate and appreciate moms for raising the next generation of a world.”

THE GREATEST IMPACT ON MOTHERS

The Maziwa breast pump has been specially designed to be marketed in the developing regions of East Africa. The company was started by Sahar Jamal, an MBA class of 2019 graduate from Northwestern Kellogg, where she worked on the venture. Courtesy picture

Since launching the company’s first breast pump last summer, Jamal says almost every mother who has used the product has been able to balance breastfeeding and labor. In fact, 88% of mothers who use the pump have been able to continue breastfeeding exclusively for six months, and 87% prefer the Wema pump over other pumps on the market due to its long battery life, convenience and convenience. portability.

Additionally, many mothers have been able to increase the frequency with which they express their breast milk in the workplace. It also led to a reduction in the use of breastmilk substitutes. “We’ve had great feedback from moms,” she says. “We actually ran out of stock much faster than expected. We still have 1,000 units coming in, and it’s exciting that we sold out so quickly.

Until now, they sold directly to consumers on their website, and they also made B2B sales through several baby stores, e-commerce stores, and clinics. Thanks to positive feedback from mums, the pump has largely grown through word of mouth. Additionally, the introduction of a referral code program – where moms can refer friends and family members to the product – has contributed to Maziwa’s success so far. “There have been tons of great testimonials, and moms often post their experience online without any prompting,” says Jamal.

“It’s really rewarding as a CEO to be so close to the customer,” she continues. “We have been very fortunate to receive messages directly from moms about their experiences.”

EMPLOYERS SUPPORTING BREASTFEEDING

Last year, Jamal expressed hope that Maziwa would encourage employers to more easily support breastfeeding employees. Although there is public policy in place mandating support for breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, Jamal says few companies actually adhere.

Maziwa has helped companies commit to supporting breastfeeding mothers by giving them the option of buying a common pump to share among their employees. “The pump motor is separate from the collection cup,” she explains. “An employer can buy three pump motors and ten collection cups, and each woman can have her own set of cups and share the motor throughout the day.”

THE PRODUCTIVITY ANGLE

While the Maziwa team also encourages employers to give mothers plenty of time to pump and take care of themselves, unfortunately, Jamal says many employers aren’t known for their commitment to employee satisfaction. “In these vulnerable employment environments, many women don’t feel like they have the right to stand up for what they need,” she explains.

“For companies that are more about productivity than health and wellness, we need to take a different angle,” continues Jamal.

In this case, she points out to employers how the Wema pump can increase efficiency. “If a mother works on a tea farm, she may not want to take breaks often because she can be paid according to her production,” she says. “With the Wema pump, she can walk away to pump for a few minutes and then start working again.”

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